Now that you’ve got a basic hold on how to practice effectively, we’re going to move on to the licks and exercises for this week. We’ll start off with a couple of simple exercises to get you used to the tapping motion, and then I’ll give you six cool licks.
The first three licks involve just one right hand finger so you can get used to using the index and middle fingers separately, before using them both together in licks 4, 5 and 6. Don’t be afraid to create your own variations on these, either – make them your own! That way you’ll have more fun and get far more progress. It’ll also help you to develop your own unique playing style.
First; where do you put the pick?
If you want to tap with all four fingers on your right hand then you aren’t going to be able to hold the pick whilst you tap. Some players like to put the pick in their mouth when they are just about to play a tapping part and although this does get the pick out of the way, I wouldn’t recommend it for two reasons. The first is that it takes time to move your hand up to your mouth and then back down again before and after each tapping lick – it’s a huge waste of movement that will prevent you from switching quickly between tapping and picking. After all, if you spend a lot of time learning these skills then you want to be able to use them in all contexts – you don’t want to be limited. The second reason is hygiene – guitar picks are covered in bacteria from pockets, the tops of old amps, rehearsal rooms and anywhere else people happen to leave them, so I’m not a fan of putting them into my mouth. After all, doing so is just like licking all of those surfaces – ew!
My preferred method of getting rid of the pick is this:
1) Start with the pick between the side of your index finger and your thumb.
2) Use your thumb to slide the pick up the side of your finger, so that your index finger remains where it was but your pick and thumb are now in contact with the middle knuckle of the finger.
3) This leaves your index finger tip free to do tapping, and is a very quick and efficient movement when you get used to it.
4) Then, when you’re ready to pick again, slide the pick back to the tip of your index finger so you’re back to your usual picking position.
Try this movement a few times to get used to it, and you’ll see why it’s a great way to “store” your pick while you tap. It might take a little while to make it feel natural, but once it does you’ll have a super quick and effortless way of switching between picking and tapping whenever you feel like it.
Basic Tapping Technique
Once you’ve gotten that basic movement down, we’re going to learn how to tap! Start off with the following exercise, using your index finger on your right hand:
The “t” in the tab means to tap that note with your right hand, and the “p” is a right hand pull-off.
The tapping motion itself is just like a hammer-on, but with your right hand. If you like, you can rest your right palm on the lower-sounding strings to mute them and to give your finger some support. Then, hammer down with your index finger to create a note. The most difficult thing in the beginning is the accuracy – but don’t worry, if you practice slowly then that will come fairly quickly. Remember to stay relaxed! Your right hand fingertips might feel a little sore due to them not having callouses yet, but if you feel any muscular pain then STOP! You’re using way too much tension and could injure yourself. Come back to it later, and make sure you relax your muscles as much as possible between each note. To pull-off with your right hand, flick the finger either down towards the floor or up towards the ceiling, just as you would when doing a pull-off with your left hand. It might take a couple of days to get used to the right hand hammer-ons and pull-offs, but stick at it – before you know it you'll have it down.
This next exercise is similar, but adds in some position shifts to get you used to the motion we’ll be using in the licks later on. Remember to start off very slowly and prioritise cleanliness and control over speed.
Once you can do those two exercises easily with your index finger, learn them with your middle finger. Try them on all strings and make sure you can play them cleanly and effortlessly, and with complete control. Then, you’ll be ready to move on to the cool licks below.
More Tapping Licks
The first one is very simple and will help you to coordinate your left and right hand fingers with each other – a vital skill in tapping.
Try it on all strings, and learn it both with your right hand index finger and with your right hand middle finger.
The next lick is a really simple pattern that we can move all the way up the fretboard to create a nice scale run. Here’s the lick on its own:
Then once you’ve learned that you can take it all the way up the neck in A minor:
See if you can create more scale sequences and runs, just using these simple techniques. Once you’ve learned the three licks above with both your right hand index and right hand middle fingers, you’re ready to combine them! This is where it gets really fun.
The first lick here is in A minor pentatonic and shouldn’t be too much of a problem to learn if you’ve followed the exercises and licks so far. Above the tab I’ve written which fingers to play the tapped notes with.
M I M I
That’s a nice easy one to get fast, and it looks and sounds great once you’ve increased your speed.
The next lick is based on a similar concept, but moves around more and focuses more on the right hand than the left.
M I M I M I M I M I M I M
That lick is a great way to move up the fretboard, and is a really cool sequence to use for a climatic end to a solo.
You’ll notice that in all of these licks there are never two tapped notes next to each other – this is because having a left hand note between every tapped note makes the licks much easier to play. In week three we’ll cover how to do whole phrases without a single left hand note, but for now we’ll keep things easier. After all, these licks still sound great!
The final one of this week is another cool lick in A minor. They’re all in the same key so that you can use them all together in the same solo, and then move them all up and down to play in different keys. This time I want you to use whichever right hand fingers feel most comfortable – generally using your middle finger for the higher tapped notes and your index finger for the lower ones will be easiest.
Get practising! Focus on these skills for a week and you should have a pretty good handle on them. Then you’ll be ready to move on to week 2 and really start expanding your skills! Don’t be concerned if it takes longer than a week to learn this stuff – if you’re not a very experienced player then take it slow and enjoy the process.
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