Tap-O-Rama: Finger Tapping Methods

Various finger tapping methods for the everyday player! Introduction to Advanced Methodology.

Ultimate Guitar
Hello all, 

I'm back again this time with a lesson committed for finger tapping.

This can be considered by many to be an "outdated" or "overplayed" technique but I feel it has so many directions for exploring it shouldn't be overlooked. Here is a list of my "go-to" guys for their take on this technique, and its many layers:
  • Eddie Van Halen
  • George Lynch
  • Michael Romeo
  • Paul Gilbert
  • Steve Vai
That being said my goal is to you the many ways this "finger tapping" technique can be showcased. I'd like to start with some stuff everyone might know, then progress to some more advanced stuff.


h = Hammer-on
p = Pull-off
t = Tap
/ = Slide Up
\ = Slide Down
b = bend


Diatonic - Sticking to the notes in the designated scale. 

Ex.1: Single Digit Taps

The most used probably, well in the tapping beginnings at least. This is based in the vein of EVH. This is played on the high E string as noted in the tab below.
I like to think of this particular lick as a moving train, the wheels on the track are propelled forward first to push the train, then move backward an equal amount to their starting position to start the process again. To me it's a way to envision the mechanics of this lick and the movements you need to have a smooth transition.

Ex.2: Double Tapping

I really enjoy the way that Randy Rhoads and George Lynch make this effect so musical.

As noted above the "Double Tap" is exactly that, in which you repeat the tapped note in succession, (2x) before returning to ex.1's formula. Play each one in ex.2 twice in a row, and also try alternating them in patterns you like and/or are familiar with. 

I am simply showing you an idea I really like, these notes aren't here to say, "ONLY DO IT THIS WAY." Inject your own favorite stuff for fun and experiment with what you really like.

Ex.3: Symmetrical Tapped Runs

I again think of EVH for this next lick.

For this lick really try and use your picking hand to mute any unwanted noise when transferring to adjacent strings. Or you can use the fretting hand to do the same by "barring" your index finger as you jump from string to string. 

A fun challenging thing to with this type of lick is skip string from E to D and to b. Then try to do different combinations of string skips.

Ex.4: Tap and Slide

Michael Romeo is one of my favorite guitarist and as well as Paul Gilbert. These monsters use this particular run or licks to get wide stretches without using multiple fingers.

This lick is a little finger twister at first, build your speed slowly and make the tap-slide as clear as you can. The harder you tap and pull the more noise you will create. The key here is finding the balance of the tension you need to keep the volume at a consistent level throughout this paddage.

Ex.5: Tap and Slide

Here is a lick I really enjoy using in my own playing. The difference on this and ex.4 is the slide is down first.

The next part of this lick is in the tab below.

Now the last part as noted below.
Each section of this can be played separately, or as one big lick. I would break it down into smaller sections. Take your time on the lower string is your new at this the guage of your string and how calloused your tapping finger is can be a painfull match at first. I know I had trouble with my picking hand index finger becoming rather raw after a few hours of this!

Ex.6: Tapping With Multiple Fingers

I also really like this particular lick because of its "rolling" like feel.

The guys from Night Ranger go as high as 8 finger tapped passages utilizing 4 fingers on each hand. Look that up on, YouTube it is a real treat to see it done very well.
I like the shape played as well (two half steps B to C and E to F, or 7 to 8 and 12 to 13). I use my index and middle fingers on both hands to pull off this particular lick.

Ex.7: Tapping With Multiple Fingers

This lick is a bit tougher and is not to be taken lightly. I don't wanna make it sound impossible but it is certainly an intermediate to advanced level.

I use my index and pinkie on my tapping hand to play the passage. Accuracy is very rough to get with my pinkie, I don't know about anyone else. This lick took me about 2 months or so before I could throw it into a solo or just basically play on command. I really like the octave jump in this, I think it creates a cool element in contrast to the others I have shown.

Ex.8: String Skipping and Tapping

Paul Gilbert and Michael Romeo do this enough to where you can pick them out. It has a really fun and challenging aspect. Once you get this under your fingers you will see that just outlining a basic chord progression has limitless options.

This particular passage is built from the E minor or E Aeolian Scale. Spelled E, (I) F#, (II) G, (III) A, (IV) B, (V) C, (VI) D, (VII). The passage above outlines the chord Em7 or E minor seven, spelled (E, G, B, & D). (I, III, V, VII). I try to repeat this like 2x and then change the chord.

Here is a GM7, or G Major seven chord outlined. This chord is "diatonic" or consists of notes that fall in the E minor scale. The G major scale is as follows, G, (1) A, (II) B, (III) C, (IV) D, (V) E, (VI) F#, (VII). G Major 7 spelled G, B, D, & F#. (I, III, V, VII).

Lastly we have a Bm7, or B minor seven, still remaining "diatonic" to the E minor scale in the first section of this example. The B minor is actually built from the B Phrygian mode of the Major set of modes. Spelled B, (I) C, (II) D, (III) E, (IV) F#, (V) G, (VI) A, (VII). Bm7 is spelled B, D, F#, A.

If you have a friend or way to record yourself and play along with it you could use the power chords below and an Iron Maiden type gallop to keep the timing of this lick.

Start slow and strive for a smooth transition and as little noise as possible between strings. (I know easier said than done) If you have the patience this is a kick a-s way of getting the effect of sweep picking.
Chords above E, G, B.

Lastly, if you master all of these, try mis-matching the different types of techniques to challenge your self. For example, play the last example and slide up at the end of the ascension (on the high E string) or maybe try a double tap on the tapped note at the end (on the high E string).

Please remember that practice makes perfect, and patience makes endurance. If any of these proves frustrating or to hard, play something you know well. Maybe a song you wrote, or one you just love to jam on. Then come back to the lick giving you trouble. Maybe even take a break from the guitar all together, getting frustrated can bog down your mind and make it hard to concentrate.

Playing should be fun.

I hope that one of these, if not all of these has shown you something new, challenging and cool. Please leave any feedback, I always welcome constructive criticism.

Thanks for reading, and please enjoy.

4 comments sorted by best / new / date

    You should make a video to get an instant visual idea of every technique and then we can dwelve into the tabs.