Tap Dancing With Triads

Anyone can sound good by learning tapping through tabs. But what REALLY makes them stick? We will take an in depth and rarely seen view of the topic. Warning, you may be exposed to some theory!

Ultimate Guitar
Tapping. EVH did it in the 80s and brought it to the forefront. There are reports that long before Eddie did it, Jazz great Pat Martino was playing them. Whatever the case, tapping has made its way into the contemporary guitarist's technique repertoire, and is here to stay. To start with, for brevity sake, I'm not going to tab these samples the way you usually see them. But you will be able to follow the idea. 5, 8, 12t on one string, say the 1st E can easily be notated (t = tap). All the notes in this above example would fall on the E or 1st string, and would be 5 hammer to 8 tap 12. We all good there? Great. 5, 8 12t. Lets look at the following tapping ideas on the 1st string: 12t^8^5^8 (played 4 times - 12 tap and pull off (hammer on and pull off are shown by "^")to 8 pull of to 5...and repeat) 13t^8^5^8 - 4x 12t^7^4^8 - 4x Instead of looking at the lick itself, let's look at what's going on. To do this, we look at the notes of each tapping lick: The first would be seen as "E, C, A, C" The second would be seen as "F, C, A, C" The third would be seen as "E, B, G#, E" To make sense of this, you should know what notes make up a chord (triad). Knowing this, we can identify and create our own tapping extravaganzas. E, C, A is a backwards version of A C E - This is an A Minor triad. When you tap these three notes in any order, this is an A Minor triad. F, C, A changes just one note from the last, the E is now F. This triad is F A C - F Major. E, B, and G# are E, G#, B when reordered - an E Major Triad. Thus, we have deduced the 3 chords that are implied over this lick are Am, F and E. By the way E, in the key of Am, suggests an E7, in A Harmonic Minor. Once you know Triads, you can do it any way you want when it comes to tapping (Although your fingers may need to be limber to play it in certain ways. Lets use this knowledge of Triads and Notes on the Neck to our advantage: For those still not sure what a triad is, its three notes that make up every chord - in this case let's list the three notes for each chord, for easy reference, if you have never learned the notes which make up triads, I hope this will inspire you to do so. A Minor - ACE F Major - FAC E Major - EG#B Lets look at some ways we can organize these Triad ideas. On the E String, our A is 5th and 17th frets C is 8th, and 20th, and E is open 0 or 12th frets. So we can do a C A E - 8t^5^0 (Tapping 8, pull off to 5 pull off to open or 0) We can do 20t,^12^17, OR 20t^5^0^5 Yes thats a C, A and E back to A - when's the last time you played 2 handed like that? 20^5^0^5. It sounds a little odd, but it is an Am triad, just a very loooooong one! We can do 17t^8^0^8 and that works too because it has all the notes of the Am triad - Try this on for size, connecting 2 triads in a strange tapping showcase of fury: 20t^5^0^5 ^ 17t^8^0^8 - that's C,A,E,A ^ A,C,E,A - kinda saxophonish Heres some with some of the notes in Am but not all, it still works over Am
17t^0^5  A,E,A 

20t^0^8  C,E,C

17^0^12 (sounds pretty trippy)  A,E,E

20^0^12 (more trippy tapping)
As you can see I took one tapping idea and made it into many. As long as the triad note are there, some or all of them, you can make some pretty out there ideas. Knowing triads not only helps me with tapping, I can also come up with novel chord ideas. For example knowing my notes on the neck and my Am triad notes allowed me to make my own Am chord. Here it is.
I hope this inspires you to learn your triads, your notes on the neck, so that with tapping or just about anything you want to do, you can stretch your creative boundaries in ways you may have never yet thought of. Now, I'll get you started by giving you the frets and notes for the remaining two tapping triads I discussed in the beginning, and I'll leave the rest up to you to explore ways to creatively tap out these ideas. Look at F major - that is F A C - on the 1 string F is 1, 13 A is 5 and 17, and C is 8 and 20 Maybe 20t^17^13? Or 13t^5^8t^1? Lots of possibilities... E major is E G# and B - on the 1st string E is 0 or 12, G# is 4 or 16, and B is 7 or 19. You get the idea. Don't just learn licks and lick forms - create. Have fun, and if I can answer any questions for those wanting to learn theory, or how do you learn these triads and notes anyways? Just drop me a note and I'll do my best to shine a little light your way. Best, Sean

6 comments sorted by best / new / date

    U have an interesting way of explaining things...i know about modes,but id like u to share what u know,maybe i can learn something else...gr8 lesson btw,often we overlook the importance of creating coz we are so stuck on copying our fav guitarists...
    One of your first examples, 12t^7^4^8 - 4x, is not "E,B,G#,E". It's actually "E,B,G#,C". I think you need to change that 8 to a 7. Other than that, solid article.
    great article, its good to see guitarists who know whats going on when they play instead of just banging notes until they sound good like some metal guitarists i know
    rhcpfan93 wrote: One of your first examples, 12t^7^4^8 - 4x, is not "E,B,G#,E". It's actually "E,B,G#,C". I think you need to change that 8 to a 7. Other than that, solid article.
    You're right. I try to get all the typos, but they are bound to happen. Thanks for pointing that out