The Alien Guitar Lick

This is one of my absolute favorite ideas to use for a far-out, unexpected sound in my guitar solos. It uses a tapping technique made popular by guys like Greg Howe and Dave Martone.

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The Alien Guitar Lick

This is one of my absolute favorite ideas to use for a far-out, unexpected sound in my guitar solos. It uses a tapping technique made popular by guys like Greg Howe and Dave Martone. A few of the great things about learning and applying this idea to your own playing are:

1. It catches your audience by surprise and serve as a wake-up call to ensure they are listening

2. Visually simple to remember so you don’t have to remember a long, complex pattern (though it sounds that way).

3. Works great over Box 1 of the minor pentatonic scale

The tapping pattern is a triplet idea that always goes fret-hand tap, pick-hand tap, fret-hand tap. First, let’s practice starting the tapping pattern in the fret-hand, which can take some time if you’re used to the more traditional EVH way of tapping on the guitar.

Let’s isolate the fretting hand in Example 1 and just work on getting clear, consistent volume out of these notes:

Now let’s move to Example 2, where the pick-hand is tapping across all six strings on the 19th fret:

I recommend using your middle finger to tap while your thumb and index fingers continue to hold the pick the way they always do. When you flick off the tap to pull-off and return to the fret-hand note, you can flick your tapping finger down towards the ground, which is my preferred method, or you can pull up with a slight curl of the tapped finger, which I personally find to be more challenging, but find what works for you.

Now let’s put it all together in the key of E Minor with Example 3:


Now that we’ve got the lick down, let’s understand it from a theory perspective so we can use it whenever we need it:

The notes of the fretting hand contains three power chords, an E5 on strings 6 and 5 (E and B), a D5 on strings 4 and 3 (D and A), and a B5 on strings 2 and 1 (B and F#).

The notes of the picking hand are, from low to high, B E A D F# B.

Because we are tapping either a perfect fourth or perfect fifth above each fret-hand note, and the fret-hand notes are mostly built in 5th’s, we get the same notes in the both hands, just in different combinations.

If we put all the notes in order of the musical alphabet, starting with our root note, it looks like this: E F# A B D

We can think of it as an Em pentatonic scale with the minor 3rd, G, being substituted with a major 2nd (or 9th), F#.

This idea will work as written in the key of E Aeolian (natural minor) and E Dorian. To move it to other keys, simply find your root note on string 6 and begin the pattern on that fret. Your pick-hand tapping fret will always start a perfect fifth higher than your root note on string 6.

I hope you find this idea useful and fun to use in your own playing. Contact me in the comments section below with any questions, suggestions, or corrections.

About the Author: Eric Bourassa teaches guitar lessons in Fort Worth, TX at Fort Worth Guitar Academy, his guitar school that offers guitar lessons specializing in rock and lead guitar playing. Eric is fascinated with the idea of aliens and just won’t “let it go,” according to his wife and children.

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16 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I'm not high enough for this.
    You might be surprised. It sounds more complicated than it actually is. If you are a solid rhythm guitarist and are just getting started with lead playing, two hand tapping is actually not terribly difficult. I found it to be much easier than most techniques on guitar. Try it out and see how it works for you.
    Nice! I really like how it sounds in the context of that solo at the end of the video. I'll definitely be trying this out.
    Ryan Duke
    Very cool lick. Never heard of it, but have heard it. Also a great coordination exercise for people wanting to expand their tapping abilities. Thanks for sharing.
    Agreed! Takes a little getting used to at first but becomes pretty easy quickly if you already have the traditional tapping technique squared away.
    I just signed up and I could use some help, like where do I find the tab to tune my guitar?