The Basics of Tap Harmonics

You may wonder what a tap harmonic is. This lesson will teach the basics of tap harmonics, and it will teach you a couple riffs that involve tap harmonics.

The Basics of Tap Harmonics
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For those of you who don't know how to make a harmonic note, all you need to do is lightly rest your finger on the actual fret itself (usually the 5th, 7th, or 12th fret, these numbers are essential) and strum.

For those of you who don't know what tapping is, that's where instead of strumming with your right hand, you use your right hand to tap on the strings to produce notes. Eddie Van Halen is famous for this in his song "Eruption."

A tap harmonic is a combination of tapping and harmonics. What you will do is with your right hand you will tap on the fret that produces the harmonic. Do not tap in the space between the fret, but tap on the actual fret itself, or else the harmonic won't be heard. With your left hand you will press down the the note that you would like to have as a reference point for your tapping.

Another way to explain it is if I leave my left hand off of the guitar and tap with my right hand on the 12th fret. The note produced would be an octave above the string's open note. Then if my left hand pressed on the 2nd fret, I would move my right hand over 2 frets (the 14th fret) and tap to produce an octave.

Here is the tab to demonstrate what I am saying. The numbers in parenthesis are where your right hand would tap. The numbers not in parenthesis are where your left hand would press.
e|-------------------------------0(12)------------------------|
B|-------------------------0(12)------------------------------|
G|-------------------0(12)------------------------------------|
D|-------------0(12)------------------------------------------|
A|-------0(12)------------------------------------------------|
E|-0(12)------------------------------------------------------|
e|-------------------------------2(14)------------------------|
B|-------------------------2(14)------------------------------|
G|-------------------2(14)------------------------------------|
D|-------------2(14)------------------------------------------|
A|-------2(14)------------------------------------------------|
E|-2(14)------------------------------------------------------|
A famous example of tap harmonics is the opening line of the song "Spanish Fly" by Eddie Van Halen. Here it is tabbed out for you:
e|--------------------------------------------------------|
B|--------------------------------------------0(12)-------|
G|--------------------------------------2(14)-------2(14)-|
D|--------------------------2(14)-2(14)-------------------|
A|--------------2(14)-2(14)-------------------------------|
E|--0(12)-0(12)-------------------------------------------|
e|--------------------------------------------------------|
B|-------------------1(13)-(1(13))-3(15)-0(12)------------|
G|-------------2(14)--------------------------------------|
D|-------2(14)--------------------------------------------|
A|-0(12)--------------------------------------------------|
E|--------------------------------------------------------|
One thing you might have noticed is that he is tapping out the chords E6sus4 and A minor. It is common for people to be playing a chord with their left hand, and tapping the harmonic with their right. Here is a little thing I play to help improve my tap harmonics that utilizes the chords C, Am, F, and G:
C
e|-----------------------------------------------|
B|-----------------1(13)-------------------------|
G|------------0(12)--------0(12)-----------------|
D|-------2(14)------------------2(14)------------|
A|--3(15)----------------------------3(15)-------|
E|-----------------------------------------------|
Am
e|-----------------------------------------------|
B|-----------------1(13)---0-(12)----------------|
G|------------2(14)--------------2-(14)----------|
D|-------2(14)-------------------------2-(14)----|
A|--0(12)----------------------------------------|
E|-----------------------------------------------|
F
e|-----------------------------------------------|
B|-----------------------------------------------|
G|-----------------2(14)-------------------------|
D|------------3(15)--------3(15)-----------------|
A|-------3(15)------------------3(15)------------|
E|--1(13)----------------------------1(13)-------|
G
e|-----------------------------------------------|
B|-----------------------------------------------|
G|-----------------4(16)-------------------------|
D|------------5(17)--------5(17)-----------------|
A|-------5(17)------------------5(17)------------|
E|--3(15)----------------------------3(15)-------|
I hope you understand tap harmonics a little more than you did before reading this. Another thing to note (no pun intended) is that you don't have to tap 12 frets ahead of your left hand. You can tap 5 or 7 frets ahead (do those numbers sound familiar?).

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