Two-Handed Guitar Tapping Techniques

by Michael Black
Two-handed tapping is an advanced guitar technique.

Two-handed tapping is an advanced guitar technique.

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Some of the fastest guitar runs ever played have been made possible through the use of two-handed tapping. This technique requires guitarists to sound notes by literally tapping the fretboard with their picking-hand fingers. Although two-handed tapping may seem fairly straightforward at first, there is a great deal of variety and sub-techniques within this skill.

Tapping the Strings

The first thing to worry about when learning two-handed tapping techniques is how to strike the string with your picking hand. The technique requires you to hit the string with some force directly behind the fret -- as though you were fretting a note with your picking hand. Most guitarists prefer to use either their index or their middle finger to tap the guitar strings, but some like to use the edge of the pick instead. Tapping with the pick results in a sharper attack, but less overall control when compared to tapping with your fingers. Experiment with both techniques and use the one that works best for you.

Pull-Offs and Hammer-Ons

Combining tapped notes with fret-hand pull-offs and hammer-ons is one of the most commonly used two-hand tapping techniques. First, tap and release a note, and then -- on the same string -- do a quick fret-hand hammer-on or pull-off. Try to keep each note the same length. Repeat this process to create extremely fast guitar licks. Eddie Van Halen popularized this technique with the track "Eruption." Using multiple picking-hand fingers to create a second higher-pitched hammer-on or pull-off above the normal hammer-on or pull-off is a more advanced variation of this technique.

Tapping Dyads and Triads

Dyads and triads are two- and three-note chords respectively. Tapping them as a part of complex chord progressions is a hallmark of great jazz, fusion and progressive rock players. This technique is rarely done for speed. Instead, it is used to create unique chord progressions with wide tonal shifts and add color to a basic chord progression. This technique requires you to use multiple picking-hand fingers to tap these chords.

Tap Harmonics

Produce bell-like harmonic tones by quickly tapping and releasing notes above a regularly fretted chord. These tap harmonics are most easily performed twelve frets higher than the standard notes beneath, but they can also sound at other places on the neck, most notably five and seven frets higher than the regular notes. The Police's Andy Summers often uses this technique in conjunction with regularly plucked notes.

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