When you learn how to play the guitar, your instructor will show you two standard methods.
The first option is to place your fingers on the guitar’s neck while you strum along the instrument’s soundhole or pickups.
If you prefer a finger-picking style, you’ll learn how to play the specific notes and chords for this folksy approach to the instrument.
There’s a third option for guitarists who want to add more variation to their style. Although it isn’t popular in some circles, guitar tapping provides an alternative sound that leaves both hands free to produce notes.
Stanley Jordan is arguably the most famous musician to rely extensively on the tapping technique.
Best Songs to Practice Tapping
Tapping is a lesser-known method of playing the guitar. This option is also called “touch style” and “tap style.” The strings get set into motion by a single tap on the fretboard. Songs like “Eruption” from Van Halen and “One” by Metallica are excellent examples to practice tapping.
When you think about playing the guitar, the standard method is to use one hand to control the frets while the other picks or strums. If you start tapping, you’re using an extended technique.
Guitar tapping uses either hand to tap the strings on the fingerboard to create legato notes. It usually involves hammer-ons or pull-offs to add more variation to different musical sequences.
It is also possible to play entire songs using the tapping technique only.
Although it is often used on the electric guitar, musicians can adopt the same methodology for any stringed instrument.
Who Invented Finger Tapping on the Guitar?
The credit for the first finger tapping techniques for the guitar often goes to the composer Niccolo Paganini. He became famous for striking a bow along his violin to create a “tapping” technique for his music.
Although his violin sonatas get extensive play today, most people don’t realize that Paganini thought of himself as a better guitarist than violin player.
It’s widely assumed that several of his compositions were created on guitar before getting transcribed to the violin.
As for two-handed tapping techniques, several musicians came up with individualized approaches around the same time in the 1930s.
The most famous example involves Roy Smeck playing the ukulele in the film Club House Party, which was released in 1932.
▪️ Is Guitar Tapping Hard?
Tapping comes easily to some musicians and feels like an impossible task to others. If you want to learn the two-handed tapping technique to play the melody and accompaniment, the best guitarist to study is Steve Vai.
Vai is so adept with the two-handed tapping technique that he uses nine fingers as stops when playing some numbers.
His complicated, ultra-precise arpeggiations make the electric guitar comparable to the piano in how it plays.
Stanley Jordan is also a renowned figure because he figured out how to remove the loud sounds from the first taps to create a noteworthy jazz evolution.
How Do You Finger Tap on a Guitar?
Although it will feel unusual at first to start tapping on a guitar, most players can pick up the technique within the first few attempts. Here are the options to try if you’d like to attempt this option.
- Use the second finger on your right hand to tap. You’ll still get to hold your pick normally if you adopt this technique, making it the most comfortable option.
- You can also tap with the first finger on your right while holding the pick between the thumb and second finger. This option provides more power when hammering the fret while supporting the neck with the third and fourth fingers.
- Some players, like Eddie Van Halen, tuck the pick into their second finger when tapping. It’ll free up more of your hand for control and accuracy during that part of the composition.
- You can choose not to use a pick at all and tap through an entire song by playing both parts with each hand. If you use this technique, it might be more comfortable to sit with the instrument on your lap, similar to how some steel guitars get played.
If you don’t have the calluses built up on your fingertips from playing, tapping can be an uncomfortable experience.
List of the Best Songs for Practicing Tapping
When you’re ready to try tapping on your guitar, here are the songs that you’ll want to try first to see if this technique is right for your style.
1. Eruption by Van Halen
Although other guitarists are better tappers, Eddie Van Halen changed the world of heavy metal and rock with this song. It’s less than 120 seconds long,
which means you can get several repetitions in the same practice session if you want to experiment with tapping techniques. The focal point of this composition is the guitar.
2. One by Metallica
Kirk Hammett delivers an iconic tapping component in this epic composition. If you watch the music video, you’ll need eight minutes to get through the entire thing.
When you want to focus on the guitar taps only, you’ll want to start at the 5:46 mark of the song.
The speed and precision at which Hammett works the instrument is stunning, especially when you consider how much distortion and rhythm change happens in the solo section.
3. Power Rangers Theme Song
Believe it or not, the guitar tapping sequence in the theme song to the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers is almost as complex as the one heard in the Metallica solo.
You don’t need to wait long for it either since it appears before the first verse. There’s another brief part during the bridge where you can hear slower-speed tapping as the solo rings out.
4. Invincible by Muse
Although you won’t see Matt Bellamy in the debate for the best guitar tapper in the industry, the solo found in this song is impressive.
When you first listen to this song, it’s hard to believe that tapping techniques would ever be used with the quiet atmospheres and long, looping electronic tones.
Once you reach the interlude, you’ll hear magic happen! You can skip forward to the 3:25 part in the song to listen to the technique.
5. Dancing with the Moonlit King by Genesis
This song is notable for guitar tapping because it showcases Steve Hackett using tapping and sweep picking during his solo.
It’s a historically relevant piece since the band released this number in 1973.
6. CAFO by Animals as Leaders
This song is arguably the most difficult one to play on the guitar. You can hear a distorted picking technique initially, but it gets more complex as the music progresses.
By the time you’re a little over a minute into the number, you’ll hear an incredible groove unlike anything you’ve ever experienced as a guitarist.
It almost sounds like a synth the way it is played, challenging the idea that you need to shred repeated rhythms successfully.
It’s also remarkably lengthy as a tapping solo feature piece, lasting for almost an entire minute with only drum accompaniment before the rest of the band returns.
You’ll be tapping for nearly two minutes straight.
7. Snatch Boogie by Joe Satriani
Satriani’s signature piece is filled with numerous guitar styles to showcase his overall talent.
You’ll see a few different tapping groves in the composition, with some of the most complicated parts about halfway through the number.
Critics might argue that this song doesn’t qualify since the compressor modifies the guitar heavily when Satriani plays. When you see his fingers flying along the fretboard, you can see what technique he uses.
8. Eleanor Rigby by Stanley Jordan
Jordan redefines what it means to tap on the guitar. When he plays this rendition of The Beatles hit song, you won’t believe what your ears are hearing.
The melody and bassline get played simultaneously with his unique technique, and a close-up of his finger work on the frets is available throughout most of the video.
The best part about the Eleanor Rigby video is the guys in the audience who clearly can’t believe what they see from Stanley.
9. Get the Funk Out by Extreme
Nuno Bettencourt puts on a tapping show during the guitar solo in this song.
It uses the progressive scales that lead up to the vast, explosive top-shelf notes you’d hear in any rock song.
His work might rank even higher if the entire piece was less nonsensical. You can listen to the solo right before the three-minute mark in the music.
Are You Ready to Try Tapping?
If you want to increase your flexibility on the guitar, learning how to tap will help you achieve your overall goals.
Although it isn’t the right technique for everyone, you’ll discover that the guitar can produce some incredible sounds with fantastic precision with this style.
It might take a little time to get your fingers to do what you want on the guitar when tapping. That’s why practicing with these songs can be a lot of fun!
You’ll find that it takes an average of about 45 minutes of practice each day for one month to get into the rhythms that tapping requires.