Right Hand Tapping Basics

- Will Landrum

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If you're left handed, just replace the word "right" with the word "left" while reading this article.

Right hand tapping was popularized in the late 70's by Edward Van Halen when he literally turned the guitar playing world upside down with his miraculous fretwork. I highly recommend getting a copy of "Van Halen", the first album. This is how he created that compelling sound on "Eruption" which has gone down in history as one of the most famous rock guitar solos of all time.

Today I want to give you a solid understanding of Ed's basic technique. Once you see what's going on here, I'll introduce you to many other variations and possibilities in more detail later.

The term "tapping" is slightly misleading. It's a generic term for fretting notes with your right hand. Actually
what's going on is using your right hand fingers to either really "tap" on a note or actually do hammer-ons and pull-offs with them.

Let's do some right hand tapping with hammer-ons and pull-offs with an E minor triad, (E, G, and B) on the 3rd string.

Here's the tab.

You can do pull-offs with your right hand two different ways.

1. You can angle your hand parallel with the neck and pull-off in a downward motion.
2. You can angle your hand perpendicular to the neck as if playing the piano and pulling-off in an upward motion.

Once you can do one of these, you'll be able to do both. The feel is similar.

If you are trying #1, you may want to anchor your hand to the neck with your thumb and 2nd finger, using your 1st finger to do the tapping.

Remember, just because you are hammering and pulling with your right hand doesn't mean it should sound any different than doing it with your left hand. Hammer-ons and pull-offs are just that no matter which hand you use.

Play the example continuously. You'll notice that it's just a circle of notes repeating over and over.

Now you can begin experimenting with this technique. When I first learned of it, I was up till 4 in the morning
trying all kinds of variations! In the example above, try alternating your left hand 3rd and 4th fingers! Also
try bending a note up a whole step and then hammering-on a higher note with your right. The more you experiment, the more you will start seeing what can be done.

I really exploited right hand tapping on my tune "Fill In The _____" from the new CD.

Lastly, don't forget your timing! Set your metronome to a slow speed like 60 beats per minute and do the above exercise in time with triplets. When you get comfortable with that speed, increase gradually. When you hit your limit, pound it out for a few days and you will probably be able to play it even faster!

Will Landrum



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