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Guitar Tapping Techniques And Exercises

The guitar tapping technique involves tapping or hammering on any note of a string using the middle finger of your picking hand. Then you pull off to a note you are holding with your fretting hand. After that, you would pull off to a second fretted note and maybe hammer-on to a 4th note. This is the last of the guitar techniques that use hammer-ons and pull-offs.


What is the guitar tapping technique

Guitar tapping is a variation of the hammer-on and pull-off technique. The only difference is the first hammer-on\tap is done with either the index or middle finger of the picking hand. Then that same finger lifts or pulls off to play the next note.

That’s really the basics of guitar finger tapping – it’s just a hammer-on. But let’s take a closer look at the technique.

Guitar finger tapping in detail

First off, know that you need to fret the 2nd and 3rd note to be played, and you use your normal fretting fingers. I prefer fretting a minor 3rd with my index and ring finger. That’s the first step – you want to be ready with those notes after the tap.

In the first example below I hold down the A 5th fret 1st string with my index\pointer finger and the C at the 8th fret with my ring finger. The first note I play is the tapped E at the 12th fret and I use the middle finger of my picking hand.

Keep two things in mind. First, I only play my acoustic and this technique is best suited for an electric guitar. As a result, I need to pull off with my tapping finger to be able to hear the second note.

Secondly, I’m not a huge fan of this technique. It’s cool and I work it in from time to time, but it’s not a go-to guitar technique for me.

Anyway, you come straight down on your target note with the picking hand middle finger. which is the “tapping” part of this technique. Then you either pull-off (acoustic) or lift off (electric) to play the 2nd note. Immediately follow that with another pull-off to the note held by your index finger.

That would be a triplet. Hammer-on to the 2nd note to play a 4-note 16th phrase – repeat.


Guitar tapping tablature exercises

For the two TAB examples below I have 4-note 16th note and triplet riffs with a resolve to the tonic minor or major chord, however, go to any other chord that works for your riffs.

The first set of exercises involves an A minor triad resolving to an A note. The 2nd chord can be looked at as an Am add9 or a Cmaj13 no 5th and I resolve that to a C note. For the Am riff, it’s the 5th, minor 3rd, and root note.

A minor tapping exercise


The actual technique is:

  • Come straight down with your middle finger on the 12th fret,
  • Immediately pull-off to play the fretted note on the 8th fret,
  • Then immediately pull-off to the fretted 5th note – that’s an Am triad in reverse (E-C-A).

The following TAB starts with a C7 no 5th (E-C-Bb) resolving to F major, followed by a Bdim (F-D-B) or G7 no root resolving to C major.

Dominant 7th guitar tapping example


Come up with your own arpeggios or scale riffs with as many or as few notes that sound good to you. Try a dominant 7th without the 3rd like D7 no 3rd (D-C-A). Experiment and get creative!


Final Thoughts

The hardest part of this guitar technique is correctly tapping the first note and have it ring out clearly and in time. And then maybe the pull-off with the tapping finger if you are playing acoustic like me. After that, it’s just pull-offs and hammer-ons.

Give it a shot and add another tool to your guitar technique toolbox. For real-world examples listen to songs with these guitar players that I like: Stanley Jordan, Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Allan Holdsworth, and Michael Hedges.

Check out my Guitar Techniques article for a list of all the embellishments available to you as a guitar player. Also, look at the Wikipedia article on Tapping for history on the technique.