SHREDDED METAL

TAPPING ACROSS THE STRINGS

Since Eddie Van Halen’s ‘Eruption’ solo, two-handed tapping has become a common part of the metal guitar vocabulary. Often though, it seems that guitarists stick with simple tapping ideas when there are so many more possibilities to explore. Tapping across multiple strings - instead of just the one – is a great way to expand the use of the tapping technique and can create long, legato lines that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

The main thing to watch when tapping multiple strings is the muting. If you don’t block the strings you aren’t playing – and especially if you have the distortion cranked – you’re going to get a lot of excess string noise and feedback.  The basic idea is this: With your fretting hand fingers mute the strings below the one you’re playing. With the palm of your tapping hand, mute the strings above the one you’re playing, slightly adjusting as you change from string to string.

If you’re new to right-hand tapping, these exercises are going to seem pretty difficult. However, you can just pick any string from the following licks and work on it separately. Practice tapping (fretting) the note with the middle finger of your right hand and then flicking it slightly downwards as a pull-off to the notes with your left hand.

EXERCISE 1

The main trick to tapping across multiple strings is to isolate each hand. This lick in D uses your basic minor pentatonic shape for the left-hand, while the right-hand taps notes from the scale higher in pitch. Use pull-offs for the left-hand, and with the right you’ll just be tapping at the 15th fret the whole way down, except for the 14th fret third string.

Hear Exercise 1

EXERCISE 2

Two-handed tapping can also be useful for licks involving the weird symmetrical shapes I’ve talked about previously (issue 74). Exercise two is built from an augmented triad (1-3-#5) where each note is four frets apart. Starting on the sixth string and loosely in the key of D, the augmented triad is tapped across all consecutive stings for a very bizarre and alien sound.

Hear Exercise 2

EXERCISE 3

This Steve Vai-ish tapping lick is in E Lydian. For the left hand, drill the three note-per-string Lydian pattern using hammer-ons. When deciding which frets to tap with the right hand, I find it easiest to look for notes from the scale that will form a simple pattern. The first five frets that are tapped on each string are 14-13-13-14-14. This is quite easy to remember. You can add vibrato to a tapped note by holding it down and shaking your left hand finger normally.

Hear Exercise 3

EXERCISE 4

Descending in E natural minor (or E Aeolian) this lick is all pull-offs and involves a fast double-tap on each string as well as two quick slides with the tapping finger. Apart from the 15th fret tap at the end, all the other tapped notes are on the 17th and 19th frets. In fact, all the notes on the 17th and 19th frets - on all the strings - are diatonic to E Aeolian. So you can easily just mix-and-match tapping notes on either fret.

Hear Exercise 4

EXERCISE 5

If your fingers haven’t fallen off by now (!), let’s finish with an extremely hard lick – a double-string-skip-tapped diminished 7 arpeggio!!! Due to the string skips, you should be really careful with the muting on this one. 

Hear Exercise 5



I’d definitely recommend listening to these licks on the cover CD so you can hear them played both fast and slow. Have fun, and don’t hurt yourself!

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