The first topic I’ll be covering is one that has been covered a million times before – tapping. When you think about tapping, the first thing that comes to mind are the Van Halen style triplets. Van Halen is awesome, and he completely revolutionized the approach to how you could play a guitar, but I think too many people get caught up thinking that the Van Halen triad is the only way you can tap. Lots of players have expanded tapping for lead playing, like adding a tapped note and sliding it around during sweep arpeggios, but there are plenty of other lessons covering that, and a million more players doing those types of runs. What I’m more interested in, is using tapping more as a rhythm guitarist – using tapping to create awesome riffs. Lots of guitarist turn their nose up at tapping, saying that it’s for wankers, but I’m here to show you that’s not the case!
Have you ever played a chord, and thought of a melody that could go with it, but you just don’t have enough fingers to play it? This is where tapping comes in really handy as a rhythm guitarist. Example 1 is from the song “A Rest Along The Way”, from our new album, The Lines Of History. I really liked the opening chord of the song, and when I arpeggiated the chord, I thought it sounded really good, it was just missing one note, the Ab, to give it a bit of melancholy sound to it. I couldn’t shift my finger over, because then you wouldn’t have the sort of “haunting” sound of the two notes a half step apart rubbing together – something which I am EXTREMELY fond of, and probably use too much. Various permutations of the chord and melody didn’t sound as good when I tried them, they all led to some of the higher melody notes not being able to ring out. Finally, I just tried tapping the note on the 11th fret of the A string while letting the chord ring out, and a light bulb went on in my head.
You could use tapping to add notes to chords without being limited to just what your fret hand could do and where it was on the neck! As guitarists we get so caught up in rules of where to place your hands on the neck and everything else, that you can get too locked into thinking of tapping as strictly a lead guitar device. That said – I do spend a lot of time thinking about proper hand position and technique, and playing things “correctly”, but that’s a topic for another day.
I was feeling pretty proud of myself for that little trick, and then I read an interview that REALLY got me going down this path – an interview with Regi Wooten, Victor Wooten’s older brother. He is a guitarist who does the same slap, pop, and tapping tricks that Victor does, and he’s amazing. One of the first thing he does when teaching new students, is to have them tap 2 fingers on the 12th fret, on the G and high E strings, and just hold it. That gives you the basis of how to approach the remainder of the lesson. With your left hand, fret a plain old G major barre chord, strum it, and then tap your middle and ring fingers onto the 12th fret, and pull off back to the barre chord. Taking it further, repeat the exercise holding down the chord, but moving the string set that you tap and pull off from to different string sets. High E and G, then the B and D, then the G and A, you get the idea. And it sounds GORGEOUS.
The next example is from our song “Godshatter”, from New Years Project. I basically took this same lesson and applied it to some of the chords I play during the chorus. What begin as a nice melodic chord progression turns into a beautiful descending cascade within the progression. To this day, it remains one of my favorite things that I’ve written.
Have fun experimenting on your own chord progressions…and once I figure out how to upload Guitar Pro files, I’ll even attach them so you can hear what I’m talking about.
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