Tap Slides: Because 4 Fingers Just Aren't Enough

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Once hailed as genius, once viewed as gimmicky and over the top, no matter how you view it tapping is a technique essential to a lead guitarist’s repertoire. However, it’s often abused in such a way that it frequently finds itself being used solely to bang out minor triads and impress non-musicians (man, do they eat that shit up). So, how can one make it interesting?

One of my favorite techniques on the guitar is the slide (not the Ry Cooder kind, sorry blues purists—not that there are any of you reading an instructional on tapping anyway). The agile flick of the wrist gliding a finger from one note to another, or perhaps multiple, when controlled can add a really cool flavor to one’s playing. How does this relate to tapping, you might ask? Well, consider this: if you can do it with your left hand, why not try it with the right?

Let’s start with the simplest tapping lick possible, the same one I dumped on earlier: the minor triad. If you haven’t already toyed around with these, take a look at the one in Figure 1a. Starting with your first finger on the minor third (fret 4, or in notation, a B), simply hammer on the fifth (fret 7, or D) and then tap the root (fret 12, or G). Voila! You can tap. The whole run is straight 8th notes, or two full runs of the pattern per measure. Nothing too fancy.

Once you’ve mastered that (and I’m sure it didn’t take you terribly long), it’s time to spice it up. Play the first half of the measure the same as in Figure 1a, however instead of returning to the B at the 4th fret and starting over, pull off the tapped root to the D at the 7th fret, and then return to tap the 12th fret and, holding down the string, slide your right hand up one semitone to the 13th fret and back down again (Figure 1b). Then release and finish the pattern as normal. “Cool man,” you’re thinking, “but where am I going from here?”

Answer: MORE SLIDES. If something’s cool, you do it more! Until you do it so much that it stops being cool. Just as long as none of you make people so sick of it we have a grunge revival. Hold your horses though, we’ve got to get back to the basics first. Let’s move on to a variation of Figure 1a, so cleverly titled Figure 2a. Same pattern, except we’re going to shift the tapped note every time we play it. In bar 1, we’re tapping that initial note, the root at the 12th fret. In bar 2, move up a semitone and tap out Bb at the 13th fret. In bar 3, tap out Ab a whole tone up at the 15th. In bar 4, shift back down to Bb at the 13th. And in our 5th bar, return back down to the root at the 12th. Done and done! Time to make it fancy.

So, in Figure 2b, we’re going to apply to same concept that we applied to Figure 1b to the pattern from 2a. Begin the pattern as you did the last time, except upon reaching the 12th fret, slide up to the 13th and back down like in 1b. Then, shift up to tap the 13th fret and upon doing so slide up a whole tone to fret 15, and back down to 13. Next, tap the 15th fret, slide up to the 17th, and back down again. Do it back down the progression until you reach the root again and you’re done. The whole step slides may be tricky at first, but with patience, a metronome and some spare time, you’ll have it down with no trouble.

“But what about my left hand?” you ask. “It’s so bored and lonely, staying in the same position.” Well hold your freakin’ horses, you tap hungry maniac! That’s next week.