Using Tapping for Scale Runs

Most of us will have already encountered the repeating tapped triads popularized by Eddie Van Halen. But an often-overlooked approach is something players like Greg Howe and Reb Beach have made their own, which is tapping through three-note-per-string scalar runs by using the tapped note to replace the third or fourth finger.

In EXAMPLE 1 you’ll see a fairly straightforward run in the A minor scale. Instead of the pinky taking care of the third note on each string, you tap that note instead. The result is that only two fingers of your fretting hand are at work at any time, cutting down on energy spent and allowing you even greater levels of speed.

You’ll also notice that there’s no picking involved so the very first note is always played as a "hammer-on from nowhere."

EXAMPLE 2 shows you how you’d apply the tapping to a descending scalar run. However, in a descending run the tapped note leads, so there are no hammer-ons from nowhere this time, only pull-offs. Use your index finger to slide down to the last note on the third fret. Although we’re using a three-note-per-string approach, you also could play these shapes as 16th notes, not just triplets.

For EXAMPLE 3, we’ll use the A minor pentatonic again, but we’re playing a catchy stepping-down approach that requires a bit of finger swapping. Looking at the first line on the high E string, you tap the 17th fret and pull off, sounding the 15th fret, which is held by the ring finger. As soon as the ring finger pulls off to the 12th fret, you move your tapping finger over the recently vacated 15th fret in order to tap that note.

Pull-off the tapped finger, sounding the 12th fret and then use the ring finger again to hammer-on to the B string. That’s the first sextuplet. You just follow this pattern all the way down.

Using only two fingers on the fretting hand might seem limiting at first, but once you start applying this scalar tapping approach to different patterns, you’ll realize you’re limited only by your imagination. In fact, you can play a lot of stuff you couldn’t do any other way.

Ben Higgins started playing guitar at age 10. He’s released five solo albums and continues to teach guitarists from around the world. In 2012, he released the YouTube video “30 Shredders in One Solo,” in which he emulated the style of 30 of the world’s greatest guitarists. He followed it up with “30 Misplaced Shredders” and “Another 30 Shredders." In 2016, Ben developed his “Badass…” online courses, which are aimed at improving people’s technique in picking, sweeping and hand synchronization. To find out more about Ben and his courses, visit

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