Betcha Can't Play This: Tapping and Flexing with Tony Smotherman

Here's a crazy-sounding video game–type lick that requires flexibility and dexterity to execute accurately.

The object is to move seamlessly across the fretboard, using a wide-stretch symmetrical diminished arpeggio shape with the fret hand’s first, second and fourth fingers, coupled with a right-hand tap, which makes it a diminished-seven arpeggio.

We’re maintaining a minor-third interval between each finger [a three-fret stretch]. The stretch becomes much less arduous the higher you move up the neck. The entire lick is based upon a repeating four-note sequence that skips to a different string on each downbeat and periodically shifts up one fret, gradually moving up the neck.

You tap the first note on each beat, pull-off to the fret-hand index finger, then hammer on with the middle finger and pinkie. The lick begins with the fret hand in fifth position on the high E string and a tap at the 14th fret, then skips around to different strings, the pattern being high E, G, B, D, G, A. You then shift everything up one fret and play the pattern on the D and B strings only. That completes one cycle, which is two bars long.

The cycle begins again in bar 3, with another one-fret shift up the neck that puts the fret hand in seventh position and the taps at the 16th fret. After a few more bars you’ll see and hear the pattern clearly and will be on your way to mastering the lick.

Practice it slowly at first and concentrate on executing strong taps, hammer-ons and pull-offs. When pulling off, remember to pull the string slightly sideways, toward the floor. Also take care to mute the idle bass strings with the palm of your pick hand to suppress unwanted string noise.

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