Expand Your Bent Note Phrasing With Two-Hand Tapping
When Edward Van Halen burst upon the music scene in the late 1970's, he came to battle loaded with
an arsenal of techniques and tricks that stood the guitar community on it's collective ear. One of the
techniques he brought to the mainstream was tapping notes on the fret board with his picking hand.
Pieces like “Eruption” and part of the solo in “You Really Got Me” showcase how he used this
technique to create phrases that would have been impossible to play (or at least incredibly different) to
play in a conventional manner. In addition to sounding great, tapping can add unique rhythmic aspects
to lines, it's a lot of fun, and it LOOKS COOL!!! It's something you can employ to get your audience
excited about your playing!
EVH didn't invent the tapping technique; there were players like Brian May of Queen, Billy Gibbons of
ZZ Top and Steve Hackett of Genesis that would often tap a note on top of a bent note, producing what
is similar to a conventional pedal steel bend that country players might use:
In Example 1, you would execute a whole step bend on the 12th fret of the B string, and then use a
finger of the picking hand to tap (you are literally fretting the note – just with your picking hand) the
note at the 15th fret on top of the bent note. I would recommend picking the note at the 12th fret, and
learning to use the middle finger of the picking hand to tap the note at the 15th fret. Some players will
try to shift the pick into their palm and tap with the index finger of the picking hand, but I've always
found this inefficient and unnecessary. In Example 2, we take the technique one step further by pulling
off the tapped note and releasing the original bent note.
In Example 3, we take this one step further yet; we start the phrase in the same manner by bending the
note at the 12th fret a whole step, tapping at the 15th, then pulling off the tapped note and releasing the
bend down to the 12th fret. Where we take the lick a step further is by then pulling off the 12th fret and
sounding a note at the 10th fret on the B string, and then repeating the lick with the difference of tapping
at the 17th fret instead of the 15th the second time through.
Lastly, we're going to finish our tap-dance with a lick reminiscent of one Van Halen used in the song
“Panama” (among others). In this lick, we start things the same way by bending the note at the 12th fret
on the B string up a whole step. What makes this lick different and fun is we are then going to tap a
rapid succession of notes on top of the bent note before we release the bend and finish with the A note
on the 10th fret of the B string.