Tapping Exercises – An Essential Guide

Learning two-handed tapping can be difficult at first – let us help you learn with these super-effective tapping exercises!

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In this free lesson you will learn…

  • Five approaches to finger tapping with two hands
  • How to incorporate more than one finger on each hand
  • Who to listen to for inspiration
  • How to avoid hand strains

Ready To Start Taking On Some Tapping Exercises?

If you’ve ever watched a video of Eddie Van Halen playing the electric guitar, you know just how cool finger tapping can sound (and look).

  • What is this strange and foreign technique, though? How do we use it?
  • Won’t it be hard because of how the strings vibrate?

Well, yes. However, with practice we can learn to conquer the strings and stick this awesome technique in our guitar toolkit for future use.

In this lesson, we’re going to give you a beginner’s crash course using five tapping exercises that will light up your hands and get you sounding like a virtuoso!


Two-Handed Tapping Takes Practice

Whether you’re playing tapping exercises on one string or six, it’s going to take some work and coordination to nail the parts.

It’s important not to get put off during the practice phase. This lesson is designed to give you an introductory run through two-handed finger tapping exercises that will open up your hands and bring some flexibility.

Pro Tip: This is an unorthodox technique, and the position of your hand means more than the notes you play.

If you feel a strain in either of your hands, take a minute to re-evaluate your hand position (especially your picking hand) to see how you can better position yourself.

Avoid playing in positions that cause you discomfort!


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Learn How To Coordinate Without A Pick

Unless you come from a classical background of learning where fingerpicking is a must, learning how to coordinate your picking hand without a pick can be difficult.

Fear not, though! We’ve got an exercise for that.

Pro Tip: Leave the pick on the table for this one. Find your G string and place your index finger (fret hand) at the 5th fret.

With your picking hand, take your middle finger and begin ‘tapping’ the G string at the 12th fret.

We want to tap down hard enough to dig in on the string at the 12th fret, and then pull-off the way we would in our other hand.


You can practice this on every string in the same position to begin warming up your fingers.

  • This initial practice run will help us get a feel for the essential movements in these tapping exercises.
  • It’s important to practice this technique on every string, as it helps us get a feel for what each string feels like.

Pro Tip: Tapping on the low E and A strings sounds really cool.

Not only is it a practical way to create cool rhythms on the low strings, but it also helps us to build some good calluses on our picking (or tapping) hand.

Give it a shot, and then move on to the tapping exercises below!


Tapping Exercises I – Two Fingers, Three Notes, One Open String

We’re going to start with a single string and three notes.

This helps us get a feel for the ‘rotating’ motion that we get from playing guitar using tapping.

This exercise can be played in three steps:

  • Tap with your picking hand on the 12th fret on the E string
  • Pull off to the open position with your picking hand
  • Tap with the index finger of your fret hand at the 5th fret of the E string

Begin to develop a repeated motion between your two hands over these three steps. When you complete the third step, cycle back to the first step and repeat.

You should feel this out in three-note groupings. Once performed properly, this line should be played like a triplet.

Check out the tablature below for reference:


Pro Tip: Three note tapping exercises like this can be played on any string, and we recommend you do so!

Each string feels a little bit different when getting used to tapping, and so we should experiment to see what those differences are.

  • A great exercise to try out is to play triplets like the ones above across three strings.
  • Play one triplet on the E string, then on the B, then on the G string.

You can repeat this process for the bass strings as well for some more interesting sounds!



Tapping Exercises II – Three Fingers, One String

This one is similar to the tapping exercises above, but we aren’t going to use any open strings this time.

Instead of pulling off to the open string, we leave our index finger of the fret hand on the 5th fret. That way we can pull off from the picking hand at the 12th fret to the 5th fret in the fret hand.

This exercise can be played in three steps:

  • Tap with your picking hand index finger on the 12th fret on the E string
  • Pull off to the 5th fret (index finger picking hand)
  • Hammer-on to the 7th fret with the ring finger.

Tabs below:


The kicker with this tapping line is the hammer-on to the 7th fret.

  • Once again, we adapt a triplet flow to create that circular motion that we’ve been hearing so far.
  • Try playing this line on every string, and if you’re feeling brave you can swap the ring finger at the 7th fret for the pinky finger at the 8th.

If you really want a challenge, you can alternate between the 7th and 8th fret hammer-ons to spice up your tapping lines and work your fingers harder.


Tapping Exercises III – Three Fingers, Two Strings, Six Notes

Here’s where we start to expand on the concept of playing across more than one string.

With that, we hope you’ve been practising everything up until now!

  • With these tapping exercises, we are going to take the same example from above and play two triplets on two adjacent strings, totalling six notes.
  • You may notice that many of the tapping exercises we’ve done so far have a distinctly Eddie Van Halen sound to them.

Eddie set a large benchmark for tapping, and he conveniently did it in such a way that is easy to break down into an exercise.

Once you have this exercise down, you can focus on trying to pick up speed with it. For now, practice it slowly. Check out the tablature below:


Pro Tip: Slow practice is the key to success if you want to learn to play faster.

That may sound like a weird concept, but it makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

  • In order for our brain and hands to fully absorb the motions we are playing through, we should play them slowly in order to dissect them.
  • Once you’ve completely taken in what you’re supposed to be playing, you can set your metronome higher and start building speed.

You are practising with your metronome, right?


Tapping Exercises IV – Mix It Up

This is where it gets fun and exciting.

You want to really start thinking about the different applications of this technique and how it can affect your playing.

Two-handed tapping isn’t just great for lead guitar – we can use the technique learned in the tapping exercises above to build some pretty amazing rhythm sounds as well.

In the example below, we’re going to play in four steps:

  • Pick the open A string
  • Tap with your fret hand index finger on the 5th fret
  • Tap with your picking hand index finger on the 12th fret
  • Pull off with your picking hand finger to the open A string and repeat from step #2


Pro Tip: Pulling off with your picking hand can be difficult at first.

We want to make sure that we aren’t hitting or vibrating any other strings in the process, so make sure to take it slow and commit to practice in order to get the most out of these tapping exercises.

  • We want to be precise when learning two-handed tapping.
  • Due to how close the strings are to each other, we can easily strike an unintended string in the process.

There isn’t a lot of room for sloppiness in this playing style, and therefore slow practice with a metronome is the key to success.


Tapping Exercises V – Two Fingers In Each Hand

When we learn the art of two-handed tapping, we want to utilize more than just our index fingers.

Our ring fingers can be valuable assets when breaking away from the one-finger-in-each-hand approach to these tapping exercises.

  • One might think it easier to use the two middle fingers, but in fact the ring fingers give us the ability to play more spaced-out notes on the fretboard.
  • In this last example, we’re going to use both of our index and ring fingers to play a sequence of four notes.

Have a look at the tabs below, and remember, slow and steady wins the race! Practice slowly!


Pro Tip: Take your knowledge of chords to the next level, and incorporate your favourite triads into your tapping exercises.

Any chord in any position can be played a number of ways. One of our favourites is to tap the notes in the chord in an arpeggio-like fashion.

Challenge Yourself: Take a look at the fretboard below, and find the notes of your favourite chord.

Take C major as an example (C, E, G).

  • We can find these notes in succession in a variety of places.
  • Start with your index finger and tap the root note of C with your fret hand, followed by the 5th (G) with your ring finger.
  • With your middle or index finger in the picking hand, tap the E note closest in range to the G.

This is a great way to get some new perspective on chords!


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Forward-Thinking Tapping Guitarists To Get You Inspired

In 2019, there are a lot of forward-thinking musicians on the internet that can get you incredibly excited about learning new tapping exercises.

Now more than ever, guitarists are striving to break old traditions and venture down new paths through the use of new techniques and improved versions of old ones, as well as a slew of different effects that will boggle your mind.

We’ve written about a few of our personal favourites below who utilize two-handed tapping as a medium for playing the guitar, either acoustic or electric.

Sarah Longfield: Guitarist for The Fine Constant as well as her own solo material, Sarah Longfield is a force to be reckoned with in the world of two-handed tapping and eight-string guitars

  • Sarah makes incredible use of effects in conjunction with her tapping technique to create a wonderfully unique tone that is all her own.
  • Follow her on Instagram at @sarahlongfield.

Yvette Young: The inventive guitarist of Covet, Yvette combines two-handed tapping with open tunings to create beautifully ambient atmospheres with all kinds of movement within them.

  • Yvette is also an avid user of capos to maximize her use of open tunings.
  • You can follow her on Instagram at @yvetteyoung

Josh Martin: A rhythmic mastermind and the guitarist of Little Tybee.

  •  Josh Martin uses complex time signatures and polyrhythms to create a stunning array of mindblowing rhythms on an eight-string guitar.
  • You can follow Josh and his rhythmic antics on Instagram at @koalanights.

Ichika: Ichika is a musical monster with a clean and precise approach to his tapping technique.

  • He also adopts a very piano-based approach to the guitar, often splitting low and high ranges of the guitar into his two hands.
  • Follow his unique approach to music on Instagram at @ichika_mo.

Plini: A legend of the progressive guitar community, Plini’s lullaby-ish approach to guitar is profound and beautiful.

  • Although he doesn’t make exclusive use of tapping in his playing, his guitar playing is always worth listening to.
  • Check him out on Instagram at @plini.

Mike Dawes: A champion of the acoustic guitar, Mike Dawes incorporates a percussive style of tapping into his approach to music.

  • Not only can he utilize two-handed tapping like everyone else on this list, but he uses a similar approach in order to create percussive melodies using only two hands.
  • Mike Dawes is definitely worth checking out. Follow him on Instagram at @mike_dawes!

Where Do I Go From Here?

These tapping exercises are meant to be practised constantly to improve speed and dexterity.

In order to master this technique, you’ll need to put the time in to truly get the feel of it under your fingers and into your ears.

If you’re interested in seeing some more tapping exercises and what they can do for your playing, check out some of these YouTube videos below:

Recommended Resources

If you enjoyed this lesson on tapping exercises from the National Guitar Academy, you’ll love some of our other free resources below!

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