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Michael Casswell - Pro Concepts Season 2 - Part 6: Tasteful Tapping Technique

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 17 **

Hi everyone. This lesson I thought it might be fun to explore some finger tapping ideas. I have called the whole thing "Tasteful Tapping" but is there such a thing? Well, it depends on your viewpoint I guess, but this popular guitar technique is something that, over the years, I have had to be on top of and be able to use, if the situation has required it. It certainly can add a little excitement when used sparingly and tastefully, but it can also become fairly mundane and tasteless when over used. Even our great guitar lord and master Eddie Van Halen uses it with more discretion nowadays. And that really is the trade secret with tapping, discretion, and the ability to throw it in there in a way that actually adds to the guitar solo rather than just showing off. Because let's face it, most teenagers on YouTube can tap, before they can bend a string in tune, or vib a note maturely, so it really isn't that big a deal any more.

If you think that a few tapping runs might come in handy, then I have thrown a whole bunch of them in the air at you, in the hope that one or two grab your ear. I wouldn't classify them as specific licks, but more a direction I might take an idea, to avoid the whole 'done to death' patterns you all have seen and heard many guitarists play a hundred times before.

If I do throw some tapping licks in my on solos, I really do try to make it sound different to what you hear most players do. Sometimes I nail it, sometimes not, but if I feel the specific tapping lick I am playing is descending into a cliché or Spinal Rap comedy, then I will flip it somehow and come out of it in a way that is creative or interesting. Which is why you have to be on top other areas of your playing, areas such as phrasing, timing, tone and touch. These are the things that make sense of your tapping phrases, and also help you differentiate between a tapping idea that is actually cool sounding, compared to something that just sounds tired and sad.

If I am using a pick, then I will use my ring finger to tap the note towards the ceiling. Tapping upwards works for me, but I think I am in the minority, and it seems tapping towards the floor is what most people do. I am fairly sure it makes little, if any difference, if you are an 'upper' or a 'downer', the effect is still the same. But more and more nowadays, I don't use a pick, which leaves my first finger free to tap. So if I want to do some slightly cooler but technically harder 'double stop' style taps, then I will use both my 1st and 2nd fingers together, which gives a more refreshing sound. There are a couple of examples in my demo.

Tapping is one of those techniques that is great to be in control of and is yet another colour and concept to add the various techniques and concepts we have explored so far. But you must be in control of it before you unleash it on the world, because when it's executed badly, well you can wave goodbye to any credibility you have built up for being a tasteful and cool player.

When you watch the demo of me exploring the various ideas, try and remember that generally, I would use each lick or run as a separate spice, rather than play each lick one after the other. Even cool ideas can lose their effect when you overplay. I like to compare it to driving a very powerful car. Just because the car is capable of incredible acceleration and speed, doesn't mean that you would drive like that all of the time. It's more about knowing the power is there if you need it, and enjoying that fact. Meaning, the best guitar players are the ones you know have plenty in reserve!

Hope you enjoy the widdling! If you want to discuss this issues 'Pro Concepts' or any other guitar related topic, I regularly set aside some time to check the messages on my Facebook page and my forum on Lick Library which I will answer if I can.

One last thing I will say is that I am not a big fan of the 'hairband round the neck' thing. Most times I see players with it on their guitars, and it just sits on the neck, unused, like a signal to other guitar players that 'you are dealing with a serious shredder here'. Unfortunately, most times, we are not dealing with a serious shredder! If you really have to mute strings so that your guitar is dead quiet, while you execute some serious, super fast swept legato and tapped mega licks, then I prefer the traditional method of actually using my hands. If there is any extra noise from open strings, due to my lack of hair products, then personally I think it adds to the excitement and vibe, making it all more organic and 'felt'. But that's just me. I am sure sometimes, the little hairband is exactly what the song is missing!


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