AskDefine | Define tapping

Dictionary Definition



1 the sound made by a gentle blow [syn: pat, rap]
2 a faucet for drawing water from a pipe or cask [syn: water faucet, water tap, spigot, hydrant]
3 a gentle blow [syn: rap, strike]
4 a small metal plate that attaches to the toe or heel of a shoe (as in tap dancing)
5 a tool for cutting female (internal) screw threads
6 a plug for a bunghole in a cask [syn: spigot]
7 the act of tapping a telephone or telegraph line to get information [syn: wiretap]
8 a light touch or stroke [syn: pat, dab]


1 cut a female screw thread with a tap
2 draw from or dip into to get something; "tap one's memory"; "tap a source of money"
3 strike lightly; "He tapped me on the shoulder" [syn: tip]
4 draw from; make good use of; "we must exploit the resources we are given wisely" [syn: exploit]
5 tap a telephone or telegraph wire to get information; "The FBI was tapping the phone line of the suspected spy"; "Is this hotel room bugged?" [syn: wiretap, intercept, bug]
6 furnish with a tap or spout, so as to be able to draw liquid from it; "tap a cask of wine"
7 make light, repeated taps on a surface; "he was tapping his fingers on the table impatiently" [syn: rap, knock, pink]
8 walk with a tapping sound
9 dance and make rhythmic clicking sounds by means of metal plates nailed to the sole of the dance shoes; "Glover tapdances better than anybody" [syn: tapdance]
10 draw (liquor) from a tap; "tap beer in a bar"
11 pierce in order to draw a liquid from; "tap a maple tree for its syrup"; "tap a keg of beer"
12 make a solicitation or entreaty for something; request urgently or persistently; "Henry IV solicited the Pope for a divorce"; "My neighbor keeps soliciting money for different charities" [syn: solicit, beg] [also: tapping, tapped]tapping n : the sound of light blow or knock; "he heard the tapping of the man's cane"tapping See tap

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. present participle of tap
  2. (US,colloquial) In Greek University organizations, tapping is the process of notifying new members of their acceptance into the organization, usually in a public ceremony.

Extensive Definition

Tapping is a playing technique generally associated with the electric guitar, although the technique may be performed on almost any string instrument. There are two main methods of tapping: one-handed or 'ordinary' tapping, and two-handed tapping.
It may be considered an extended technique, in that it is executed by using the fingers of one hand to 'tap' the strings against the fingerboard, thus sounding legato notes; often in tightly synchronized conjunction with the other hand. Hence, tapping usually incorporates pull-offs or hammer-ons as well, whereby the fingers of the left hand play a sequence of notes in synchronisation with the tapping hand.
The Chapman Stick is an instrument built primarily for tapping, and is based on the Free Hands two-handed tapping method invented in 1969 by Emmett Chapman where each hand approaches the fretboard with the fingers aligned parallel to the frets.
The Mobius Megatar, Box Guitar, and Solene instruments are other instruments designed for the same method, and the Bunker Touch-Guitar is designed for the two-necked tapping technique developed by Dave Bunker in 1958, but with an elbow rest to hold the right arm in the conventional guitar position. The NS/Stick and Warr guitars are also built for tapping, though not exclusively. These instruments use lower string tension and low action to increase the string's sensitivity to lighter tapping.
Occasionally some guitarists may choose to tap using the sharp edge of their pick instead of fingers to produce a faster, more rigid flurry of notes in a style closer to that of trilling (see pick tapping).


One-handed tapping (perhaps misleading in name, in that both hands are actually used), performed in conjunction with normal fingering by the fretting hand, facilitates the construction of note intervals that would otherwise be impossible using one hand alone. It is often used as a special effect during a shredding solo. With the electric guitar, in this situation the output tone itself is usually overdriven — although it is possible to tap acoustically — with drive serving as a boost to further amplify the non-picked (and thus naturally weaker) legato notes being played. Because of the amount of distortion generally present, the player should also focus on reducing unnecessary noise during tapping; for instance, by using the palm of the tapping hand to mute any open strings that might otherwise ring out.
The actual passages that can be played using this one-handed technique are virtually limitless. The note intervals between both hands can be shifted up or down the neck, or onto different strings, to form familiar scalar patterns, or even 'outside' tones by randomly streaming through any chosen notes for mere show (often by using chromatics or otherwise dissonant intervals).
As far as the actual technique goes, there are many ways of performing a one-handed tapping passage. The most common one involves rapidly repeated triplets played at a rate of sixteenth notes, using the following sequence:
Tap — pull-off — pull-off
In this case, the right hand index or middle finger sounds the first note on a string by sharply hammering onto it once, then pulling off (often with a slight, sideways 'flicking' movement so as to strengthen the note) to a lower note held by one of the left hand fingers, that of which is then finally pulled off to the last note held by another left hand finger. From there, the cycle is repeated. If one breaks that down even further, the very first part can be seen as the actual 'tapping' motion itself, whereas the second part involving the left hand acts as a way of embellishing the passage with additional notes; which, overall, could be considered an extended trill. The overall aim is to maintain fluidity and synchronisation between all the notes, especially when played at speed, which can take some practice to master.
In tablature form, the above sequence could thus be displayed as:
A E C# e|-t17p12p9-| B|----------| G|----------| D|----------| A|----------| E|----------|
Alternatively, different sequences can be used. One common variation is to reverse the action of the left hand and instead add the second left-hand note as a hammer-on at the end:
Tap — pull-off — hammer-on
G C D# e|--------| B|-t8p1h4-| G|--------| D|--------| A|--------| E|--------|
The above variation can be heard to good effect on the famous Van Halen track, "Eruption", in which Eddie Van Halen uses the above tap–pull–hammer method to create a lengthy cascade of tapped notes. In addition to the aforementioned triplets, tapping can be played using sixteenth notes (four notes to one beat as opposed to three), or even — though rarely heard — quintuplets (five notes to one beat). This, especially the latter, can result in even more complex-sounding passages, with some guitarists choosing to use it as a form of neo-classical phrasing to further deepen the musical possibilities of the technique. Again, there are a number of ways of doing so, but some examples of sixteenth-note tapping could be broken down as:
Tap — pull-off — hammer-on — hammer-on
Tap — pull-off — pull-off — hammer-on
G B C# D e|------------| B|-t15p7h9h10-| G|------------| D|------------| A|------------| E|------------|
C# G# D# G# e|-------------| B|-------------| G|-t18p13p8h13-| D|-------------| A|-------------| E|-------------|
And finally, quintuplets could be displayed as:
Tap — pull-off — hammer-on — hammer-on — hammer-on
Tap — pull-off — pull-off — pull-off — pull-off
A# D# F F# G# e|-t18p11h13h14h16-| B|-----------------| G|-----------------| D|-----------------| A|-----------------| E|-----------------|
C A G# G F e|-t20p17p16p15p13-| B|-----------------| G|-----------------| D|-----------------| A|-----------------| E|-----------------|
If looked at in scalar terms, the above sequences would follow the intervallic forms of a minor scale and a blues scale respectively. The same concept can therefore be applied to virtually any scale imaginable, making tapping a very diverse technique with constant room for experimentation.


Two-handed tapping can be utilized to play polyphonic and counterpoint music on a guitar by using eight (and even nine) fingers. For example, the right hand plays the treble melody while the left hand plays an accompaniment. Therefore, it is possible to produce music written for a keyboard instrument, such as J.S. Bach's Two-part Inventions.
The method increases the flexibility of the instrument, in that it makes it possible to play more types of music on a guitar. The main disadvantage is the lack of change of timbre. As it produces a "clean tone" effect, and since the first note usually sounds the loudest (unwanted in some music like jazz), dynamics are a main concern with this technique, though Stanley Jordan and many Stick players are successful tappers in this genre. It is common to use a compressor effect to make notes more similar in volume.
Depending on the orientation of the player's right hand, this method can produce varying degrees of success. Early experimenters with this idea like Harry DeArmond, his student Jimmie Webster, and luthier Dave Bunker held their right hand in a conventional orientation, with the fingers lined up parallel with the strings. This limits the kind of musical lines the right hand can play.
Emmett Chapman was the first acknowledged to tap on guitar with his right hand fingers lined up parallel to the frets, as on the left hand, but from the opposite side of the neck (see photo). His discovery, in August, 1969, led to complete counterpoint capability and a new instrument, the Chapman Stick, and to a new method Chapman called "Free Hands" method.
Stanley Jordan popularized this method on a six-string guitar, using an all 4ths tuning as previously on The Stick. He calls his approach "touch guitar," but it is essentially Chapman's Stick technique, though Jordan developed it independently, and at a later date, with fewer fingers.
Two-handed tapping is more rarely found in rock music than one-handed tapping, but has been used by rock guitarists such as Eddie Van Halen, Nuno Bettencourt, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Michael Angelo Batio, Steve Morse, Trevor Rabin (of Yes), Buckethead, and Steve Hackett.


The practice of tapping has existed in some form or another for centuries. Paganini utilized similar techniques on violin. Another similar technique, called selpe, is used in Turkish folk music on the instrument called the bağlama. Tapping techniques and solos on various stringed acoustic instruments such as the Banjo have been documented in early film, records, and performances throughout the early 20th century. The clavichord was an early acoustic keyboard instrument that used a mechanical hammer to "fret" a string for each key. It was followed by an amplified version, the Hohner Clavinet in 1968.
Jimmie Webster made recordings in the 1950s using the method of two-handed tapping he described in 'Touch Method for Electric and Amplified Spanish Guitar', published in 1952. Webster was a student of electric pickup designer Harry deArmond, who developed two-handed tapping as a way to demonstrate the sensitivity of his pickups. Webster's approach was not popularly adapted. The two-handed tapping technique was also known and occasionally used by many 1950s and 1960s Jazz guitarists such as Barney Kessel who was an early supporter of Emmett Chapman
In August of 1969, Los Angeles jazz guitarist Emmett Chapman discovered a new way of tapping with both hands held perpendicular to the neck from opposite sides, thus enabling equal counterpoint capabilities for each hand for the first time. Chapman redesigned his 9-string long-scale electric guitar, calling it the Electric Stick. in 1974 he founded Stick Enterprises, Inc. and began building instruments for other musicians. With over 5000 instruments produced as of 2006, The Chapman Stick is the most popular extant dedicated tapping instrument. Chapman influenced several tapping guitarists, including Steve Lynch of the band Autograph, and also Jennifer Batten.
Randy Resnick of the Pure Food and Drug Act featuring Don "Sugarcane" Harris used both one and two handed tapping (hammering) extensively in his performances and recordings between 1969 and 1974. This was mentioned in an article in Guitar Player Magazine written by Lee Ritenour in 1970. He also recorded the tapping style in 1974 on the John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers album "Latest Edition". He was attempting to duplicate the legato of John Coltrane's "sheets of sound".
One of the first rock guitarists to record using the tapping technique was Steve Hackett from Genesis. Two examples of Hackett's complex tapping can be heard on the song "Supper's Ready", from 1972, and "The Return of the Giant Hogweed", from 1971. Harvey Mandel, well-known for his psychedelic guitar playing, also employed 2-handed fretboard tapping in the 1960s. Mandel was one of the first rock guitarists to utilize this technique, years before Eddie Van Halen and Stanley Jordan first appeared.
Tapping was also used by Ace Frehley as early as 1975, for his live solo at the end of the song "She" during Kiss's performance on the Midnight Special. The technique would remain a part of Frehley's solos from 1977 through the Kiss reunion during "Shock Me". Various other guitarists such as Frank Zappa, Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top, Brian May from Queen, Duane Allman from the The Allman Brothers Band and Leslie West from Mountain were using the tapping technique in the early 1970s as well. Ace Frehley and Frank Zappa used a guitar pick for their style of tapping. Eddie Van Halen helped popularise the tapping technique for the modern audience. Perhaps the most well known employment of tapping is the short piece "Eruption" on the first Van Halen album which was released in 1978, which features very fast tapping triads and formed the blueprint for heavy metal lead playing throughout the 1980s. But Eddie Van Halen did not invent finger tapping, as by popular belief.
During the 1980s two-handed tapping developed much further with many players such as Stanley Jordan using a 2 or more finger tapping technique. Tapping on the bass guitar was not as popular as it was on the guitar but bass guitar players such as Billy Sheehan, Stu Hamm, Victor Wooten and Dave LaRue have used tapping. The Math Rock genre is also known for its extensive use of tapping. Artists such as Don Caballero and Maps & Atlases, for example, both employ extensive and intricate tapping pulling from many different areas of the technique.

External Links

tapping in German: Tapping
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tapping in Croatian: Tapping
tapping in Italian: Tapping
tapping in Japanese: タッピング奏法
tapping in Polish: Tapping
tapping in Portuguese: Tapping
tapping in Russian: Тэппинг
tapping in Swedish: Finger tapping

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