Finger tapping: a guitar technique to add speed and diversity

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 3, 2022

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Tapping is a guitar playing technique, where a string is fretted and set into vibration as part of a single motion of being pushed onto the fretboard, as opposed to the standard technique being fretted with one hand and picked with the other.

It is similar to the technique of hammer-ons and pull-offs, but used in an extended way compared to them: hammer-ons would be performed by only the fretting hand, and in conjunction with conventionally picked notes; whereas tapping passages involve both hands and consist of only tapped, hammered and pulled notes.

That’s why it’s also called two hand tapping.

Finger tapping on guitar

Some players (such as Stanley Jordan) use exclusively tapping, and it is standard on some instruments, such as the Chapman Stick.

Who invented finger tapping on the guitar?

Finger tapping on the guitar was first introduced by Eddie Van Halen in the early 1970s. He used it extensively on his band’s debut album, “Van Halen”.

Finger tapping quickly gained popularity among rock guitarists and has been used by many famous players such as Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, and John Petrucci.

The finger tapping technique allows guitarists to play fast melodies and arpeggios that would otherwise be difficult to play with conventional picking techniques.

It also adds a percussive element to the sound of the guitar.

Is finger tapping the same as legato?

While finger tapping and legato may share some similarities, they are actually quite different.

Finger tapping is a specific technique that involves using one or more fingers to tap the strings instead of picking them with a pick and using your picking hand to fret notes as well as your fretting hand.

On the other hand, legato traditionally refers to any playing technique where notes are smoothly connected without picking each note individually.

It involves picking at the same velocity as the tapping sounds, so there is no distinction between the two techniques and a rolling continues sound is produced.

You can using finger tapping in conjunction with other hammer on techniques to create a legato style.

Is finger tapping the same as hammer-ons and pull-offs?

Finger tapping is a hammer on and pull off, but done with your picking hand instead of your fretting hand.

You are bringing your picking hand to the fretboard so you can extend the range of notes you can quickly reach by using your fretting hand alone.

The benefits of finger tapping

The benefits include increased speed, range of motion and a unique sound that is desired by many guitar players.

However, learning how to finger tap can be quite challenging for beginners and intermediate players.

How to start finger tapping on your guitar

To get started with this technique, you’ll need to set the right environment so that you’re able to focus on practicing without interruption.

It’s also important to use the proper guitar technique so that you can achieve the best results.

Once you have your guitar and are ready to start, there are a few things you need to keep in mind when it comes to finger tapping.

The first thing is to make sure that you’re using the correct hand position. When you’re finger tapping, you’ll want to make sure that you’re using the right amount of pressure when you tap the strings.

Too much pressure can make it difficult to get a clear sound, while too little pressure can cause the string to buzz.

It’s important to start slowly at first, and then work up to faster tapping speeds once you have mastered the basics of this technique.

It’s also important that you can get the tapped note to sound clear, even with a finger of your picking hand.

Just start with alternately tapping the same note with your fret hand finger and tapping it with the ring finger of your other hand after you’ve released it.

Finger tapping exercises for beginners

If you’re just starting out with finger tapping, there are a few basic exercises that can help to build up your skills and get you comfortable with this technique.

One simple exercise is to practice alternating between two strings in a down-up motion while using the index finger of your picking hand. Another option is to simply tap one string repeatedly while keeping the remaining strings open.

As you progress and start to feel more comfortable with finger tapping, you can try incorporating a metronome or other timing device into your practice sessions in order to work on building up your speed and precision.

You might want to start with open strings and just start tapping notes with your right hand finger. You can use the first finger or the ring finger, or really any other finger.

Push your finger down on the fret, the 12th fret on the high E string is a good place to start, and take it off with a plucking motion so the open string starts ringing. Than push it on again and repeat.

You will want to mute the other strings so these unused strings won’t start vibrating and cause unwanted noise.

Advanced finger tapping techniques

Once you have mastered the basics of finger tapping, there are a number of advanced techniques that can help to take your playing to the next level.

One popular option is to tap multiple strings at once for an even more complex sound and feel.

Another technique is to use hammer-ons and pull-offs in combination with your finger taps, which can create even more interesting sonic possibilities.

Famous guitarists who use finger tapping and why

Finger tapping is a technique that has been used by some of the most famous guitarists in history.

Eddie Van Halen was one of the first guitarists to truly popularize finger tapping and his use of this technique helped to revolutionize rock guitar playing.

Other well-known guitarists who have made extensive use of finger tapping include Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, and Guthrie Govan.

These guitarists have used finger tapping to create some of the most memorable and iconic guitar solos in history.


Finger tapping is a guitar playing technique that can help you to play faster and create unique sounds on your instrument.

This technique can be challenging to learn at first, but with practice you can get comfortable with it and take your guitar playing skills to the next level.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:

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