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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. Some players (such as Stanley Jordan) use exclusively tapping, and it is standard on some instruments, such as the Chapman Stick.
Tapping may be performed either one-handed or two-handed. It is an extended technique, executed by using one hand to 'tap' the strings against the fingerboard, thus producing legato notes. Tapping usually incorporates pull-offs or hammer-ons as well, where the fingers of the left hand play a sequence of notes in synchronization with the tapping hand. For example, a right-handed guitarist might hammer down on fret twelve with the index finger of the right hand and, in the motion of removing that finger, pluck the same string already fretted at the eighth fret by the little finger of his/her left hand. This finger would be removed in the same way, pulling off to the fifth fret. Thus the three notes (E, C and A) are played in quick succession at relative ease to the player. It is often used on electric guitar but may be performed on almost any string instrument.
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 Hamatar, Mobius Megatar, Box Guitar, and Solene instruments are other instruments designed for the same method. The Bunker Touch-Guitar, developed by Dave Bunker in 1958, is designed for the two-necked tapping technique, 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. The harpejji is a tapping instrument which is played on a stand, like a keyboard, with fingers typically parallel to the strings rather than perpendicular. All of these instruments use lower string tension and low action to increase the string's sensitivity to lighter tapping.
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 closer to that of trilling, with a technique known as pick tapping.
Tapping has existed in some form or another for centuries. Niccolò Paganini utilized similar techniques on the violin. A 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.
Roy Smeck used the two-handed tapping technique on a Ukulele in the 1932 film Club House Party. 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. 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 1969, Los Angeles jazz guitarist Emmett Chapman discovered a new way of two-handed 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 5,000 instruments produced as of 2006, The Chapman Stick is the most popular extant dedicated tapping instrument. Chapman influenced several two-handed tapping guitarists, including Steve Lynch of the band Autograph, and Jennifer Batten.
One of the first rock guitarists to record using the two-handed tapping technique was Steve Hackett from Genesis. Two examples of Hackett's complex Bach like tapping can be heard on the song "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight", from 1973, and "The Return of the Giant Hogweed", from 1971.
Harvey Mandel utilized extensive two-handed tapping techniques on his 1973 album Shangrenade. Ritchie Blackmore has said that he saw Harvey Mandel utilize two-handed fretboard tapping as early as 1968 at the Whisky a Go Go.
"Fool's Paradise" Recorded in 1993 in Palo Alto, California
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Randy Resnick of the Pure Food and Drug Act used two-handed tapping techniques extensively in his performances and recordings between 1969 and 1974. Resnick was mentioned in the Eddie Van Halen biography for his contribution to the two-handed tapping technique. Lee Ritenour mentioned in Guitar Player Magazine January 1980 that
Randy was the first guitarist I ever saw who based his whole style on tapping
in reference to Randy playing with Richard Greene And Zone at the Whisky a Go-Go in 1974. Resnick also recorded using the two-handed tapping technique in 1974 on the John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers album "Latest Edition" and has said that he was attempting to duplicate the legato of John Coltrane's "Sheets of Sound".
Various other guitarists such as Frank Zappa, Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top, Brian May from Queen, Duane Allman from The Allman Brothers Band, Larry Carlton (Kid Charlemagne 1976), and Leslie West from Mountain were using the two-handed tapping technique in the early and mid 1970s as well. Ace Frehley and Frank Zappa used a guitar pick for their style of two-handed tapping.
Eddie Van Halen helped popularize the two-handed tapping technique for the modern audience and influenced many guitarists to start utilizing two-handed tapping techniques. His explanation is that he was inspired to use two-handed tapping after hearing the fluid left-hand only pull-offs in Jimmy Page's guitar solo for "Heartbreaker", and expanded this technique by adding his right hand finger(s) out of necessity in reaching higher notes.
Although many others guitarists used the technique before, the first mainstream guitarist to use the technique live was Ace Frehley, back in 1973, who was extensively responsible for the popularization of the technique. It is also very likely that Eddie Van halen learned the technique from him, once both of their bands were very involved in the beginning of VH.
George Lynch has said in an interview that he and Eddie Van Halen saw Harvey Mandel utilize two-handed tapping techniques at the Starwood Club in the 1970s. From a March 2009 Metal Den George Lynch interview,
We both witnessed Harvey Mandel from Canned Heat do a neo classic tapping thing at a club called the starwood in Hollywood back in the 70’s. Other people were doing it to a limited extent, Brian May from Queen dabbled… George Van Eps was doing it in the 50’s.
Perhaps the most well-known employment of two-handed tapping is "Eruption" on the first Van Halen album. Released in 1978, it featured very fast two-handed tapping triads and formed the blueprint for heavy metal lead guitar playing throughout the 1980s.
Two-handed tapping on the bass guitar was not as popular as the guitar, but in some cases was done before Eddie Van Halen popularized the technique. Jaco Pastorius, Billy Sheehan, Victor Wooten, Stuart Hamm, John Myung, Les Claypool, Cliff Burton, Alex Webster, Sean Beasley and Arif Mirabdolbaghi used two-handed tapping techniques on the bass guitar.
One-handed tapping 
One-handed tapping, 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 technique 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. Overall, this could be considered an extended trill. The overall aim is to maintain fluidity and synchronization between all the notes, especially when played at speed, which can take some practice to master.
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
The above variation can be heard to good effect on the famous guitar solo, "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:
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 
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 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 the "Free Hands" method.
See also 
- Erdal Erzincan and Erol Parlak are playing an Azeri tune using the selpe technique.
- Roy Smeck tapping in the 1932 film Club House Party
- Steve Hackett
- Ritchie Blackmore Interview
- Sanchez, Abel. Van Halen 101.
- Duane Allman tapping
- George Lynch Interview