Tapping or two-hand tapping on guitar is an incredibly fun technique to play. Instead of picking every note, you use a finger from your picking hand to hit a note on the fretboard.
Tapping sounds impressive when used properly and can enhance a solo when used tastefully.
In this lesson, let’s go through some of the most impressive-sounding tapping solos and songs.
If you want to learn or improve your tapping technique, work through all of these songs. Some of the tapping solos are easy, while others will take some practice to learn.
After you check out these tapping solos, read through these useful guides and lessons:
Eruption by Van Halen
The first tapping solo in this lesson pays respect to Eddie Van Halen (1955 – 2020).
Eddie Van Halen had a massive role in bringing two-hand tapping into popularity. Countless guitarists today first picked up a guitar thanks to Eddie.
Eruption is a great example of how impressive a well-thought-out tapping section can sound.
The tapping section in Eruption is fairly long, so here are the first four bars:
Note: the ‘T’ in the above Guitar TAB is for tapping. Read this guide on Guitar TAB to learn all the common TAB symbols.
This might look complicated at first, but once you figure out the pattern it’s a simple lick to work on.
In the first bar, your fretting hand will play the 2nd and 5th frets. Your picking hand will tap the 14th fret, then shift over to the 9th fret and tap those notes.
After the first note, you will notice that the entire bar is simply a three-note repeating pattern. After tapping the 14th (or 9th) fret, you pull-off to the 2nd fret, then hammer-on to the 5th fret.
Here’s the first bar broken down into picking hand notes (red) and fretting hand notes (blue):
Notice the three-note patterns in the green boxes. You tap a note with your picking hand, hold your first finger on your fretting hand on the 2nd fret, then hammer-on to the fifth fret.
Throughout the entire bar, you can keep your first finger held down onto the 2nd fret. The only fingers that need to lift off of the fretboard is the finger tapping the higher notes and the finger on the fifth fret.
Repeat those three notes over and over and gradually build up the tempo.
The challenge with tapping licks like this one is that it’s harder to play them slow. When you tap the string, you need to press down hard enough to keep the string vibrating. This is easy to do when playing fast, but tricky when playing slow.
So don’t worry if it doesn’t sound perfect at a slow tempo. Keep working on gradually increasing the tempo and eventually, you will notice that the notes start to ring out clearer.
The tapping later in the solo is a bit more complicated, but it sticks with a three-note pattern throughout.
For another great example of tapping from Van Halen, check out the intro to Hot for Teacher.
One by Metallica
The tapping solo in One is a great example of how tapping can add a lot of energy to a solo.
Kirk Hammett uses a three-note pattern throughout most of the tapping section, so this will feel very comfortable after you try the Eruption solo above.
Remember that none of these notes are picked, so focus on keeping the string vibrating using good legato technique.
For example, you can slightly flick the string with your tapping finger to help it continue to vibrate as you pull off to the lower notes.
As you build up your speed, you won’t need to flick the string with much force to keep it vibrating.
Notice that the third and fourth bars simply repeat the same pattern as the first two bars on the B string. This means once you learn the first two bars, you play the exact same thing on the next string down.
The tapping section of this solo ends with an interesting descending tapping lick, so check it out after you feel comfortable with the above TAB.
Midnight by Joe Satriani
Midnight is a great tapping song that takes the technique in a new direction. Instead of playing fast repeating patterns on one string, Joe Satriani often likes to incorporate tapping with arpeggios or chords.
The entire song is played using tapping and a clean tone, so working on this song is a great way to develop your tapping technique.
Note: none of the notes in the below TAB are picked. The notes without a ‘T’ symbol (for tapping) are ‘hammer-ons from nowhere’. That means you press down on the string hard without picking the note.
Try to think about the above TAB in terms of chord shapes. Here’s the first bar broken down to highlight which notes are played with your fretting hand (blue) and picking hand (red):
Here’s which fingers to use to play this section:
- Fretting hand (blue):
- First finger (index) on the 7th fret
- Third finger (ring) on the 9th fret
- Picking hand (red):
- First finger (index) on the 12th fret (D string)
- Second finger (middle) on the 12th fret (B string)
So to play this song, you will have four fingers hovering over the frets – two fingers from your fretting hand and two fingers from your picking hand.
Remember that none of these notes are picked, so you don’t need to hold a pick in your hand for this song.
If you listen to the song (I suggest watching a video of Satriani play the song live), you’ll notice how it doesn’t stick to a strict tempo. It speeds up and slows down throughout, so don’t feel pressured into playing this fast or with a metronome.
In terms of tone, use a clean tone with no effects. Try different pickup positions to see which one matches the tone of the song the best. You might prefer the sound of single-coil pickups, humbucker pickups, or a split-coil setting.
Once you’re sure you’re playing with flawless technique, you might want to experiment with effects such as reverb, delay, chorus, or phaser.
Check out my Guitar Effects Course here to learn about different effects and how to use them.
Here are some other songs by Joe Satriani you might want to check out for more tapping solos:
- Satch Boogie
- Always With Me, Always With You
- Surfing With the Alien
Each of the above songs uses tapping in very different ways, so I suggest you check them all out. The tapping in Surfing With the Alien uses a pick instead of a finger to tap the notes, which is a fun way to get rapid-fire notes into a lick.
Learn more about Joe Satriani as well as his gear and tone in this guide.
Day at the Beach by Joe Satriani
Joe Satriani uses tapping in a variety of different ways in his music. The above song uses two-hand tapping to tap out interesting arpeggios, while the tapping in Day at the Beach focuses on playing chords using tapping.
This song also uses a clean tone, so first practice this song with no effects, then you can experiment with effects such as delay or reverb.
The lower notes are all ‘hammer-ons from nowhere’, so you don’t need to hold a pick at all.
An important thing to keep in mind with this song and all the other tapping songs in this lesson is to keep the strings quiet. Use both hands to carefully mute the strings that shouldn’t ring out.
You can use your fingers or the side of your picking hand to mute the other strings. Watch a few videos of different guitarists tapping and you’ll see that there’s so many ways you can keep your guitar nice and muted.
With this song, you will be tapping two notes at once on adjacent strings. Play around with different fingers to see which feels best for you. You may prefer using your first and second fingers (index and middle fingers) to tap the notes, or you may prefer using your second and third fingers (middle and ring fingers).
It should be obvious from the above TAB that this song uses a three-note pattern. The challenge with this song is that your picking hand will be jumping around the fretboard to tap the different upper notes.
Practice one chord shape over and over until each one feels easy, then you can piece all of these chords together. Focus on accuracy first, speed second.
Sea of Lies by Symphony X
Michael Romeo plays some seriously impressive tapping licks in many of his songs, but the tapping section in Sea of Lies stands out and is worth learning.
Unlike the other tapping solos covered so far, this one doesn’t use a basic three-note pattern. This solo is based on a wide arpeggio that combines tapping, legato, and string skipping.
If you want to push your tapping and legato technique further, give this solo a try.
Here’s the first bar of the tapping section:
The tapping section in this song is quite long, but each bar follows the same basic pattern. Once you master this bar, the rest of the solo will feel easy as you just need to shift into different positions.
Here’s the lick broken down to show fretting hand notes (blue) and picking hand notes (red):
Notice that most of the solo uses your fretting hand playing hammer-ons and pull-offs.
The tapping notes on the G string actually help make this lick easier to play. You start and finish the notes on that string with a tapped note, which gives your fretting hand time to jump back and forth to the first string.
This section is played at 150 bpm, so it may take you some time to build the tempo up if you haven’t worked on fast licks like this before.
The key to playing this solo is consistency. You want each note to ring out clearly and each one to be evenly spaced in time.
Practice this solo at a very slow tempo at first to get used to moving your fingers back and forth between the two strings. Use your fretting hand to keep the other strings quiet to avoid accidentally letting another string ring out.
Setting a metronome to click eight times per bar is a good way to practice this lick as it breaks the lick down to three notes per click. You can do this by setting your metronome to count eighth notes.
Remember that tapping licks like this one tends to feel easier when played fast, so don’t stress if the string doesn’t ring out perfectly when you practice at a slow tempo. You will get better if you keep practicing.
Building the Church by Steve Vai
The intro to Building the Church is a great example of thinking about tapping in a slightly different way.
If you look at the below TAB, it may seem chaotic:
Keep in mind that none of these notes are picked, so the lower notes are played using ‘hammer-ons from nowhere’.
What also makes this different from the other tapping songs in this lesson is how the fretting hand plays the other notes. To play this song properly, you need to move your fretting hand over the top of the fretboard and tap the notes like this:
This might seem unnecessary, but it does have an impact on how this lick feels to play and how the notes sound.
When you move your fretting hand into this position, you’re tapping the notes in the same way as you tap the notes with your picking hand. This means that all of the notes have that same ‘tapped’ sound.
If you were to play this lick with your fretting hand in your normal position, it’s not going to sound quite right. It’s perfectly playable with your hand in that position, but you’ll miss out on getting the right sound and feel.
The way you tap all notes with both hands almost makes the guitar feel like a piano. If you’re looking for something a bit different to play around with, try experimenting with this over-the-fretboard technique.
Playing with your fretting hand over the fretboard like this is common with acoustic guitarists who play percussive styles of music.
Here are the notes highlighted to show which are played with your fretting hand (blue) or picking hand (red):
The first thing you might notice is that the entire lick alternates between your two hands after every note. So you’re constantly playing fretting hand, picking hand, fretting hand, picking hand.
The other thing you might notice is that each hand plays a different pattern.
The fretting hand plays a three-note pattern (13-12-12) over and over, then finishes with a two-note pattern played twice (13-12).
The picking hand constantly plays a two-note pattern (10-10) the entire time.
Once you figure out what this means, this lick becomes a lot easier to play.
To make it clearer, here is what your fretting hand is playing:
Pretty simple, right? You simply alternate back and forth between those two notes.
Here’s what your picking hand is playing:
I’ve highlighted the three-note pattern I mentioned earlier to make it clearer how simple this pattern is.
To learn this solo, first practice each hand separately. Practice the fretting hand alternating between the two notes. Then practice the picking hand tapping the three-note pattern four times, then the two-note pattern twice.
Once you feel comfortable with what both hands need to play, you can combine the two hands.
Simply alternate between the two hands one note at a time. At first, this will feel weird and you will likely make a few mistakes.
Eventually, with enough practice, something will click in your mind and it will suddenly feel easy. You’ll see the two-note pattern and the three-note pattern played with your hands and will feel comfortable with playing both at once.
Learn more about Steve Vai as well as his gear and tone in this guide.
Out of all of the tapping solos and songs covered in this lesson, I have personally learned the most from this tapping lick. I highly recommend it for every guitarist as it’s a fantastic exercise to help you thinking about complex patterns and coordinating both hands.
This Ultimate Guide to Guitar Tapping covers a lot of tips and advice to help you improve your tapping technique and overcoming common problems.
If you have trouble with any of these tapping solos, work through these 13 tapping exercises. The exercises will help you improve your tapping technique using simple patterns.
A lot of the songs covered in this lesson are played fast. Find out How to Play Fast on Guitar here for speed exercises, tips, and best practices to help you play guitar faster. You’ll be able to use the advice in that guide to get better at these tapping solos.