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Can we discuss tapping???

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Joe Nerve, Sep 6, 2005.

  1. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I was inspired by MrWrong's thread. Wasn't sure exactly what to title this thread. I've never been even remotely interested in tapping, but a couple of clips in that other thread raised some interest. I've got a lot of thoughts and questions, and I'd like to hear what ya'll think.

    1st - tapping to me always seemed like nothing more than a way to show off. Anyone else feel this way? I think I can get over that, as it also seems to be a great way to do some really beautiful solo stuff.

    2nd - I always thought in order to tap, you had to have the volume really cranked on the bass, and it had to be EQed radically different from my ordinary settings, which would make it really difficult to integrate into my style. I really dig in when I play, and if I were to play fingerstyle and tap in the same song it would seem like it wouldn't work. Am I making any sense? Any thoughts?

    3rd - where does one start? I really know next to nothing about tapping. You hit a note on the fretboard and you get a sound. That's as far as I go.

    What's this tapping stuff all about. Please answer my questions, talk about anything you'd like regardig it, post clips, lessons, links.... whatever. Thanks.
  2. 1. While I think a lot of it is "show off," there's a lot of stuff you can do via tapping that I don't think you can really do otherwise. I could tap down at the first couple of frets on the low E with my left hand and tap up near the body on the high G with my right hand and play notes 2-3 octaves apart. For a song like Jerry was a Racecar Driver, tapping allows Les Claypool to play bass and a lead at the same time.

    2. Originally I had to have the volume cranked all the way, but as I got better with it, I found that just hitting solid notes will get me enough volume to compare with plucking. You can also work it in to your regular style by using compression or plucking softer (kind of like learning to even out your doublethumping levels by softening the down stroke to match the up stroke).

    3. That's how I started! You have to start slowly, and it takes a while. You have to teach your fingers to hit the string in a specific area, and it gets difficult - if you hit above or below the string, your finger will slide right off and you won't get a good hit. You have to just teach your fingers to go exactly where you want them to go, and to use enough strength to hit them and get a solid note out of it. It takes a while, even months just to hit the string in the same place every time, but that's what you have to do.
  3. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    Good topic. I am very interested in what others think.

    At the end of the day, tapping is music, and music is art, and art is self expression. That's cool. Everyone is entitled to self expression.

    But, the tapping you are refering to requires a huge investment of time and money. I've been down that road and found that I was buying a brand new set of high quality strings every 2 or 3rd day, just to get the harmonic overtones ringing out consistantly. As everyone knows, bass strings lose their harmonic overtones after a week of heavy playing, after that, the sound quality of tapping, doesn't sound as appealing.

    That my thoughts on tapping. It's cool to do, but to get that consistant high quality sound, is very expensive. I like tapping, but the my strings are about 8 months old, and as result I'm not getting the full range of harmonic overtones ringing out.
  4. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    At the end of the day tapping is really nothing but hammer-ons.

    OK, you can use two hands, which lets you play wide intervals, chords, harmonics and do some other cool tricks...which is the whole point of it I guess.

    Any technique is valid if it solves a musical problem.
  5. ahhelpme


    Aug 26, 2004
    Whenever I double handed tap, I cant seem to get the notes I tap with my right hand to sound as solid as the ones I tap with my left. I didnt know tapping could be used widely apart from double handed tapping
  6. sometimes I like to tap out low bass notes with my left hand then wave my right hand in the air to get the crowd going. if you sing, you can also free up a hand to hold a microphone, or be like geddy lee and play another instrument with your free hand.
  7. hm, tapping on bass is way different than guitar then...
    You dont just hammer on the string on a guitar. Theres a technique to get that van halen or whomever sound on the high frequency strings.

    I got to watch a video of Stu hamm tapping Moonlight Sonata. It was quite nice.
  8. I don't find that I need any special settings to get a solid note, and I play on a fretless. I do find that it takes practice to play solid notes, though. I still can't play melodies with my right hand. Only double stops and stuff.

    My big problem is deciding what to tap. I find that most of the stuff I come up with (on my four string) is playable with one hand fretting and one plucking (like a classical guitar), so there's not much point to tapping. I think you really need more than four strings to make the most of it, unless you're just tapping for the tone.
  9. No, it works pretty much the same. Basses are just a little easier to tap on. There are two styles of tapping though. One is mostly hammer ons and pull offs on a single string, and the other is more of a piano-like approach.
  10. Andy Brown

    Andy Brown Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 23, 2004
    Rhode Island
    Founder/Owner: Wing Instruments
    This is just one sample of tapping at its best... LINK
  11. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I tap but mostly for my own enjoyment, though I have done it live and on recordings. So...

    1. Like all techniques, it's a way to show off, but like someone else pointed out, it's also a good way to play a bass line and chords. For example, when I played in a 3-piece band, we used to play "Hard To Handle," and when the lead was going on, I'd tap the bass line with my left hand and play 7th chord double stops with the right (3rd + 7th). Filled in some extra rhythm quite nicely. So while the potential to jerk yourself off is there, it can have practical uses.

    2. Nah, you don't have to change your settings at all. Once you get good at tapping, your volume will be consistent with your regular style. You just need to learn how to hit the note and make it sing out. Comes with time. I will say that a fairly low action helps, so if you like the strings in a different area code than the neck, tapping may be pretty difficult.

    3. That's about it to start. Once you get used to the motions of it, then concentrate more on getting each note to sing out as loud as your other notes. Then start worrying about playing complex stuff.
  12. JazzBassvb


    Aug 5, 2003
    It doesn't have to be. I generally don't feel that way about techniques per se. It's how folks use them that makes them look like they're showing off. I personally believe that any technique is worthwhile if it helps you get your ideas across. I usually use tapping for solo stuff. When I got married, the tune I played for my bride had a little tapping section and believe it or not, I had some nice feedback on it. It was all solo bass, so I really am really behind the idea of tapping in solo stuff.

    I sometimes will up the treble or lower the bass a little depending on the notes I'm hitting. If I'm staying in the upper register on the higher strings, then I don't. Otherwise I will. Just depends.

    The tune I mentioned earlier, had me playing and holding a root + 5th with my left hand and with my right I'd play the 6th, 7th, and octave and hold the notes to create chords. You can use 2 strings for this and it should pretty nice.

    Victor Wooten has a nice section on tapping on both his VHS 'Solo Bass Technique' and his Bass Day '98 video in the supplimental section. In it he talks about tapping major chords (root, fifth, ninth, tenth (I think)) ie... starting on G on the 15th fret on E string, G on E string with left index, D on the A string with right index, A on the D string with right ring, and the B on the G string with left middle. Then play that down the neck with the appropriate notes until you get to the lower octave. If you have the DVD, he explains it better. I'll try and watch it tonight and fix any glitches in my info.

    I hope that helps out.

    Have fun.

  13. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    If I were to get into tapping seriously, I would go the Chapman stick route. At the web, there's a couple of videos. I know Tony Levin uses one.

    Pretty cool stuff.

  14. Chapman sticks aren't the only option, by the way. Warr Guitars are available, as are Mobius Megatars.
  15. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    Hey Joe, here's my tapping teaching routine for beginners:

    1- Play semitones with your left hand alone from the C on the E string, 8th fret. Use your metronome and take your time to play long notes with each finger (say, two clicks per note with your metronome at 60 bpm) making sure that each one sustains until the next comes in and sound the loudest possible. Only play C-C#-D-D#-D#-D-Db-C. When you feel comfortable with that, play the same thing with your right hand starting from the C on the A string, 15th fret. Your thumb should be placed on the fingerboard side. The right pinky is very difficult. I hardly use it, but maybe you'll be luckier than me with that. One important detail: Keep the notes fretted for making them long, but don't fret the next note without lifting your finger from the fret you just played (just before playing the next one). If you don't do this, the notes will sound really weak. Also, is also important to make sure that, when you play with your right hand, the left hand fingers are always resting on the strings. This will make your right hand-tapped notes to sound cleaner. BTW, the hair scrunchie that Victor Wooten uses is for those cases in which your left hand is so busy that can't help to prevent strings from undesired ringings. I use it for playing Van Halen's "Cathedral", for instance.

    2- Play the same exercise, but this time alternating both hands, starting with the left. This also can be done by playing both notes simultaneously, but I prefer to alternate just for the sake of practicing independence from the beginning. Again, make sure each note sustains the most it can. This will create some dissonances when the left hand notes sound over the right hand notes. This is OK.

    3- After you've mastered the previous exercises, play a one octave C major scale with your left hand alone, again starting with the C at the E string, 8th fret. This time you'll start with your middle finger. Use exactly the same fingerings as on regular playing: 2-4-1-2-4-1-3-4. Play it up and down and again, make sure you feel comfortable with this before doing it with your right hand starting from the C on the A string, 15th fret with your middle finger. You'll use the same fingerings here. One more time, the right pinky is frustrating. Don't forget to place your thumb's fingertip over the fretboard edge. Did I say use your metronome? Half notes at 60 bpm making them sound as long (connected) as possible.

    4- Now do the same as with the semitones: Play the scale with both hands alternating each one. After you get this, try something trickier: Play the left hand up and your right hand down, also alternating. This means that your left hand will start with the C on the E string, 8th fret, middle finger, and your right hand will start with the C on the G string, 17th fret, pinky. Same recommendations as before and also play both hands up and down.

    I think this is a good starting point. Let me know when you get this, so we can continue if you want. Here's a link for downloading the exercises (approximately) played in my Bongo:


    I don't use different EQ settings for playing tapping stuff. The link below will allow you to download a video of me playing a really sloppy version (specially the slap parts) of Stu Hamm's "Country Music (A Night In Hell)". The only thing I did there was cut the lows in my bass, just for make it clearer. Because of this I raised the volume a bit, but I never do it if my EQ settings remain as normal, which happens most of the times. I cut the lows in this performance because my bass was very loud and powerful and I was afraid of my (disappointing) solo to sound just boomy. I know you've seen many great players doing awesome solo pieces, but I think you'll feel even more motivated to try this if you see a nobody's attempt at that. Hope this helps! :)


  16. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    Thanks for the links Paul!

    Those Warr instruments look pretty fine.

    If I were to get in tapping, I would definitely go in this direction.
  17. Tom


    Sep 7, 2005
    Davis, CA
    I always thought of tapping on the bass as being similar to playing a piano. Though I've seen some use it to shred Eddie-style, too. Stu Hamm has written some nice compositions with tapping ("Surely the Best" comes to mind), but he also cautions against over-using it or tapping when it's inappropriate. Here is a short interview that touches on the subject.

    Also, this is my first post and I gotta ask... What's with the nay-saying ninja?
    :ninja: <---
  18. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    Welcome to TB!
  19. Tom


    Sep 7, 2005
    Davis, CA
    Thank you!
  20. I love tapping. :)

    i recorded a small tapping video yesterday.

    Markus Setzer and of course Jean Baudin are some of my favourite tappers right now.