Tapping Ukulele Technique Lesson

Tapping is a showy technique that has yet to be really developed for ukulele. It sounds way cool, but due to the ukulele’s acoustic properties, tapping is tough to achieve loudly. The only thing that makes tapping different from hammer-ons and pull-offs is that you are adding your picking hand to the mix of fingers on the fretboard. One of the great things about tapping is that with your picking hand adding a finger to the fret board, you can play some really big interval jumps.

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To tap on the ukulele, all you need to do is mash one of your picking hand fingers in between on of the frets hard enough that it sounds a note. It doesn’t really matter what finger you use as long as you can make a note (my main problem with tapping is that my index and middle fingernails are longer for picking. That makes it hard to fit your finger in between the fret).

The guitarist Eddie Van Halen is the undisputed father of this technique. If you are familiar with his playing, you will notice that this sounds nothing like what usually comes out of his guitar. Correct. What Eddie and all the other tapping geniuses do is add pull-offs (and sometimes hammer-ons) after the tap. It’s not really that hard, it just sounds fast.

Here is how they do it:

  1. Without picking, fret two notes on the same ukulele string with your left hand. Usually these two notes are part of an arpeggio and the tap adds the third note. Start tapping on the A string, it’s the easiest place to start. Maybe fret C (3rd fret, index) and E (7th fret, pinky). This is a minor triad – Am – you are just playing it on one string.
  2. Tap one finger from your picking hand onto the fretboard (in this case the 12th fret – A)
  3. Push your tapping finger off the fretboard straight down at the floor to imitate a pull-off. This leaves the E note (7th fret) ringing.
  4. Now pull-off the E note (pinky) to C.

Step 2 sounds the A note, step 3 sounds the E note, and step 4 sounds the C.

In tab, a tap looks like:

A |-t12-
E |-----
C |-----
G |-----

This is the A minor triad from the instructions:

A |-t12p7p3-
E |---------
C |---------
G |---------

Here is an A major triad tapped:

A |-t12p7p4-
E |---------
C |---------
G |---------

And just for kicks here is a C major triad:

A |-t10p7p3-
E |---------
C |---------
G |---------

Remember that you can play anything tapped. Go beyond the examples and find some cool sounds that you want to be able to play on your ukulele.

This is only the most common form of tapping. There are tons of variations with more fretting hand fingers, hammer-ons, open strings, etc… We are only scratching the surface of ukulele playing at this point. There is plenty more to discover.

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