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  1. #1
    Romeo Delight speates's Avatar
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    Question Trouble with Tapped Harmonics

    I have always had trouble with tapped harmonics. I've been able to kind of do them for years, but I'd like to be able to do them more consistently. I have trouble getting them to be defined and ring out, sometimes even with heavy distortion. It seems like EVH does them with such ease, even when they are not 12 frets up but 7 or 5 or even 3...

    For anyone out there who has a pretty good handle on them, I have a few questions.
    1.) How hard must the tap be? I seem to get better results on the lower strings when I tap really hard, almost like slamming the string into the fret, but this quickly wears out my finger.
    2.) Do you tap with the tip of your finger, the pad, or somewhere in between?
    3.) Does the force come from your finger or from your wrist (or maybe even from your arm)?
    4.) How important is accuracy (hitting exactly the right spot) compared to the strength of the tap? Will a really precise tap still ring out even if it is a relatively light tap?
    5.) How much of an effect does the guitar/amp have? If two different amps were set with a similar amount of distortion, is it possible that one would just inherently get better harmonics? Same with guitars - are some guitars just inherently better than others at getting harmonics (even with similar pickups, bridges, etc.)?

    Any advice would be appreciated!

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    Quote Originally Posted by speates View Post
    I have always had trouble with tapped harmonics. I've been able to kind of do them for years, but I'd like to be able to do them more consistently. I have trouble getting them to be defined and ring out, sometimes even with heavy distortion. It seems like EVH does them with such ease, even when they are not 12 frets up but 7 or 5 or even 3...

    For anyone out there who has a pretty good handle on them, I have a few questions.
    1.) How hard must the tap be? I seem to get better results on the lower strings when I tap really hard, almost like slamming the string into the fret, but this quickly wears out my finger.
    2.) Do you tap with the tip of your finger, the pad, or somewhere in between?
    3.) Does the force come from your finger or from your wrist (or maybe even from your arm)?
    4.) How important is accuracy (hitting exactly the right spot) compared to the strength of the tap? Will a really precise tap still ring out even if it is a relatively light tap?
    5.) How much of an effect does the guitar/amp have? If two different amps were set with a similar amount of distortion, is it possible that one would just inherently get better harmonics? Same with guitars - are some guitars just inherently better than others at getting harmonics (even with similar pickups, bridges, etc.)?

    Any advice would be appreciated!
    Hmmm....It can be a bit tough to answer without seeing your technique, but two things that I think can help is:
    Number 1) speed and release. You've got to be quick with almost a glancing blow directly on the fret.
    Number two, and frankly just as important is as your question alludes to, is the force required.
    I tend to pretty much use the weight of my hand if that makes sense. I don't use my arm to drive my hand. You kinda keep your wrist loose like it's on ball bearings, and I sort of throw my my hand forward, and immediately pull up on my wrist allowing my tapping index finger (which is rigid) to follow through with the weight of my hand, and almost bounce off the fret with the assist of my wrist already coming up. It's a two part technique in a way. By the time the fret is hit, the wrist is already on it's way back to the starting position.
    As far as which finger, or pad....I personally use my index finger tip for single notes, and if I'm tapping barre chords, I'll use the edge of my finger.

    It's a little hard to explain in type, but it's really that simple.
    Amp gain helps a lot, but it's not everything. High gain, and a compressed signal of course will allow the tapped note to have near on par volume as a fretted or open note.
    A good example of how gain or volume affects tapped notes is listen to DTNA. The tapped noted after the solo are with Ed's volume turned down. The don't scream...They just chime.
    Actually when I was learning the technique, DTNA was my focus to acheive a nice clean chimed tap. I figured if I could master that, then everything else would be cake.

    Another thing that actually plays a big part is weather or not your tapping finger tips skin texture is soft and spongey, or if you actually have a callous.
    You don't need a heavy callous for tapping, but you will find as you practice, and the skin firms up, the notes will actually chime out a little easier. As the skin gets gets tougher, you will find that you don't necessarily need to use as much force as before. You may be able to just use your finger to get notes to chime out.
    When the skin is soft, it can actually mute the note if you are not 100% bang on every time.
    EVERYONE has trouble with tapped harmonics at first.

    Back to equipment, a well set up guitar helps a lot. A well intonated guitar with good strings and frets can almost seem effortless to pop harmonics vs. a guitar that has worn or very small frets, and poor intonation. You have to fight it a lot more, and it's very unforgiving.

    Does that help?
    Last edited by we die young; 07.15.16 at 03:19 PM.

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  4. #3
    Atomic Punk Get The Show On The Road's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by we die young View Post
    Hmmm....It can be a bit tough to answer without seeing your technique, but two things that I think can help is:
    Number 1) speed and release. You've got to be quick with almost a glancing blow directly on the fret.
    Number two, and frankly just as important is as your question alludes to, is the force required.
    I tend to pretty much use the weight of my hand if that makes sense. I don't use my arm to drive my hand. You kinda keep your wrist loose like it's on ball bearings, and I sort of throw my my hand forward, and immediately pull up on my wrist allowing my tapping index finger (which is rigid) to follow through with the weight of my hand, and almost bounce off the fret with the assist of my wrist already coming up. It's a two part technique in a way. By the time the fret is hit, the wrist is already on it's way back to the starting position.
    As far as which finger, or pad....I personally use my index finger tip for single notes, and if I'm tapping barre chords, I'll use the edge of my finger.

    It's a little hard to explain in type, but it's really that simple.
    Amp gain helps a lot, but it's not everything. High gain, and a compressed signal of course will allow the tapped note to have near on par volume as a fretted or open note.
    A good example of how gain or volume affects tapped notes is listen to DTNA. The tapped noted after the solo are with Ed's volume turned down. The don't scream...They just chime.
    Actually when I was learning the technique, DTNA was my focus to acheive a nice clean chimed tap. I figured if I could master that, then everything else would be cake.

    Another thing that actually plays a big part is weather or not your tapping finger tips skin texture is soft and spongey, or if you actually have a callous.
    You don't need a heavy callous for tapping, but you will find as you practice, and the skin firms up, the notes will actually chime out a little easier. As the skin gets gets tougher, you will find that you don't necessarily need to use as much force as before. You may be able to just use your finger to get notes to chime out.
    When the skin is soft, it can actually mute the note if you are not 100% bang on every time.
    EVERYONE has trouble with tapped harmonics at first.

    Back to equipment, a well set up guitar helps a lot. A well intonated guitar with good strings and frets can almost seem effortless to pop harmonics vs. a guitar that has worn or very small frets, and poor intonation. You have to fight it a lot more, and it's very unforgiving.

    Does that help?
    I can't add much to this because it is pretty spot on.

    I think the biggest part is that you almost have to use your index finger as kind of a mini mallet. When I do tapped harmonics I flex a little at the wrist, and a little at the joint on the knuckle of my index finger. The I pretty much slam the tip of my finger directly on top of the fret and release it immediately, otherwise you'll deaden the note. So quickness really plays an important role. It's not really force per se, but quickness in tapping the note and getting your finger off it to let it ring out.

    Gain and amp are irrelevant. You can get good tapped harmonics on an acoustic guitar if your technique is solid. Listen to Spanish Fly. Also listen to the beginning of Women In Love. Not much gain or distortion there.

    For a lesson from the master go to 9:50:



    This is how I learned.
    Last edited by Get The Show On The Road; 07.15.16 at 03:57 PM.
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    Well setup and intonated guitar I think is key. Also, I find that it's easier to get them to really chime if the action is a little higher than lower.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Get The Show On The Road View Post
    I can't add much to this because it is pretty spot on.

    I think the biggest part is that you almost have to use your index finger as kind of a mini mallet. When I do tapped harmonics I flex a little at the wrist, and a little at the joint on the knuckle of my index finger. The I pretty much slam the tip of my finger directly on top of the fret and release it immediately, otherwise you'll deaden the note. So quickness really plays an important role. It's not really force per se, but quickness in tapping the note and getting your finger off it to let it ring out.

    Gain and amp are irrelevant. You can get good tapped harmonics on an acoustic guitar if your technique is solid. Listen to Spanish Fly. Also listen to the beginning of Women In Love. Not much gain or distortion there.

    For a lesson from the master go to 9:50:



    This is how I learned.
    Yeah....I mean there are always variables. Everyone is different.....sizes and shapes of their hands and digits too. Whatever feels comfortable. There are the key essentials to get clarity which don't change, but hand position.....you've got to be comfortable as well so you don't cramp or feel in an awkward position.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CalFB View Post
    Well setup and intonated guitar I think is key. Also, I find that it's easier to get them to really chime if the action is a little higher than lower.
    Yep. When I was first learning was on an old Strat copy that just lacked a lot of quality. Almost impossible to intonate, not very resonant plywood body, and a horrible bridge with cast saddles...it looked like a duck, but didn't quack like a duck! Lol. It was almost impossible to get any harmonics, pinch or otherwise out of it.
    I remember when I got my first "real guitar". It was night and day. Harmonics almost jumped off by themselves. Guess all that effort trying to get that damned lame duck to quack paid off when I finally got a good guitar!
    Last edited by we die young; 07.15.16 at 05:19 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by we die young View Post
    Yeah....I mean there are always variables. Everyone is different.....sizes and shapes of their hands and digits too. Whatever feels comfortable. There are the key essentials to get clarity which don't change, but hand position.....you've got to be comfortable as well so you don't cramp or feel in an awkward position.
    Yep. But I think the video shows the most important aspect and that's Ed's quick attack at the note. It's hard to describe what he's doing, except to note that when he's doing the regular tapped notes of Spanish Fly he's got his hand anchored to the fretboard with his thumb, ring, and pinky fingers. When he's doing the tapped harmonics his hand is floating above the neck and it's just a different technique with the way he sounds the note.

    The more I think about it, it's similar to playing a natural harmonic with your left hand, in that intonation, and finger placement and getting off the string quick are important to getting it to sound right.
    The only genre I really know is Van Halen.

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    Romeo Delight speates's Avatar
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    09.02.17 @ 10:38 AM
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    Thank you all for the help! I think I understand what you're saying. It's like your hand is loose and your wrist flings your hand and it just kind of "flops" in a way. Once your finger hits the string it bounces off really quickly. I'm trying it and already noticing a huge improvement. It does seem harder to control where my finger hits, but I guess that comes with practice.

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    Eruption garbeaj's Avatar
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    I think you've got all the tools you need with the above suggestions. You do need to be extremely accurate and hit the string directly above the fret wire itself. Not above the fret, but directly above the fret wire.

    I would recommend learning the tapped intro to "Spanish Fly" on an acoustic guitar. That's when I very first learned tap harmonics.

    Here is a clip I made of me playing the "Women In Love" intro. Eddie used compression to make the tapped harmonics and the intro in general sound clean and even along with clean technique.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Get The Show On The Road View Post
    Yep. But I think the video shows the most important aspect and that's Ed's quick attack at the note. It's hard to describe what he's doing, except to note that when he's doing the regular tapped notes of Spanish Fly he's got his hand anchored to the fretboard with his thumb, ring, and pinky fingers. When he's doing the tapped harmonics his hand is floating above the neck and it's just a different technique with the way he sounds the note.

    The more I think about it, it's similar to playing a natural harmonic with your left hand, in that intonation, and finger placement and getting off the string quick are important to getting it to sound right.
    Yes. Total agreement. Quickness is the key. Too long, and you'll mute the note you're trying to ring. As I said, and it follows what you mention, as time goes on, your finger tip toughens up, and you get more proficient, you'll find you can probably get it to ring with just your finger. Ed's changed over the years to. In early videos, he's above the board unanchord by the thumb, but by LWAN, he anchors consistently. That's what I mean about comfort. Eventually it will feel comfortable and second nature. It just feels a little odd at first like anything new.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Get The Show On The Road View Post
    I can't add much to this because it is pretty spot on.

    I think the biggest part is that you almost have to use your index finger as kind of a mini mallet. When I do tapped harmonics I flex a little at the wrist, and a little at the joint on the knuckle of my index finger. The I pretty much slam the tip of my finger directly on top of the fret and release it immediately, otherwise you'll deaden the note. So quickness really plays an important role. It's not really force per se, but quickness in tapping the note and getting your finger off it to let it ring out.

    Gain and amp are irrelevant. You can get good tapped harmonics on an acoustic guitar if your technique is solid. Listen to Spanish Fly. Also listen to the beginning of Women In Love. Not much gain or distortion there.

    For a lesson from the master go to 9:50:



    This is how I learned.
    I was going to say watch LWAN! Beat me to it.

    Don't think I saw this mentioned. Gain and a humbucker in the bridge position. I was playing the harmonic tap thing from the LWAN solo before he plays the Soanish Fly tapping part one night. After drummer said I was on that night. Harmonics were flying out of the guitar. I said I can play that on acoustic. It's not a big deal. Spanish fly intro proves you don't need an electric to do tapped harmonics. You do need a certain level of gain. It's helpful. As is a humbucker.
    VH III is Ed's solo album. So everybody who keeps saying they wish he'd do one needs to stfu and listen to III. Then stfu again.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AFU View Post
    I was going to say watch LWAN! Beat me to it.

    Don't think I saw this mentioned. Gain and a humbucker in the bridge position. I was playing the harmonic tap thing from the LWAN solo before he plays the Soanish Fly tapping part one night. After drummer said I was on that night. Harmonics were flying out of the guitar. I said I can play that on acoustic. It's not a big deal. Spanish fly intro proves you don't need an electric to do tapped harmonics. You do need a certain level of gain. It's helpful. As is a humbucker.
    Well you really don't need an electric to play "one octave up" or "twelve frets up" tapped harmonics...these are known as "first harmonics".

    But on an acoustic without compression it is next to impossible to use harmonic tapping to hit and audibly produce clear and strong "7th fret" (sounded 7 frets above the fundamental) harmonics and "5th fret" harmonics (sounded 5 frets above the fundamental)...these are known as "second harmonics" and "third harmonics" respectively.

    You really need an electric, preferably with distortion, and a humbucking bridge pickup to achieve second and third harmonics with harmonic tapping technique...this is what you hear in the "Mean Street" segment of the LWAN solo, the "Dreams" solo and many other places.

    The harmonic tapping intro and outro of "Spanish Fly" is a million times easier to accomplish on an acoustic guitar because Eddie is only using harmonic tapping technique to hit "first harmonics" at 12 frets above the fundamental. The only second and third harmonics in "Spanish Fly" are standard picked natural harmonics. Eddie also had the benefit of studio compression on the recording of "Spanish Fly" from the second album to make everything he played on the acoustic nylon string Ovation jump out clearly and at an even level.

    Another thing to remember is that playing tapped harmonics do not always come out perfectly. Eddie makes mistakes all the time when he goes to hit tapped harmonics. Even natural harmonics don't always come out perfectly.

    Listen to this excerpt of me playing the "Mean Street" segment of the LWAN solo...I make mistakes all over the place! It is hard to make them come out 100% perfect every time!

    Last edited by garbeaj; 07.16.16 at 08:04 AM.

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    Romeo Delight speates's Avatar
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    Thank you for the advice garbeaj! I don't mean to sound disrespectful, but after listening to that Mean Street LWAN segment, I think you are playing a certain repeated motif wrong. Also, I remember looking at your TAB posted in another thread and thinking this part wasn't quite right in there either. Anyway, here is what I think it is...
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	LWANMeanStreet.jpg 
Views:	68 
Size:	9.6 KB 
ID:	3487

    Try this sometime and tell me what you think. You'll know what part it is when you try it. "H" stands for hammer-on and "T" stands for tap.
    Last edited by speates; 07.17.16 at 01:16 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by speates View Post
    Thank you for the advice garbeaj! I don't mean to sound disrespectful, but after listening to that Mean Street LWAN segment, I think you are playing a certain repeated motif wrong. Also, I remember looking at your TAB posted in another thread and thinking this part wasn't quite right in there either. Anyway, here is what I think it is...
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	LWANMeanStreet.jpg 
Views:	68 
Size:	9.6 KB 
ID:	3487

    Try this sometime and tell me what you think. You'll know what part it is when you try it. "H" stands for hammer-on and "T" stands for tap.
    Well spotted! I think you are right! Very nice observation, I'll update my transcription and fix that whole section...very cool! Always glad to get help and always glad to learn something new! Have you made a clip of yourself playing the solo?

    Thanks a million!

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    Quote Originally Posted by garbeaj View Post
    Well spotted! I think you are right! Very nice observation, I'll update my transcription and fix that whole section...very cool! Always glad to get help and always glad to learn something new! Have you made a clip of yourself playing the solo?

    Thanks a million!
    You're welcome! And no, I don't have a clip. I have only learned bits and pieces of the solo, and I can't necessarily play all of them with any fluidity.

 

 

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