Watch the Slap & Tap online guitar lesson by Vicki Genfan from Acoustic Rhythm Survival Guide
Tune to: D-A-D-G-C-D
E – down a whole step to D
A – stays the same
D – stays the same
G – stays the same
B – up one half step to C
E – down one whole step to D
You may have seen the movie August Rush, or artists such as Andy Mckee, Kaki King, Preston Reed, or one of many others who are incorporating percussive and open tuning techniques into their guitar playing.
I've called my own development of these techniques 'Slap-Tap' as a quick way to describe the kinds of techniques I'm using, though it's an incomplete description. It's cutting edge, exciting, and dynamic and when used MUSICALLY, these techniques will add a very unique element to your sound.
My own development of these techniques came out of my love for rhythm and percussion, as well as an enchantment with the sound of the harmonics. The 'bass slap' is a direct result of wishing I could play funk bass like Verdine White from the band, Earth, Wind and Fire.
As a singer/songwriter, I was looking for a way to stand out – to give my solo performances something unique, to provide more than just strumming or picking on the guitar. As I progressed and got more skilled, I found that I could bring in elements of bass and drums along with my chords, finger picking or strumming. Suddenly the sound was 'bigger', more interesting, and more fun for me – and my audiences.
We're going to work with 3 techniques here:
1 Thumb Slap
2 Harmonic Tapping
3 Body Percussion (on the guitar)
Thumb Slap: Be sure to keep your right hand relaxed!!! The attack is quick, and the release is also quick. Watch the video for the exact hand movements. If you can't get a 'snappy, funky' sound, try moving your hand to different locations on the guitar, back towards the sound hole or maybe towards the headstock. Start out on the 6th string... then see if you can master hitting the 5th string. Yeah – go on – try it on the 4th string too! Now you can play a funky bass slap for all the chords in our progression.
NOTICE – the 'cheat' technique I show you on the video of muting the 6th string with your left hand thumb coming over the top of the neck...
Harmonic Tapping: Group Tap – Use 3 fingers and aim for the top 4 strings. Snappy, quick attack and release!! Make sure you hit the strings right ON the 12th fret. (Not in between frets as you would for a normal note).
Once you can get a ringing sound on the 12th fret, try the 7th and 5th frets as well. This may take some time!! Be patient and persistent!!! Take note – if you have long nails on your right hand, you will have to bend your fingers a bit.
Otherwise, you can come at the guitar neck straight on at a perpendicular angle. It is all about the right snappy, attack and hitting at the exact right place. You don't need to hit super hard.
The progression here will be the same, but in the key of C instead of G.
NOTE: This goes for all the exercises in this course... If the exercises are too easy for you, take the techniques to a song that you know or are working on and apply them there. Push yourself to do things you have to reach for, a little outside of your 'familiar' zone and you'll start going to some really interesting new places.
Body Percussion: Explore the sounds of your guitars body! Use different parts of your hands as well. Use both right and left hand. Try making up your own 'percussive' fills in the exercise on the video.
Are there any songs you currently play or are in the midst of writing that you could incorporate the percussion into? Look for places where there's room...where the chords are being held for a longer time. Have fun!!