Watch the Tap Harmonics online guitar lesson by Andy Timmons from Electric Expression
Let's talk a little bit about a technique that is called tap harmonics. It's something that I've done a few times on some of my recordings in the past. But most notably in Electric Gypsy and the first verse of that tune is actually played with this technique. It's very easy to achieve once you get the hang of it. It's basically fingering a note and then tapping that same note an octave up on that string. So wherever you are, let's just say Electric Gypsy's in the key of D. That's the note D an octave up. I'm just slapping it with my middle finger. I first heard Eddie Van Halen do this on Van Halen 2 for you Van Halen fans. But it's a cool technique, it's just a different way of bringing out a melody and getting it to speak a certain way. I'll demonstrate that verse melody with this tap harmonic idea. Again, I'm just essentially mirroring an octave form 12 frets above the note that I'm fingering. I'm realizing as I'm playing it there's a lot of other techniques involved as far as how I slide and do pre-bends. So I'll break it down a little more slowly, and when I get to a certain inflection I'll describe what's going on. One of my favorite little ornamentations is the half step bend where I might have a note, like this is the C# is the third of A. I bend up to the fourth and release it. Even in that first, I get a little bit of inflection out of the bend where I reach the note and then I release and bend back up to it and there's another technique where I'm actually getting the harmonic and then sliding it. It maintains the ring of the harmonic and then that little phrase. I'm actually hammering on to a note that's not harmonic, but it's giving shape to the line. Then hammering on to that note with no harmonic. So getting more mileage there. There's only two tapped harmonics in that do-do-do-do-do, in that whole phrase, so a lot of hammer ons and pull offs and slides of course. There's that half step bend again and this time I'm doing it on the D chord. Sliding up from the D to the E, but then down to that C# which is that third of the A chord. A couple more hammer ons and there's a nice example of a tap harmonic combined with a wide bend. I'm bending up a whole step then to the minor third or it's a minor third bend, but I'm bending up to the fourth of that D major chord. Now, over that B minor. A lot of times I'll include what could be considered a passing tone or it's like a chromatic from below on that B. It's alluding to a V chord. An F# dominant 7, which is a common substitution in jazz quite a bit. Well any chord, you can proceed it by the V of that chord. So of a B minor chord that would be an F7. Even in the improvisation while I play Electric Gypsy I'll include that quite a bit. It just gives it a little bit more spice. That's the tap harmonic technique and not only explore trying to learn some of these phrases from Electric Gypsy, but it's pretty easy to start sticking in to any of your solo work. Where if you're in A minor you can start plugging it in. It's easy to see, because it's 12 frets up. So enjoy that little technique, and hopefully that'll spice up your phrases.