I find that it's very easy for me to get a clean phrase when tapping in an ascending pattern like the following:

$1 7h9h12

Reversing that pattern, however, becomes hard for me:

$1 12p9p7

I attribute this to two main reasons:

  1. Often times even with a dimed high gain amp and a compressor I cannot get the first note of the reversed tap to sound out enough such that the subsequent pull offs have enough volume. I know that a compressor can help me out a little here, but I also know good clean tapping is still not 100% gadgets.
  2. For some reason going backwards is just harder. I can descend at about 30% of the speed that I can ascend. This is true not just in tapping for me, but playing solo phrases with more than three descending notes in a line as well.

When performing an ascending phrase I make sure to bring my finger down on the strings with a little force than normal resulting in a little more volume from the note. This is just the standard hammer on technique that everyone learns. But, during a descending phrase I don't have that ability and my riffs often sound weak.

What's the trick? Should I be slightly plucking the string at that first tapped note as I come off it? I can't really discern anything additional when I watch the guitar masters tap speedy phrases.

As, a supplementary question: Is there any way to clean up the harmonics during a tap solo? You can hear what I'm talking about if you tap fretted notes on an electric guitar that isn't plugged in.

  • As for the cleaning up the harmonics/string noise; check out my/and the other answers to this question music.stackexchange.com/questions/1787/…
    – Bella
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 21:06
  • Ref Above: this isn't something i do myself, but i know that some people find it useful. Obviously not a good idea if you intend to play open strings in the solo.
    – Bella
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 21:07

2 Answers 2


Your right in your first point - in my opinion, gadgets and effects are to enhance your playing, not to provide the basis of it.

Right, back to the question. Let me make it plain that I am possibly the world's worst tapper, having only made an effort to start learning it myself recently. I have already learnt that practice is what you need to get any sort of proficiency, and am therefore practising little phrases as often as I can. By default, one of the phrases I often jump to is the one you show here.

In order to tackle the 'reverse' one, and actually make it sound decent, I do what the guy in this video (skip to 1:00) demonstrates.

Basically, after I hammer down on the 12th fret, I pull off to the side, so that I gently pluck the note as I do so. I then pull off from the 9th to 7th fret as normal, and that sounds OK.

  1. Hammer Down on 12th Fret
  2. Pull of to the side
  3. Pull of the 9th fret

I just do that cycle a load of times, and then gradually speed it up.

Other people may disagree, but it works well for me anyway :)

Hope this helps!

  • "I pull off to the side, so that I gently pluck the note as I do so" was exactly what I was going to recommend to get the second note to sound with a little more amplitude.
    – Ian C.
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 21:00
  • Yep pulling off to the side is what will do it; i generally do this with every tapped note unless the tempo is too high for it.
    – Bella
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 21:04
  • @DRL What do you do in cases where the tempo is too high?
    – Jduv
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 21:33
  • @Jduv: I cheat in those cases and I'll either switch to two hand tapping and use my left hand to start the run with a powerful hammer on, or I'll pick the first note of the run.
    – Ian C.
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 21:40
  • @Jduv - pretty much cheat as Ian says, I'm not the greatest tapper in the world
    – Bella
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 22:17

Depends what your guitar is:

On an acoustic or heavy strung electric pulling off to the side is essential, and is what I usually use.

Many of our songs have fast hammer-ons, pull-offs and tapped runs and for some of them I use an Ibanez set up really lightly, and when using a high gain amp just releasing a finger quickly is often enough.

I usually find it is easier to get a good tone the faster you go with pull-offs - ymmv.

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