How to Tap Like Eddie Van Halen

Although Eddie Van Halen wasn’t technically the first person to do it, tapping is the technique he made famous. Tapping involves hammering on the fretboard with your picking hand to produce a note. Then you subsequently pull off to notes fingered by your fret hand. The involvement of the picking hand in this fashion is called a tap. It is usually represented by a “T” in tablature.

In most cases of tapping the fret hand uses a series of hammer-ons and pull offs in conjunction with the tapped notes from the picking hand to facilitate a series of quick, smooth, fluid notes.

Lick of the Week

Although “Eruption” from Van Halen’s first album is probably the most popular example for tapping, we’re going to show you a different song today. The intro of Hot for a Teacher is the track that started a huge tapping frenzy as nothing like it had been heard before. Scores of guitar players learned and copied the technique seemingly overnight. By the late 80’s it seemed that every rock guitarist used the technique.

Hot For Teacher is technically and audibly very accomplished. Released in 1984 from the album of that year, it is the basis for many sexually suggestive songs about high-school teachers. In this tutorial we break down the fast opening two-handed tapped riff and the arpeggios they cover.

Learning the Intro

The key to the sound of Hot for Teacher is the empty string Eddie uses for the phrasing. Another thing which is typical for Eddie is repeating certain patterns with the exact same fingering on different strings regardless of the key signature a song is written in. As a result, many of his riffs contain tones from other scales that cause harmonic dissonances.

Tabs

When you start learning the riff, make sure that you really start slow in the beginning. Find out what the max tempo is that you can play the tempo. Your actual practice tempo is then half of your max.

Helmut Kirisits
Guitar Teacher & Musicologist