The Evolution of Tapping in Country Music

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When one thinks of the guitar in country music, fingerpicking and traditional strumming patterns may come to mind. However, in recent decades, tapping – a technique popularized by rock guitarists – has found its way into the country music scene. The emergence of tapping in country music has fascinated many, causing confusion as to how a technique so traditionally associated with rock music made its way into one of the most distinctly American genres. In this article, we will explore the evolution of tapping in country music from Eddie Van Halen to Brad Paisley, and delve into the mechanics and impact of this technique in the context of country music. So, let’s take a journey through time to discover how tapping became a staple technique in country guitar playing!

The Origins of Tapping in Rock Music

The Origins Of Tapping In Rock Music
It’s hard to imagine modern rock music without the mind-bending, finger-tangling technique of tapping. But where did it all begin? When did tapping enter the mainstream guitar lexicon, and who can we thank for its prevalence today? The history of tapping dates back to the 1960s and 70s, when a handful of guitarists began to experiment with new techniques and ways of playing. In this section, we’ll explore the origins of tapping in rock music, from its humble beginnings to its place as a staple of the genre.

Eddie Van Halen’s Influence

Eddie Van Halen is considered one of the pioneers of tapping, and his influence on the technique cannot be overstated. Van Halen’s use of tapping in the song “Eruption” is one of the most iconic shredding moments in rock music history. Van Halen’s tapping had a distinctive sound that was characterized by fast, clean notes and a bright tone. He would often use tapping to play fast arpeggios and scalar lines, which allowed him to execute licks that were previously impossible on a conventional guitar.

The technique became so synonymous with Van Halen’s playing style that many refer to it as “Eddie Van Halen-style tapping.” Other guitarists soon picked up on this technique and began to incorporate it into their own playing. However, Van Halen remains one of the most influential and widely recognized guitarists to use tapping in a rock context.

What made Eddie Van Halen’s tapping unique? How did it influence other guitarists?
Fast, clean notes Popularized tapping as a guitar technique
Bright tone Inspired other guitarists to experiment with the technique
Use of tapping for arpeggios and scalar lines Helped to expand the vocabulary of rock guitar playing

Van Halen’s use of tapping undoubtedly had a major impact on the development of the technique in both rock and country music. Country guitarists began to experiment with tapping and its potential applications in their own style. The result is a unique sound that combines the technical proficiency of tapping with the melodic and storytelling elements of country music. To learn more about tapping in the context of country music, check out our article on 10 Country Tap Songs that showcase the versatility of tapping in the genre. If you want to learn more about the basics of tapping on electric guitar, we recommend reading our guide on Proper Hand Placement for Tapping Electric Guitar. Additionally, to improve your tapping speed and accuracy, we have some exercises that you can practice.

Other Rock Guitarists Who Utilized Tapping

Eddie Van Halen may have popularized tapping in rock music, but he was not the only guitarist to utilize this technique. In fact, there are several other rock guitarists that have incorporated tapping in their playing style. Some of these guitarists include:

  • Steve Vai: A former student of Joe Satriani, Steve Vai is known for his virtuosic playing style and has utilized tapping in many of his songs.
  • Joe Satriani: A well-known guitar virtuoso, Joe Satriani has utilized tapping in songs such as “Satch Boogie” and “Surfing with the Alien.”
  • Randy Rhoads: The late Ozzy Osbourne guitarist utilized tapping in several of his solos, including “Mr. Crowley.”
  • Yngwie Malmsteen: A Swedish guitarist who is known for his neo-classical style, Malmsteen has used tapping in many of his songs.
  • Tom Morello: The Rage Against the Machine guitarist has utilized tapping in songs such as “Killing in the Name.”

These guitarists have all contributed to the evolution of tapping in rock music, each bringing their unique style and sound to the technique. However, tapping was not limited to just rock music. In fact, it has made its way into country music as well.

To read more about tapping in country music and its evolution over the years, check out our article on 10 Country Tap Songs That Will Make You Want to Learn Tapping. For those looking to improve their tapping skills on electric guitar, we recommend checking out our guide on proper hand placement for tapping on electric guitar, as well as our article on tapped arpeggios on electric guitar. And if you’re curious about famous country guitarists who utilize tapping in their playing, be sure to read our article on famous country guitarists who use tapping.

Tapping in Country Music: From Fusion to Mainstream

Tapping In Country Music: From Fusion To Mainstream
As the popularity of rock guitarists using the tapping technique grew, country music began to take notice. A few early adopters, like Albert Lee and Danny Gatton, began to experiment with tapping in their own country rock fusion styles. However, it wasn’t until the emergence of country jazz fusion that tapping began to take a more prominent role in country music. Today, tapping has become a widely accepted technique in country music, thanks in no small part to the influence of Brad Paisley, who has become known as the “King of Country Tapping.” Let’s take a closer look at the evolution of tapping in country music, from its early days of fusion experimentation to its current mainstream acceptance.

Albert Lee and Danny Gatton: Early Adopters of Tapping in Country Music

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Albert Lee and Danny Gatton brought tapping to the forefront of country music. These two guitarists were early adopters of this technique, using it to add speed and fluidity to their playing.

Albert Lee was born in England and moved to the United States in the 1970s to play guitar for the Everly Brothers. He quickly made a name for himself as a session guitarist and played with a number of country and rockabilly legends, including Emmylou Harris and Eric Clapton.

Lee’s tapping technique was influenced by his background in rock and roll, particularly the playing of Eddie Van Halen. He used tapping to achieve lightning-fast runs up and down the fretboard, often incorporating it into his solos to create a unique sound.

Danny Gatton, on the other hand, was an American guitarist known for his eclectic style that blended country, rock, and jazz. He was also an early adopter of tapping, using it to add complexity and speed to his playing.

Gatton’s tapping technique was different from Lee’s in that he used both hands to tap on the fretboard, often creating intricate harmonies and melodies. He also used tapping in his chord progressions, creating a unique sound that seamlessly blended different genres.

The influence of Albert Lee and Danny Gatton on country music cannot be overstated. Their early adoption of tapping helped pave the way for other country guitarists to embrace this technique and push the boundaries of the genre.

The Emergence of Country Jazz Fusion

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a new sub-genre of country music emerged that blended elements of jazz and rock with the traditional country sound. This fusion music featured complex chord progressions, unconventional time signatures, and virtuosic instrumental solos. It was in this environment that tapping found a new home in country music.

The Pioneers of Country Jazz Fusion

One of the earliest pioneers of country jazz fusion was the British guitarist Albert Lee. Lee had started his career playing rock and roll, but in the 1970s he became a sought-after session musician in the country music scene. With his lightning-fast fingerpicking and innovative use of tapping, Lee helped to push the boundaries of what was considered acceptable in country music at the time.

Another influential guitarist in the country jazz fusion scene was Danny Gatton. Gatton was known for his wide-ranging musical tastes and ability to seamlessly blend different genres. He was a master of the Telecaster, and his virtuosity on the guitar was matched only by his mastery of the tapping technique.

The Rise of Country Jazz Fusion

As more and more musicians began to experiment with fusion styles in the 1980s, tapping became an increasingly common technique among country guitarists. In addition to Albert Lee and Danny Gatton, artists like Vince Gill, Roy Buchanan, and Brent Mason all helped to popularize tapping in the country music world.

Tapping Goes Mainstream

But it wasn’t until the emergence of Brad Paisley in the late 1990s that tapping truly went mainstream in country music. Paisley’s technical prowess and creative use of tapping quickly earned him a reputation as one of the most innovative guitarists in Nashville.

Today, tapping remains a staple of the country music sound, and artists continue to experiment with fusion styles and push the boundaries of what is considered traditional in the genre. And while tapping may have originated in the rock world, its adaptability and versatility have made it an essential part of the country music sound.

Brad Paisley: The King of Country Tapping

When it comes to tapping in country music, one name stands out as the king of this technique: Brad Paisley. With numerous hits and awards under his belt, Brad Paisley has stamped his name as one of country music’s modern icons.

Paisley is known for his intricate fingerstyle playing and his ability to blend traditional country sounds with modern techniques. His tapping skills are a testament to his innovation and creativity as a musician.

What makes Paisley’s tapping stand out is his use of chromatic passages and quick runs. He often incorporates tapping into his solos, making them more complex and dynamic. His signature country sound and fast-fingered tapping have earned him a loyal following among country music fans.

Paisley’s tapping technique is not just limited to his guitar playing. His use of delay and reverb effects adds depth and texture to his tapping, making it sound even more impressive.

One of Paisley’s most famous tapping solos can be heard on his hit song “Huckleberry Jam.” In this song, he demonstrates his ability to use tapping as a standalone technique and as an accent to his fingerstyle playing.

Paisley’s tapping has had a significant impact on country music. He has inspired a new generation of guitarists to experiment with this technique and push the boundaries of what is possible within the genre.

Brad Paisley’s tapping has elevated his guitar playing to new heights and cemented his status as one of country music’s greatest guitarists. His innovative use of this technique has inspired many and has helped push the genre to new and exciting places.

Tapping Technique: How It Works and How to Practice It

Tapping Technique: How It Works And How To Practice It
As we dive into the world of tapping in country music, it’s crucial to understand the mechanics of this technique and how to practice it effectively. Tapping requires a unique approach to playing the guitar, which can be challenging for some players to master. However, with patience and persistence, anyone can improve their tapping skills and incorporate this technique into their playing. Let’s explore what makes tapping so unique and how you can develop your tapping abilities.

The Mechanics of Tapping

Tapping is a guitar playing technique where the guitarist uses their fretting hand to tap the strings, producing a sound instead of picking or strumming the strings.

The Mechanics of Tapping

To perform tapping, the guitarist typically uses their index or middle finger on their fretting hand to strike the string on the fretboard. This creates a note that can be sustained or immediately released depending on the technique used.

To fully execute the tapping technique, the guitarist will need to use their picking hand as well. The picking hand can be used to mute strings or hold them down to create chords while the fretting hand taps out a solo or lead line.

It’s important for the guitarist to use the correct amount of pressure when tapping. Too much pressure can cause the tapped note to be sharp or out of tune, while too little pressure can result in a muted or weak sound.

Exercises to Build Tapping Skills

One effective exercise to build tapping skills is to practice tapping on a single string, starting with a slow rhythm and gradually increasing the tempo as comfort and accuracy improves. Another exercise is to practice tapping different patterns on different strings and incorporating string skipping into the routine.

Through consistent practice and a willingness to experiment with different combinations of notes and rhythms, any guitarist can improve their tapping skills and begin to incorporate the technique into their own music.

Exercises to Build Tapping Skills

If you want to build your tapping skills and incorporate this technique into your country music playing, there are a few exercises you can try. These exercises will help you develop both your right and left-hand tapping abilities and build up your speed and precision.

Exercise 1: Basic One-Hand Tapping
Begin by resting your left hand over the strings at the 12th fret. With your right hand, tap the 15th fret with your index or middle finger. Quickly pull your finger away and let the note ring out. Repeat this on each string, working to build up speed and fluidity.

Exercise 2: Two-Hand Tapping on a Single String
Start with both hands rested over the strings at the 12th fret. Use your right hand index, middle, or ring finger to tap the 15th fret, and immediately follow with your left hand tapping the 19th fret. Pull your finger away quickly and let the notes ring out. Repeat this on each string, building speed and accuracy.

Exercise 3: Two-Hand Tapping on Multiple Strings
Begin with your left hand playing a chord shape at the 10th fret. With your right hand, tap the 12th fret on the top E string, followed by the 12th fret on the B string, and finally the 12th fret on the G string. Repeat this pattern, moving up and down the chord shape.

Exercise 4: Tapping Arpeggios
Play a simple arpeggio pattern with your left hand, such as a C major arpeggio. With your right hand, tap the 12th fret on the high E string, followed by the 15th fret on the B string and the 19th fret on the G string. Pull your finger away quickly and allow the notes to ring out. Continue the arpeggio pattern, moving up and down the fretboard.

Remember to start slowly and build up speed gradually. Practice these exercises with a metronome to maintain consistent timing, and focus on developing precision and fluidity. With dedication and practice, you can master the tapping technique and incorporate it into your country music playing.

The Impact of Tapping on Country Music

The impact of tapping in country music cannot be denied. It has introduced a new dynamic to the genre, blending elements of rock, jazz, and classical music. Tapping has allowed for greater musical expression and creativity among country guitarists.

One of the biggest impacts of tapping is its ability to create faster, more intricate guitar solos. The fast, fluid motion of tapping allows guitarists to play notes and chords faster than traditional picking techniques, resulting in lightning-fast runs and solos that leave audiences in awe. Brad Paisley’s iconic tapping solos, for example, have become a staple in modern country music concerts.

Tapping has also allowed for greater expression and individuality among country guitarists. The technique allows for the creation of unique phrases and melodies that simply cannot be produced with traditional picking. This means that tapping guitarists can develop their own signature style, setting them apart from other players in the genre.

The fusion of tapping with other genres has also impacted country music immensely. Country jazz fusion, for example, has become increasingly popular over the past few decades. Tapping has played a large role in this fusion, allowing for intricate jazz melodies to be played alongside traditional country instrumentation. This has resulted in a more complex and sophisticated sound in modern country music.

The impact of tapping has gone beyond just the guitar. Since the technique was first introduced, other country instruments such as banjos and mandolins have also incorporated it into their playing. Tapping has allowed for these instruments to push beyond their traditional boundaries and experiment with new sounds and styles.

The impact of tapping on country music has been immense. It has allowed for greater musical expression, faster and more intricate solos, and the fusion of different genres. The technique has become a staple of modern country music and will likely continue to shape the genre for years to come.


After exploring the evolution of tapping in country music, it becomes clear that this technique has made a significant impact on the genre. From its origins in rock music with the influential Eddie Van Halen, to its adoption by country guitarists like Albert Lee and Danny Gatton, tapping has become an integral part of the country sound.

The emergence of country jazz fusion allowed tapping to flourish and expand, creating a new subgenre that blended country and jazz elements. And at the forefront of this movement stands Brad Paisley, who has become known as the king of country tapping.

For aspiring guitarists, understanding the mechanics of tapping and practicing exercises to build tapping skills can open up a wealth of creative possibilities. And for enthusiasts of country music, tapping offers a fresh and distinctive sound that adds new dimensions to the genre.

All in all, tapping has become a vital component in the evolution of country music, adding a unique flavor that reflects the diverse range of influences that have shaped this beloved genre. Its impact will continue to be felt by musicians and fans alike, keeping country music fresh, exciting, and relevant for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is tapping in guitar playing?

Tapping is a technique where the player uses their fingers to hammer-on and pull-off notes on the fretboard, rather than using the pick.

2. Who originated tapping in rock music?

Eddie Van Halen is credited with popularizing the tapping technique in rock music.

3. Which other rock guitarists were known for utilizing tapping?

Other notable rock guitarists who utilized tapping include Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, and Randy Rhoads.

4. When did tapping first appear in country music?

Tapping first appeared in country music in the 1970s when guitarists Albert Lee and Danny Gatton began experimenting with the technique.

5. Who were the early adopters of tapping in country music?

Albert Lee and Danny Gatton were the early adopters of tapping in country music.

6. What is country jazz fusion?

Country jazz fusion is a musical subgenre that combines elements of country music and jazz. It is characterized by a blend of traditional country instrumentation with jazz harmonies and improvisation.

7. Why is Brad Paisley considered the king of country tapping?

Brad Paisley is considered the king of country tapping due to his exceptional skill and widespread use of the technique in his music.

8. How does tapping work mechanically?

Tapping involves using the fretting hand to hammer-on and pull-off notes on the fretboard, while the picking hand is used to mute strings and provide a percussive effect.

9. What are some exercises to build tapping skills?

Some exercises to build tapping skills include practicing scales, arpeggios, and licks using the tapping technique, as well as practicing alternate picking, legato playing, and string skipping.

10. What is the impact of tapping on country music?

The use of tapping in country music has added new dimensions to the genre, allowing for more complex and intricate guitar solos and improvisation. It has also influenced a new generation of country guitarists to incorporate the technique into their own playing.


About the author

Hi there! I’m Jack Little – an avid country music fan with tons of live country performances in the past. I used to play banjo in a country band with my best friend John Peters, who’s a true country harmonica master. Those were great years and I’m still mastering new banjo playing techniques, writing my own country songs and lyrics, and collecting banjos!

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