When you’re trying to play multiple parts at the same time on guitar, you often come into one pretty huge limitation: we humans only have two hands.
One way to get around that, is to let one hand take a role usually taken by both, leaving the other hand free to do something completely different.
That’s the case with left-hand-tapping. If you’ve never heard of the term. left-hand-tapping is when you tap, or touch, the strings with your fretting hand to make them sound, taking away the necessity to pluck the string with your other hand.
In essence, you’re playing the guitar like a piano.
The first step to playing this way is to build your hand’s agility and endurance. Because you don’t just need to press down on the string, you need to do it quickly enough that you get a clear sound…and you need to be able to do it for a reasonable amount of time without your hand getting tired.
So how do we get started?
I would recommend that you start with some simple legato exercises like the following:
Play each phrase at a moderate tempo and repeat it until your hand gets tired. You should only pluck the very first note of each exercise. Make you sure you play them slowly and evenly, and that you can hear each note clearly.
From there you can take it further by playing scales, like this one:
This is one is played only with the left hand, no picking allowed!
Once you attempt to play something like this, you’ll probably run into one of the main problems with this style…it’s much harder to keep errant strings from ringing out. So learning to mute strings with only one hand is one of the key points of this technique.
Now, with the scale exercise above it’s nearly impossible to mute all the strings, but when you get to playing actual music this way, it’s something to pay attention to.
The basic rule to follow is that any free fingers will be used to mute the strings you don’t want to sound. When you’re playing on the lower strings, it’s relatively easy because you can let the rest of your finger fall lightly on the strings to mute them.
On the higher strings it’s a bit more complicated. It really depends on what you’re playing so you’ll have to find a solution on a case-by-case basis.
That being said, one thing I do find myself doing a lot, which might work for you as well, is to use my index finger primarily to mute the strings, and let the middle, ring and pinky handle most of the fretting work.
Check out my cover of Lateralus for a good example of this technique. I use it a lot during the verses at 1:11 and 2:25:
These are just a few tips to get you started. This technique obviously isn’t easy and requires a lot of work. As always, let me know how it goes in the comments. I’m happy to help with any problems you might run into.