About that style . . .

Great moments in two-handed finger tapping
By DANIEL BROCKMAN  |  November 24, 2008

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CLASSIC(AL): On Ozzy’s “Flying High Again,” Randy Rhoads had mohawked Beethovens and Mozarts headbanging in heaven.

Guitar heroine: The shreducation of Marnie Stern. By Daniel Brockman.
Marnie Stern's guitar style is notable for the two ways she breaks from the indie-rock-guitar rulebook. She wears her guitar strapped really high up, something that's frowned on because it looks dorky. And she does a significant amount of two-hand tapping, a practice often shunned as gimmicky by people who hate things that rule.

In fact, two-hand tapping predates the rock-and-roll era. As early as 1952, Jimmy Webster was flogging his allegedly revolutionary "Touch System," an approach to the instrument that was about as popular with guitarists as Esperanto was with linguists. In the early '70s, Emmett Chapman began to perfect a tap-friendly guitar/bass hybrid that became the Chapman Stick (an instrument that no one who isn't named Tony Levin should be allowed to play under any circumstances). But it took the shred-friendly '80s to allow glimpses of tapping to penetrate pop radio (Exhibit A: Neil Schon's flourishes in "Don't Stop Believing"). Here are a handful of highlights from the history of two-hand tapping.

EDDIE VAN HALEN OF VAN HALEN | "ERUPTION" | VAN HALEN [1978] | Ground Zero for tapping. Eddie combines classical rigor and bombastic rock tactics to blow up heads Scanners-style with musical awesomeness. Quick, name another track that gets classic-rock radio listeners to throw the devil horns at quotations from Rodolphe Kreutzer's Etude No. 2.

TONY LEVIN OF KING CRIMSON | "ELEPHANT TALK" | DISCIPLINE [1981] | True, this may be the clarion call that launched a thousand Primuses, but Levin's skronky fluidity is a sound to behold regardless of your tolerance for prog signifiers.

RANDY RHOADS OF OZZY OSBOURNE | "FLYING HIGH AGAIN" | BARK AT THE MOON [1981] | Few guitarists made classical flourishes sound as rad as RR, and this is arguably his finest moment: from 2:18 to 2:47, he takes a pretty standard rocker and turns it on its head, with mohawked Beethovens and Mozarts headbanging in heaven.

ANGUS YOUNG OF AC/DC | "THUNDERSTRUCK" | THE RAZOR'S EDGE [1989] | It takes real innovation to come up with a two-hand tapping riff so amazingly bad-ass that you can open up a stadium show with it. "Thunderstruck" synthesizes everything that rules about metal and rock and runs it through a classical meatgrinder, spraying the blood of awesome everywhere in the process.

BRIAN GIBSON OF LIGHTNING BOLT | "CROWN OF STORMS" | WONDERFUL RAINBOW [2003] | The guitar heroes of the '90s tended to eschew hair-metal techniques like tapping (and practicing, and tuning . . . ), and that makes the return of tap in the hands of this two-person noise ensemble all the more unlikely. Simultaneously childlike, joyous, and furious, Gibson's tap attack here fits right in with the sensory-overload rock that's Lightning Bolt's specialty.

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  Topics: Music Features , Ozzy Osbourne, Angus Young, Brian Gibson,  More more >
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