Bass|
Legato| Metal| Tapping

Jyri Helko’s Guide to Bass Tapping

Jyri Helko (Oceanhoarse, Warmen)
Difficulty: Advanced, Intermediate

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Classic Bass Tapping Patterns

Here are some essential patterns when building up a solid foundation for a classic tapping technique. I named these patterns based on how I first encountered them and which players inspired me to learn them.

So instead of being a historically correct ”who-invented-what” list, the names included below are intended to be more like a rough guideline where to look for more stuff with similar ideas.

Example 1
”Van Halen” style pattern

This is the essential tapping pattern to start practicing with. Make sure to do a little pull-off with the right hand after the tapped note to make sure that the next note rings as loud as the first one.

Example 2
”Kirk Hammett” style pattern

This is the more ”metal” version of the same pattern with all the notes descending. Again, make sure to do the little pull-off after the tapped note and try to anchor your right hand thumb on the edge of the neck to keep a better balance when hitting the notes.

Example 3
”Paul Gilbert” style classic combo

This is a combination of the first two patterns. It might take a while to get it down, but start slowly and play just a couple of repetitions first to get the feel of the lick down to your muscle memory before attempting longer passages.

Example 4
”Billy Sheehan” style repetitive pattern

This is a variation of the lick above. The fretting hand pattern is the same as in the previous example, but we bounce between two different positions with the tapped notes. This pattern is especially useful when playing scales up and down on one string.

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Tip

When tapping (and playing bass in general), avoid open-string ringing at all costs!

For example try placing your fretting hand fingers a bit flat so that the lean against the strings you’re not playing and dampen the low-E string with the tip of your right hand thumb.

Moving Around the Neck

After getting down the patterns, try out different scales: mainly the pentatonic scale and the basic major / natural minor scale. Here are a couple of examples to showcase the different ways of moving around the neck. Try practicing all of the four main patterns above in different positions and with different string combinations.

Example 5
Moving up and down on one string (D Natural Minor Scale)

Example 6
Moving around the strings while staying in one position (D minor pentatonic)

After these exercises feel comfortable, let’s take a look at some ideas how to use the tapping technique in different situations.

Example 7
Descending Minor Pentatonic | Oceanhoarse - Locks (1:58 - 2:00)

This 6-note pattern is without a doubt the one I’ve used the most throughout the years. I love the classic sound of it and its chameleon-like ability to fit in to various situations with a very little fine tuning. On the upcoming Oceanhoarse album, I use it as a bass fill before a big crescendo leading to a guitar solo.

Example 8
Adding Tap-Slides | For the Imperium - Breathing Life in You (0:33 - 0:38)

I came up with this lick when practicing the scale patterns, and eventually it ended up to be an essential part of a song that brought my former band For the Imperium to a spotlight.

The lick is again based on a classic 6-note pentatonic pattern that is moved around the neck: first ascending and then descending. The trick here is to play with the tap-slide which breaks the main pattern for a moment adding a nice melodic flavor to the lick.

The tap-slide is done by tapping the first note with the right hand and then holding it down while sliding it up two frets and then continuing the pattern as usual. 

Example 9
Tapped Harmonics | Warmen - Japanese Hospitality (2:36 - 2:40)

You can also use the tapping technique to play harmonics. This is done by holding the fretting hand on the note you want to hear and tapping lightly the same note 12 frets above with the right hand. So, the basic formula here is to think about the first 12 frets as a base for the fretting hand and the frets above the 12th fret to be the same notes but for the right hand to tap. This technique gives us a nice and subtle octave-above effect which I tend to use quite a lot when playing melodies.

The example below shows how to expand the range of the regular 24-fret bass guitar neck by tapping the imaginary 25th fret to get the harmonic ringing. 

Example 10
String Skipping with Tapping Technique | For the Imperium - Ignition (0:17 -0:19)

One of the ways to come up with more creative tapping lines is to play the same scale patterns in different order.

Here’s an example how to turn a descending minor pentatonic / blues scale pattern into a fierce fusion jazz -sounding lick.

The trick here is to use the string skipping and repeating the same pattern twice in the middle of the lick.

This lick was originally written by Ville Suorsa who played guitar in the band, so it’s a bit trickier on bass but totally playable once you break it down and practice the tricky parts separately.

It’s good to step out from your comfort zone every once in a while.

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Tip

You can also use the tapping technique to play harmonics (see EXAMPLE 9).

This is done by holding the fretting hand on the note you want to hear and tapping lightly the same note 12 frets above with the right hand.

Artist Spotlight

Oceanhoarse is a four piece metal band based in Helsinki, Finland. Although the band is relatively new, Oceanhoarse have already toured Japan and Central Europe as well as played several festivals in Finland.

The band has gained a reputation as a strong live act with their ”Screw Your Backing Tracks” attitude and the solo spots delivered by bass player Jyri Helko (Warmen, ex-For the Imperium) and guitarist Ben Varon (ex-Amoral).

After releasing a bunch of singles, a live album and the EP Voluntary Bends, their debut studio album ’Dead Reckoning’ is going to be released in August 2021 via Noble Demon Records.

Private Bass Lessons with Jyri

Are you interested in learning from the master himself? Contact Jyri for private bass lessons via Instagram DM: @jjhelko

Listen to Oceanhoarse

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Jyri Helko’s Guide to Bass Tapping

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