Why is Your Guitar Tapping Not Making Sound? 9 Reasons

your guitar tapping isnt making a sound

Guitar tapping is one of the most beautiful techniques. It lets you speed up your playstyle, but why can’t you get any noises out of the instrument? Before giving up on this timeless classic, there are plenty of things to consider. From here on out, you don’t have to worry about not making enough noise with your tapping methods.

Your guitar tapping isn’t making a sound because you aren’t tapping hard enough, the action is off, or you aren’t employing the correct pull-off technique. Other reasons include inaccuracy, device issues, incorrect hand placements, and a lack of practice.

Throughout this post, you’ll learn all of the corrections you need to make to fix your guitar tapping issues. By the end of this article, you won’t have to worry about why your guitar tapping isn’t making sounds.

your guitar tapping isnt making a sound

You Aren’t Tapping Hard Enough

Guitar Gear Finder explains that some of the most common mistakes start with not tapping hard enough. If you don’t put enough pressure on the strings with your right hand, you likely won’t hear anything from the sound hole or the amp.

One of the easiest ways to make sure you tap hard enough is to listen for a tone change. Pluck the string, tap the desired fret, and listen. If the tone changes, you’re headed in the right direction. If it stays the same, fades, or buzzes, you should apply more pressure.

The Action Is Too High

Having a high action on your guitar means you have to press a lot harder than you should. As you read above, not tapping hard enough can prevent your guitar tapping from making sounds. The good news is that you can adjust the action very quickly. All you need is an Allen key and a ruler to get started.

Follow these steps to reduce the action:

  1. Flatten the neck by adjusting the truss rod. Your truss rod can be adjusted by accessing the adjustment nut. It’s usually found in the sound hole near the base of the neck. Turning the adjustment rod will force the guitar neck in the opposite direction. You should aim to make it as flat as you can without buzzing the strings.
  2. Test the 12th fret’s height with a ruler. Your guitar’s low E string should be 0.028mm above the fret and the high E string should be 0.020mm above the fret. They can be slightly higher or lower, but the strings shouldn’t buzz or be too difficult to compress. If you’re having trouble, consider adjusting the truss rod a bit.
  3. File the nut and saddle if necessary. Switching to bigger strings occasionally calls for modifications. The nut and saddle support the strings. If the grooves are too shallow, the strings will be a bit too high above the fretboard. The result is a set of strings that have high action and are too hard to press.
  4. Stretch the strings to make them more flexible. Hold one string with your left hand and gently bend it up and down with your right hand. Do this motion to each of the strings, tune the guitar, then firmly press the strings between the nut and the tuning pegs. Tune the guitar again if it loses its tune from stretching the strings.
  5. Tighten the tuning pegs. If the tuning pegs get too loose, they’ll reduce the action. Loose strings tend to dip toward the fretboard, regardless of the bridge, nut, and truss rod. This can also happen if you have worn strings. However, loose tuning pegs can also pull the strings, which makes them higher than they need to be.

The Action Is Too Low

If the action is too low, you won’t produce enough noise while guitar tapping. This problem occurs because there aren’t enough vibrations coming from the strings. Guitar tapping is useless if the vibrations can’t make it to the bridge. All you have to do is raise the action a little bit to correct this common concern.

the action is too low

Try these suggestions to raise the action:

  • Turn the truss rod in the opposite direction. Much like lowering the truss rod, you can use the adjustment nut to raise the truss rod. Use an Allen key and turn it in small measurements. A little bit of an adjustment goes a long way with the truss rod; turning it too much can crack the neck.
  • Replace the nut. If the nut is too low, you can add a temporary pad to elevate the strings. However, it’s much more reliable to replace the nut. To do this, remove the strings, lift the nut with a putty knife, and use an adhesive to secure the new like-for-like nut to the guitar. Wait until the adhesive dries to reattach the strings.
  • Replace the saddle. Much like the nut, a low-sitting saddle lowers the action too much. Remove the strings, lift the saddle, and replace it with the same make and model from the manufacturer. Many saddles don’t use adhesives. Instead, they sit in a groove on top of the bridge. If your saddle has an adhesive, don’t forget to glue the new one, too.
  • Make sure the bridge is secured to the guitar. If the bridge moves around, it’ll loosen the strings and lower the action. It’s very rare for a loose bridge to raise the action. Replace or secure the bridge by placing taping around it. Lay a hot wet towel over the bridge, then gently blow dry it until the bridge comes off with a putty knife.
  • Get new guitar strings if necessary. Old strings can get too loose, which makes them dip towards the fretboard. You can keep raising the action, but the worn strings won’t go up for more than a few practice sessions. You can also take this time to inspect the nut, bridge, and saddle if necessary.

Wrong Pull-Off Techniques

Most beginners focus on pressing the string. However, tapping is only half of the technique. It’s essential to pull off the string with enough force. Not only does it produce a louder tone with more vibrations, but it also provides the unique percussion sound guitarists know and love. Your pull-off technique could make or break your guitar tapping.

Here’s how you can pull your finger off the string correctly:

  • Flick down. Flicking down while tapping guitar strings is the most common method. Tap with a bit of force, quickly rotate your finger downward, then pick it. It’s almost like a mini version of a strum or fingerpick. This quick motion should be slowed down until you master it; otherwise, you’ll likely hit a few other strings under it.
  • Pull up. If you don’t want to flick down, you can pull up after tapping. Much like the aforementioned method, all you have to do is rotate your finger in the desired direction. Push it toward the low E string, then pick it off like a strum or fingerpick. This method is often preferred by people with thick fingers.
  • Slide to another fret. If you don’t want to dive into flicking up or down, you could slide to another fret. This motion fades the tapping sound into the higher or lower fret. Keep in mind that it reduces the percussion sound, which may or may not matter based on your desired outcome. Make sure you slide to a fret that suits the current scale.
  • Hammer a nearby fret. If you’re worried about the previously mentioned methods, you could hammer one or two strings up the fretboard. Much like sliding to another fret, you’ll notice the fret that’s tapped second or third in a row is much quieter. However, it can be a useful technique for slow-paced guitar tapping.

If you’re interested in learning more about pulling off of the string while tapping your guitar, review this helpful video guide:

The Strings Are Too Heavy

Heavy strings are harder to compress. Consider switching to lighter strings or focusing your efforts on the high E string. This method ensures that you don’t have to slam the strings when tapping the guitar. Lighter strings are also better for fingerpicking, which you can blend with guitar tapping and percussion.

However, the gauge is irrelevant if you can’t hit the right strings and frets. Read on to learn more about guitar tapping accuracy mistakes.

the strings are too heavy

Accuracy Is the Issue

If you’re not accurate enough, you won’t be able to hear anything when you’re tapping your guitar. Accuracy is perhaps the most important part of the process. If you miss the proper fret, hit a bar, or don’t hold the left hand in the right position, you won’t be able to make enough sounds. Other issues include moving too quickly and not recognizing patterns.

Let’s take an in-depth look at each of these accuracy problems below.

  • Missing the right fret: If you hit the wrong fret, you’ll notice the tone is completely different than you expected. Furthermore, the lack of intonation could silence the tapping motion. Make sure your finger is as close to a 90-degree angle as possible. This motion will prevent you from hitting the wrong fret.
  • Hitting the bar between the frets: Guitar Unit shows a lot of beginners aim for speed, so they hit the bar between each fret. The bar is where the string hits to generate vibrations at the proper tone. If you tap the bar, you’ll buzz the string and stop the vibration. Instead, aim for the center of each fret.
  • Rapid movements: Tapping too quickly will make you miss the fret, hit the bar, or not apply enough pressure to the strings. Almost every mistake starts with tapping too quickly. Slow down a bit and take your time to focus on accuracy, then you’ll naturally get quicker when you learn the proper techniques.
  • Pattern issues: Many beginners try to jump into tapping multiple frets in a pattern. For example, you could hold your left hand on the bottom string, fifth fret. Your right hand would go on the same string, but alternating between the eighth and twelve frets. Instead, stick with two frets, such as the fifth with the left and the eighth with the right.
  • Tapping the wrong strings: If you have your left hand on the fifth string and you accidentally tap the sixth string, you won’t hear much noise. If you hear anything, it’ll be an out-of-tune sound. Make sure you’re tapping the correct string, especially if you have a full chord with the left hand.

Device Malfunctions

Not all of your guitar tapping instruments are caused by your hands or the strings. In fact, using the wrong devices, malfunctioning cables, and various other hardware issues can ruin the tapping sounds. Whether you’re using amps, audio interfaces, digital audio workstations, or direct computer connections, there’s always a chance for technology to fail.

device malfunctions digital audio workstations

So, what kind of device malfunctions can interfere with your guitar tapping sounds?

  • The cables aren’t transmitting the signal correctly. Old cables will ruin your guitar tapping. You might be able to hear it through the sound hole of an acoustic guitar, but your electric guitar won’t make any tapping noises with a bad cable. Test the cable on another device to see if it needs to be replaced.
  • Your audio interface doesn’t have the proper settings. Audio interfaces can transmit the right signal, but it’s important to monitor and adjust the volume, gain, and other factors. If there’s not enough tone, you won’t hear the guitar tapping coming through the speakers, amplifiers, or computer.
  • The digital audio workstation isn’t programmed to your liking. Much like the audio interface, it’s crucial that you adjust your DAW as necessary. Garage Band, Audacity, and many other digital audio workstations let you adjust the settings on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. Try turning up the treble to hear the tapping more clearly.
  • Your guitar’s pickup is broken or damaged. Guitar pickups convert the instrument’s vibrations to digital signals. These signals can be amplified with an amp, speaker, computer, and many other devices. If the pickup is damaged or the phase switch is flipped in the wrong direction, you won’t hear any tapping.
  • The amplifier isn’t set the right way. Amplifiers have similar controls and adjustments to DAWs and audio interfaces. If the volume or gain is too low, you likely won’t hear the guitar tapping on an electric guitar. Check these settings, then determine if the fault is on the amp or the guitar.

Incorrect Left Hand Placement

The left hand is often overlooked. People focus on the right hand since it does most of the tapping. Make sure your left hand has the proper strings covered with your fingers in the center of each fret.

It’s also important to ensure that none of your fingers touch the frets between the tapped string and the chord. This placement will cause buzzing sounds and dull the sound output.

incorrect left hand placement

Not Enough Practice

As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. Guitar tapping is a challenging technique that’s increasingly difficult for beginners. It’s much easier to master once you know the basics of slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs, etc. However, this technique can be simplified by knowing how to practice with the goal of being a bit louder.

Keep these suggestions in mind when practicing your guitar tapping:

  • Always start by practicing slowly. There’s no need to rush through your guitar tapping practice sessions. If you go too quickly, you’ll miss muscle memory and individual movements. Even if you’re an expert, it’s a good idea to start the session slow because you’ll retain the basic concepts much easier.
  • Keep the tapped frets as close to the chorded fret as possible. For example, there’s no need to go more than two or three frets higher when you start your guitar tapping journey. Wait until you’re comfortable with producing the volume and speed you desire, then go up the fretboard.
  • Don’t forget to pull off and hammer on with the left hand. You don’t have to put all of your practice and effort into the right hand. You can use the same flick-down and pull-up methods with both hands. However, this technique should be mastered once you’re familiar with tapping with the right hand.
  • Consider starting with one string rather than forming a chord. The high E string is often seen as the easiest string to tap. It’s lighter than the rest of the strings. It also doesn’t have any strings below it, which means you don’t have to worry about hitting unwanted strings and frets.
  • Strum before tapping until you master the process. Strumming vibrates the strings, which resonates in the sound hole when you tap the frets. It’s a great way to get used to the patterns without having to focus too much on pulling off the string. You can eventually mix strumming with guitar tapping for an advanced, beautiful melody.

Final Thoughts

Guitar tapping can be complicated, but you’ll find a whole lot of relief by using the techniques found above. Remember to start with a slow, rhythmic pattern before diving into advanced tapping methods. Proper placement and accuracy are far more valuable than speed.

David Sandy

Hey there! My name is David Sandy and I'm the founder of Sandy Music Lab. I've been playing guitar for several years now and created this site to be able to share and explore music with others. Check out my recommended guitar gear!

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