One of the most difficult aspects of two-handed tapping is, arguably, keeping the strings quiet. While experimenting with ways to remedy this (and getting nowhere fast), it struck me: Why not ask an expert? When it comes to two-handed tapping, the first person I think of is the amazing Jennifer Batten. Jennifer is a fantastic overall guitarist, one of the few who have an identifiable voice on the instrument. And she is one helluva tapper, to say the least.
Despite my reluctance to send strangers unsolicited email asking for favors, I couldn’t resist asking Jennifer about how to keep the strings quiet when tapping. Jennifer is a class act; not only did she answer my question, but she replied within 24 hours.
Question: “How do you keep the strings quiet for multi-fingered tapping when you don’t/can’t use a damper unit?” Apparently, the string damper is so central to her technique that she doesn’t play without one:
Sometimes when I’ve recorded in the past I’ve used an old sock tied around the first fret. But for live playing I’ve been using a string damper since the 80’s. I have a damper museum on my site.
In fact, she is developing her own damper model, scheduled to be released by All Parts later this year.
Jennifer is not the only great player who uses a damper to keep the strings quiet. For example, the brilliant Greg Howe uses a hair tie to mute the strings when tapping. Michael Angelo Batio is another damper devotee, although readers may disagree about whether he represents a good role model or a cautionary warning.
Jennifer’s most recent project is a new CD/DVD, Whatever, scheduled for US release in October 2007. She’s keeping the recording process fresh by exploring computer music editing and experimenting with new sounds.
I’ve got a a whole new thing being launched soon. It’s not just a new CD but there’s a DVD as well full of music videos and interviews and a lesson on tapping also. Although I’ve used films from 4 other people, I’ve gotten into film making myself and am cranking out more as we speak. I will tour doing a multimedia video show, playing in sync with the tracks.
Other interests: You would think that being a fantastic guitarist would keep her busy enough, but Jennifer finds time to pursue other arts as well:
I’ve also gotten way deep into making art glass and will be bringing some of that on the road as well.
Guitarists may be particularly interested in her guitar pick necklaces.
What conclusions can we draw? If keeping the strings quiet when tapping is a particular problem for you, using a damper unit is a viable option. When Jennifer’s new string damper model is released, I’ll be ordering one to try (and will post the results of the experiment here).
However, given that damper units may not appeal to all guitarists, with luck I’ll be posting follow-up interviews from other killer players who tap without them, to see what they can teach us about keeping the strings quiet.
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