Thumping, Glitch, and Butterfly Tapping: Innovations in Guitar Technique in the New Millennium

Alexander Vallejo, Jan Herbst

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Guitar playing styles have gradually though substantially changed over time. Basic soloing techniques of the acoustic guitar have been adopted and modified on the electric guitar in many ways to suit its affordances and musical contexts in genres like blues, rock, and metal. String players and gipsy guitarists already practised tapping and sweep picking commonly associated with the electric guitar. A fundamental change in playing techniques brought the new millennium, primarily due to technological advances such as extended-range guitars. Established techniques were adapted to new instrument designs and their use in progressive musical styles. These developments were accompanied by altered playing techniques to realize melodic ideas or special effects, rather than devoting entire sections to one technique, as was common in the 1980s. In addition to outlining the evolution of fundamental playing techniques, this chapter introduces novel approaches to melodic playing in three areas: percussive techniques, tapping, and the use of the thumb. The analysis of contemporary techniques includes adaptations from the electric bass that inspired thumping, slapping, and popping techniques. As far as tapping is concerned, traditional “shred tapping” is complemented by forms of pianistic multi-finger and multi-role tapping as well as percussive glitch and butterfly tapping. Finally, the examination of thumb use demonstrates that the fretting hand thumb over the neck is no longer common; instead, the picking hand thumb is involved in techniques such as “under-strumming”. The chapter shows how these techniques are used in subgenres of progressive rock and metal, where virtuosity is expected and where guitarists must actively explore unique ways of playing to distinguish themselves from other excellent players.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to the Electric Guitar
EditorsJan Herbst, Steve Waksman
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781009224420
ISBN (Print)9781009224451
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 13 Dec 2022

Publication series

NameCambridge Companions to Music
PublisherCambridge University Press


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