The roots of two handed tapping on a guitar go back centuries. In the 20th century, pioneers like Roy Smeck, Jimmy Webster, and most notably Emmett Chapman developed their own style on various instruments dating back to the 30's. That said, Eddie Van Halen took the style to revolutionary new levels on his solo performance of 'Eruption' on the 1978 'Van Halen' album. Throughout his career, he's continued to utilize tapping in his bag of tricks, so effectively that pop culture has assigned him the title "Inventor of Tapping".
Recently, Smithsonian Public Square hosted Eddie for a series called 'What it Means to be American', that discusses American culture and innovation. In the interview he talks about his early inspirations and shows an audience some tips and tricks.
I love this video. First, because Eddie is a legendary player. To see him wale on his guitar so effortlessly in a conference room full of suits, is ironically gratifying. Secondly though, now with short gray hair and his aging gruff voice, he comes off like one of my uncle's old biker buddies. Less like a hot shot guitar slinger. In this setting, the godfather of Hard Rock appears more like a wise old Gandalf teaching the fellowship about the ring.
Also below is Eddie's 10 minute live solo performed August 27, 1986 at New Haven's Veterans Memorial Coliseum.