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Slapping Guitar Like Japanese Sensation Miyavi: Part 1 - Mastering the Slap

Updated on February 7, 2013
Miyavi at Irving Plaza
Miyavi at Irving Plaza | Source

Miyavi’s unique style of playing the guitar has quickly gained attention globally. While it holds similarities to the funk style of slapping a guitar its rapid fire and twangy sounds are more associated with the folk music of Japan. As Miyavi said, he needed a reason why “a Japan guy plays guitar.”

It’s not just Miyavi’s unique style of playing, but also the way is able to make smash hits with the style. Many guitarists can play technically well, but very few in our modern day have personal style and talent to make songs that end up on the top ten charts.

Recently I saw a YouTube post saying “I tried slapping the guitar and it didn’t work!” This guide is to help all those poor struggling guitarists who can’t make the sound they hear on Miyavi tracks. Or maybe you don’t know who Miyavi is or care and you’re just looking for a cool new party trick. Trust me when you slap a guitar, people stop and stare.

Miyavi Performing on Studio Brussels

The Guitar

It’s possible to use a few Miyavi tricks on an electric guitar; however, the majority of the technique is on an acoustic. A good standard acoustic will be fine. Make sure the body isn’t too small or anything. I recommend trying out guitars and listening for that good twangy sound when slapped.

The action on the guitar should be moderately loose, but not too loose. Action is how easy it is to apply the strings to the fret board.

Proper hand position for slapping.
Proper hand position for slapping.


Hold your hand over the strings with the palm open. The palm open position is the most correct and easiest way to perform the Miyavi Slap.

Your forearm should be resting on the top back curve of the guitar very gently.

Now you’re ready to slap.

The Slap

The best way to produce the sound is to hit the guitar with the hard middle joint of your thumb. Aim to hit the top string with it.

The slap should be a simple flick of your wrist in the direction of the string. When you hit the string rebound your hand away from the string. Don’t let your forearm leave the body of the guitar. If you did this right you should hear the sharp twangy sound of a slap.

If not, don’t feel bad. It may take a while before you get the sound just right.

Common Mistakes

People will often just slap down on the strings and then not move their hand away. The thumb ends up resting on the string and doesn’t allow it to vibrate.

You need to rebound your wrist as soon as you hit the string.

Another mistake people often make is balling up their fist and just having their thumbs out. Certainly this would be correct for American Folk and Funk, but for the Miyavi Slap this is bad form and will hinder you as you continue to learn.

Start out nice and slow. You’re not gonna be an expert in a day. This is gonna take some time to work on. That’s why I started off our first guide with just the basic slap.

Putting it to Music

None of my fantastic claims about Miyavi would be true if we couldn’t actually apply our technique to music so let’s get to it.

We’re going to learn just a very basic riff you will often hear at the beginning of Miyavi songs and improvisations.

This will only involve the two top strings of the guitar. (And for some reason Americans take that as the bottom two strings. Anyway, the two strings closest to you.) Here’s a nice tab:

All: 2---2------2---/4-----------------------------2

Ell: 0---0^3---0^3/5----5^7----3^5-6--/5--/3---0

This is just a short a simple variation of a standard opening by Miyavi.

Good luck to you guitarists and I will see you all next time.

Here Is How You Should Be Playing the Riff


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    • rebekahELLE profile image

      rebekahELLE 4 years ago from Tampa Bay

      Your title caught my attention on the feed. I love this. I've never heard of Miyavi, but I'm impressed. Very catchy style, and it doesn't look easy. You've shared some great tips in an easy to read format.