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Lead Guitar Hammer Ons and Pull Offs

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 0

One of the coolest aspects of guitar is all the ways we have of ornamenting notes to make them sound more interesting.  Techniques like vibrato, rakes, slides, and bends, give the guitar a very vocal quality.  In this article we'll talk about two must-have techniques that form the backbone of every lead guitarist's arsenal of tricks.

Hammer On
A hammer on has you picking the first note then "hammering" the second note with a new finger on the same string, without picking it.

Example:  Put your first finger on the 2nd string at the 3rd fret.  Pick that note.  Now, without picking, slam your third finger down on the 5th fret of the same string.  Try to have both notes be the same volume.  You'll get a smooth transition between the notes called "legato".

Keep these things in mind:
- The hammer finger should come down fast and hard so you don't interrupt the vibration of the string.  It's a lot like the old trick of pulling the table cloth out from under the dishes.  Fast works, slow doesn't.

- Use the tip of your finger instead of the pad.  Your finger pads are squishier than the tips, and just that little extra bit of give can disrupt the vibration of the string.

- Work on this until the volumes of both notes are the same.  Also practice this with different combinations of fingers.

Pull Off
A pull off is the exact opposite of a hammer.  This time you'll start with the higher note on the string and "pull off" to the lower one without picking.

Example: Put your third finger on the 2nd string, 9th fret.  Put your first finger on the 7th fret of the same string.  Remember that both fingers have to be in place on the string before the pull off happens.  Pick the first note (the upper one), then pull your third finger off so you hear the note under your first finger.  As you come off, give the string a bit of a pluck with your third finger.  That acts like a pick to keep the string vibrating.  And of course you need consistent volume on both notes.

Keep these ideas in mind:
- You want to flick your finger hard enough to pluck the string, but not so hard that you also flick the string above it.  It takes a bit of practice.

- As above, use your finger tip rather than the pad for better control.

- Work on keeping both notes at the same volume.

Mix them up!
If you combine hammer ons and pull offs in a rapid succession on two notes it's called a Trill.  It's a technique used for hundreds of years in every style of music.  They're also a great workout for your left hand.

Use these techniques and your legato lead guitar skills will be one step closer to Guitar God status!



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