In this lesson we'll do three main
things: get introduced to hammer ons as a guitar
technique, play around with some exercises to get all our fingers
using different intervals, and finally we'll look at larger lead
guitar phrases that use more than one "hammer".
But first, for those of us who
are new to this technique...
What are hammer ons?
As the name suggests,
"hammering on" involves fretting a string as usual, but landing down on
the string with more speed and force (like a hammer action!) so the
note sounds without
having to pick it. Most often, the hammer on technique involves two or
Simple! However, in a bit
we'll see there's more to
it than that...
hammer on exercises
The main thing we need to do is get all our fingers involved
in the physical hammer on action. Beginners are often taught to hammer
using the ring finger, but all fingers are at some
going to be required to hammer on in different positions throughout a
practical way to begin is to use the minor pentatonic scale. Hammering
on up and down this scale is a useful exercise to get physically
used to the technique.
familiarise yourself with
the basic, minor pentatonic box pattern...
So, our index/1st finger will be the fretted base of each hammer
each of the strings. Starting with the low E string...
your index finger at the 5th fret (it can be any fret really as this
shape is movable, but we'll stick at fret 5 for this example). Pick the
string as usual, but just after you've picked it, hammer your pinky/4th
finger on to the 8th fret on that same string. It should look something
The key thing is not how much force
you hammer on with, but rather how quick
your finger comes down on to
the string. The hammered note needs to resonate cleanly.
Once you've hammered on, hold it there and assess how well the note
rings out. If it decays too quickly, you'll need to adjust the speed at
which your finger hammers on to the string. Keep referring to the
videos in this lesson until you're happy with your technique.
When writing/reading tab, the h
symbol tells us when a hammer on is used between two frets/notes. So
this is how what we've just played would be tabbed out...
5th fret hammer on to 8th fret.
Let's now move to the next string up in this pentatonic shape - the A string.
We're using exactly the same hammer on technique but this time we'll be
hammering on with our ring/3rd finger.
Even though you're using a different finger, the technique is exactly
Use the same index-ring technique for the D and G strings, and then we're
back to the index-pinky hammer on interval for the B and high E strings.
Once you're confident with your hammer on technique one string at a time,
try hammering your way up and down the pentatonic scale in an
To really set in that "muscle memory", hammer around the scale
pattern in varied, staggered patterns...
also need to get physically comfortable with hammering on between our
index and middle/2nd finger. We can alter the pentatonic pattern
slightly to accomodate this...
another addition - hammering on between our ring/3rd finger and our
pinky/4th finger. I'll just modify that pattern further to accomodate
So now we have a
sequence we can really work all our fingers up and down. It includes
the most common hammer on intervals you'll come across within scales.
Make sure you work on these movements in different positions up the
you're looking for some good hammer on warmup exercises, try using the
below intervals from high E to low E (and then back up, down, up etc.).
more than one hammer on per string
Once you're physically comfortable with the basic hammer on technique,
you can move on to larger phrases by using more than one hammering
finger across each string. When played at speed, this creates what is
known as a "legato" effect. Rather than each note in a sequence being
cleanly separated by a pick stroke, they slur into each other. Some
guitarists refer to this effect a "roll".
we come to learning pull offs, and mix both hammer ons and pull offs in
the same phrase, this legato style of playing will be enhanced further.
A great scale pattern to experiment with this technique is the dorian
two hammer ons per string there (except for the A string). In fact, a
lot of boxed scale patterns that use 3 notes per string will allow you
to put this technique to use. Eventually, you'll be applying hammer ons
over the fretboard.
don't forget to work on instances where two hammer ons might be used in
tighter spaces, such as within three semitones as found within this
extended blues scale pattern...
of course, once you learn scale patterns over a wider fretboard area,
you'll be able to apply multiple hammer ons across wider areas. For
example, this 3 notes per string pattern...
Don't forget to descend from high E to low E using these patterns as
Keep working on the exercises we've covered in this lesson and try and
come up with some of your own. This is all about getting your fingers
physically comfortable with the hammer on action. The more you work on
it, the more confidently you'll be able to apply hammer ons in your