In this lesson we will be exploring the world of hammer-ons and pull-offs which is, as their names suggest, using your fretting hand to “hammer-on” or “pull-off” a string instead of picking it. If you have never heard of these terms before, then you will definitely need to watch the videos (make use of the full screen feature too) so your able to see it in action. As with many other techniques, this one can take quite a while to get going, so don’t expect too much at first. For those of you who are more experienced, you may want to skip to the last part of this lesson (riffs A & B).
let’s begin with hammer-ons and looking at example A below, the first note is on the fifth fret, fourth string, this note you pick, but the next note is to be a hammer-on so you need to hit the seventh fret with the pad/tip of your finger as per the video. The next note on the fifth fret, third string, is to be picked, then the seventh fret which is another hammer-on. Before moving onto the next part of this exercise, just go through what we have done so far in a repeating pattern until you feel comfortable (5-7, 5-7 etc), don’t expect to nail it right away though.
Now we have a three note stretch using your fourth finger so starting on the fifth fret, second string, this first note is to be picked, the next note on the eighth fret is to be played using your fourth finger as a hammer-on. The next note which is on the fifth fret, first string is to be picked, then onto the eighth fret which is a hammer-on. Can you see the entire pattern now? This stretch between the fifth and eighth frets may be hard for some, but keep practicing and you will get there.
Now onto exercise B on the second line which is simply a minor pentatonic scale played using hammer-ons. Take a look at the pattern first and try to put it to memory, just remember to use your first finger on the fifth frets, your third finger on any seventh frets and your fourth finger on any eighth frets. Once you have the pattern down, it’s time to start the hammer-on technique. Take a look at the tablature and you will see which notes have to be hammered-on, it’s every second note really so it’s easy to remember. Start to slowly go through the pattern you have memorized and make sure you look at the video. Once you have this exercise down it’s time to move onto the next part of this lesson focused on pull-offs.
A pull-off is the opposite of a hammer-on, instead of hammering on a note, you kind of “flick off” the string with your finger which produces a soft attack. Take a look at the video to see this technique in practice.
The first exercise is the reverse of the previous hammer-on exercise and it starts on the seventh fret, third string, this note you pick, then pull your finger off using a slight downwards action which will flick the string slightly and make the next note on the fifth fret, third string sound out. Now we just repeat this process starting on the seventh fret, fourth string which you pick, and then pull off to the fifth fret.
Once your comfortable with the previous section let’s move on to the eighth fret, first string using your fourth finger and pick this note, now for the pull off technique which will make the next note on the fifth fret, first string sound out. Once again we repeat this process starting on the seventh fret, second string via pick, then pull off to the fifth fret.
After practicing this part of the exercise enough to have it sounding good with clear and even tones, it’s now time to join up these two sections to form a singular exercise. This can take some time and is difficult to play fast, but speed is not the goal of this exercise, all we want is the pull off technique.
Now for the next exercise which is basically a minor pentatonic scale played using pull-offs. As with the minor pentatonic scale played with hammer-ons, take a look at the pattern first and try to put it to memory, just remember to use your first finger on the fifth frets, your third finger on any seventh frets and your fourth finger on any eighth frets. Once you have put the pattern to memory, it’s time to start the pull off technique. We start at the eighth fret, first string and pick, then pull off to the fifth fret. Repeat this process for each string keeping the minor pentatonic scale pattern in mind as well as a nice, steady speed at which no mistakes are made (however slow this may be). Look at the tablature and watch the video to get a closer idea of the technique and scale pattern.
Combining hammer-ons & pull offs lesson
Now for the last part of this lesson which combines both hammer-ons and pull-offs in two riffs, A & B.
Blues riff (A)
This is a relatively easy blues riff in the key of A minor and starts with a picked note on the fifth fret, first string, then a hammer-on to the eighth followed by a pull off back to the fifth. Now a simple pull off on the second string, eighth fret (picked) to the fifth (pull off), then onto the third string, eighth fret (picked) and a succession of two pull-offs from the eighth to the seventh, then the seventh to the fifth fret.
Next onto the fourth string, seventh fret (picked) and another succession of two pull-offs from the seventh to the sixth, then the sixth to the fifth frets. Only one note on the fifth string, seventh fret (picked), then to the third string, fifth fret for just a sixteenth note followed by a hammer-on to the sixth fret with some vibrato that finishes off this riff. Check out the video for a better look at riff A and practice it slowly after you have put the sequence to memory.
Blues riff (B)
This is a fair bit harder than the previous so if you struggled with the last riff you might want to come back to this at a later time. A few notes about riff B, there is a position change from the fifth to fourth patterns, along with an almost legato section of four hammer-ons/pull-offs which is the first section.
Starting off with a slide into the tenth fret, second string using your third finger, this is followed by a picked first string, eighth fret and now we enter the legato section with a hammer-on to the tenth fret, another hammer-on to the eleventh fret, followed by a pull off back to the tenth, and a pull off to the eighth. Now play the tenth fret, second string (picked) then the first string, tenth fret (picked) and back to the second string, tenth fret (picked) followed by the first string eighth fret with a hammer-on to the ninth fret, then the tenth fret second string, then a little toggle between the ninth fret, third string and the eighth fret, second string to finish this part of the riff.
Now we change positions from the fifth to fourth patterns starting with the fourth string, seventh fret, then the third string, seventh fret, back to the fourth string seventh fret, then third string, fifth fret and finally the seventh fret, fourth string with some vibrato to finish off. Remember to keep it slow at first and gradually build up speed, it’s not a race, and try to keep an even rhythm by using a metronome or tapping your foot.
This has been a rather large and in depth lesson so I hope you enjoyed it. You may or may not be a fan of blues guitar but I have always found it to be the best style to teach technique, and blues always has great rhythm.
Cheers & enjoy!