Learn the Hammer-On Technique from a Fingerstyle Master

Posted by Alex de Grassi

Hammer-ons and pull-offs are graphically represented by a slur, or curved line, connecting the notes, as shown in Example 1. When the pitch ascends, the slur represents a hammer-on. When the pitch descends, the slur represents a pull-off. The tablature might be additionally marked with an H for a hammer-on and a P for a pull-off, though this marking is not considered necessary.

Hammer Ons Ex1_2
Click to enlarge tab.

A hammer-on can begin with plucking either an open or a fretted note. Each hammer-on in Example 2 begins with an eighth note played on an open string followed by a hammered eighth note (note that this example is played in second position). In preparation, the fretting-hand finger should be raised as much as an inch above the fingerboard. After you pluck the open string with the designated picking-hand finger, hammer the fretting hand finger down quickly, keeping the fingertip perpendicular to the fingerboard. The motion should originate by engaging the knuckle joint of the fretting-hand finger. As with the picking-hand hinge, this is where the power and ultimate control lies.

Excerpted from The Alex de Grassi Fingerstyle Guitar Method

Receive lessons, songs, advice, and news like this straight to your inbox

Join the Learn the Hammer-On Technique from a Fingerstyle Master discussion