Important Techniques for Mastering Lead Guitar – Hammer Ons, Pull Offs & Tapping

Some of the greatest guitar compositions have made it to the hall of fame thanks to their lead guitarists. Lead guitar refers to a the use of a guitar to perform melody lines, instrumental fill passages, and guitar solos within a song structure. Guitarists like Van Halen, Steve Vai, David Gilmour, John Petrucci, Dave Mustaine, Tom Morello, Kirk Hammett, Jimmy Page, Dave Murray, Joe Satriani, Steve Morse and many more have popularized the art of playing the Lead guitar.

Mastering the lead guitar takes time and effort. To master it you will need to use different and advanced scales, arpeggios, modes, riffs and licks. If you are thinking of becoming a lead guitarist then you will have to master various techniques of playing solo starting with hammer ons, pull offs and tapping.

Hammer Ons

Hammer-ons are normally played with pull-offs and are also known as slurs. A hammer if used on a lead guitar can create a smooth sound between different notes and is considered to be a great way of rendering a solo performance. It can be seen as playing multiple notes in one strike. Something like playing multiple notes on a saxophone in one breath. It is the slur effect that makes the hammer a must for playing lead guitar. Just as the name sounds, a hammer-on means striking an open string. Hammer on is extremely useful for strumming patterns in which you would be required to hold on to a particular chord for a few seconds.


For lead guitar playing, to accentuate the rhythm, you use a hammer on first and then play it backward, which is a pull off. To play this better, you should ideally start with two fingers on your fretboard. Let's take an example: if the index finger is at the 5th fret on your guitar's D string and if your ring finger is on the 7th fret then try picking the note at the 7th fret. At the point when the note rings, pull-off the ring finger, which will leave your index finger on the 5th fret. The sound that you get will be similar to a slurring effect and is a pull off.


Tapping is a popular lead guitar technique that has been used by many great guitarists. Associated mainly with an electric guitar, you can use the tapping technique on almost all kinds of string instruments. There are two types of tapping technique: The one-handed tapping also known as ordinary tapping, and the two-handed tapping. Some of the lead guitar experts consider it to be an extended technique. The technique will require you to tap the strings of your lead guitar using the use the fingers of one hand and this will sound like legato notes. But remember successful tapping requires the use of both the hands. Van Halen used the tap-pull-hammer method in his highly successful number called "Eruption" to create a long cascade consisting of several tapped notes.