Lead Guitar – Hammer-Ons and Pull-Offs

There are several types of “tricks” that guitarists use when they play lead guitar. One is called a “hammer-on”, and another is called a “pull-off”.

Executing hammer-ons and pull-offs will not only improve your speed when you play lead guitar, they make your playing smoother and produce a different type of sound than if you play the notes individually.

Some simple hammer-ons:

E 0——-H2—————————–

B 0——–H2—————————–

G 0——–H2——————————

D 0——–H2——————————

A 0——–H2——————————-

E 0——–H2——————————-

Starting from the high E string, and continuing down the strings, pick the open string, then “hammer” your finger down onto the 2nd fret without picking it. Try to make the “hammered” note the same volume as the picked open string.

Some simple pull-offs:

E 0———P2———————————

B 0———P2——————————–

G 0———P2———————————

D 0———P2———————————

A 0———P2———————————

E 0———P2———————————

Again, starting from the high E string start with your 2nd finger and pick that note. Then “flick” your finger off the fret producing the open stringed note without picking that note. Don’t flick too hard — just hard enough to produce a good tone on the second note.

Next, try this:

E –1——————H4————————–

B –1——————H4————————–

G –1———–H3———————————

D –1———–H3———————————

A –1———–H3———————————

E –1——————-H4————————-

This, by the way is a pentatonic scale. Use the pick for all 1st fret notes, and hammer all 3rd and 4th fret notes. You should end up with both of your fingers still on the guitar (string by string).

Now, using this same scale, do pull-offs. In order to do this, you must have your fingers on both of the frets involved to start with. For example, on the first fret you will start with your 1st finger on the 1st fret AND your 4th finger on the 4th fret. Then you will pick the note that your 4th finger is on, then flick off to the first finger.

As a bit of a finger-twister exercise, try alternating hammer-ons and pull-offs:

E string 1-4 hammer

B string 4-1 pull-off

G string 1-3 hammer

D string 3-1 pull-off

A string 1-3 hammer

E string 4-1 pull-off

If you’re not used to doing, this start out slow and get all of the notes clear and even sounding. Then gradually increase your tempo until you can play these very fast. The key word here is GRADUALLY. You won’t play fast if you can’t play slow.

If you have an electric, try cranking up your amp at a good overdrive or distortion level. Judge your progress on your technique and adjust accordingly. Just keep in mind that doing these things at high volume and distortion levels tends to cover up mistakes and bad technique. If you can execute hammer-ons and pull-offs well on a clean setting, they will sound that much better when you crank it up. Work on good technique and not short cuts.