How to Hammer-On and Pull-Off

This quick lesson will explain how to correctly do so and even give awesome exercises to help build up coordination!

How to Hammer-On and Pull-Off
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If you're like me, you had a crappy time trying to learn how to hammer-on and pull-off correctly. Never fear though, this quick lesson will explain how to correctly do so and even give awesome exercises to help build up coordination! After this lesson, you'll be on your way to becoming a rock legend, woohoo!

1. The Picking Hand

Before I even get into how to do the techniques, let's talk about the left hand business. Hold your pick in your picking hand (obviously). The correct way to hold a pick is to hold it between your thumb and index finger, almost like a pinch.

DISCLAIMER: DO NOT PINCH THE PICK!!! HOLDING IT TOO HARD IS BAD FOR YOUR PLAYING!!!

With our slight pinch idea in mind, have your thumb holding your pick against your index finger with your index finger slightly curled in (it's almost the same technique used back in 1st grade when everyone thought it was cool to make their hand talk).

2. Hammer-Ons

Assuming you know how to hold the pick correctly and how to strum, we will now cover hammer-ons. A hammer-on is when you strum a note (let's use the E note on the D string) and use another finger on your left hand to hit the desired higher note on the same string; an ideal mental picture is hammering a nail into a board.

If I strum that E note and finger it with my middle finger, I can use my pinky to hammer-on to the F# 2 frets to the right. Get the idea? Here is a little exercise to help you get the gist of hammer-ons.

Legend: h - hammer-on
e|------------------|--------------------|
B|------------------|--------------------|
G|------------------|--------------------|
D|-----------7h9h10-|-7h9h10-------------|
A|-----7h8h10-------|--------7h8h10------|
E|-8h10-------------|---------------8h10-|
Keep going over this exercise until you can successfully do hammer-ons.

3. Pull-Offs

Almost there! Now we get to use pull-offs. A pull-off is when you have strummed one note, let's use F# on the D string, and literally just pull off of the string to a lower note. What I find helpful is not actually pulling off the string vertically... I pull off the string towards the next higher string and mute that higher string with the finger used for the pull-off. 

For example, let's say I strummed the F# on the D string and fingered it with my pinky. I would pull off towards the g string with my pinky, but not strike the g string in a way that will make a sound. Want a mental image? Imagine the strings are super hot and your finger is starting to get burned. Pull your finger off towards the higher string carefully (meaning not sloppily). Guess what!? Here's another exercise :O

Legend: p - pull-off
e|------------------|------------------|
B|------------------|------------------|
G|------------------|------------------|
D|-10p9p7-----------|-----------10p9p7-|
A|-------10p8p7-----|-----10p8p7-------|
E|-------------10p8-|-10p8-------------|

4. Final Tip

Here is the final tip that will help you with your rock mastery: mute the lower strings not being used with your picking hand--this helps cancel out any unwanted tones.

Here is a final exercise to help you get the hang of these techniques, it will be grueling at first but keep with it!

Legend: h - hammer-on
p - pull-off

e|-------------------|------------------|------------------|------------------|
B|-------------------|------------------|------------------|------------------|
G|-------------------|------------------|------------------|------------------|
D|------------7h9h10-|-10p9p7-----------|-7h9h10-----------|-----------10p9p7-|
A|-----7h8h10--------|-------10p8p7-----|-------7h8h10-----|-----10p8p7-------|
E|-8h10--------------|-------------10p8-|-------------8h10-|-10p8-------------|

Keep practicing this exercise! Master the exercise at these speeds: all whole notes, all half notes, all quarter notes, all eighth notes, and all sixteenth notes. You can do it! :D

7 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    JESUSFREA343
    Alright, thanks for your feedback, both of you--this is my first lesson, so thank you for the reinforcement! The metronome is a good idea, I will keep that in mind for the future (I can't tell you how long it's been since I used one--I kinda have the rhythm within me, haha). God bless you for your kindness!
    JESUSFREA343
    Thanks for your feedback! Unfortunately, I am new to lessons and have no idea how to upload sound files along with potential lessons of mine (truth is I made this at school and threw it up on the same day out of boredom [done with class for that day early])
    digitalac3
    thanks man started to play guitar about some time ago. without a teacher. so tutorials in here helps me big time ! Cheers !
    kgunderman
    Great lesson! Is there a way to have sound so people can hear how it should be?
    guitar/bass95
    Pretty basic lesson. Good job on the tips, I usually get to correct people explaining pull-offs wrong but you mentioned the right way to do it imo. Not really a comprehensive lesson, but it does the job. Just remember to use a metronome.
    vitorio_laond
    It would be nice if you put some images. I personally don{t need'em, but the people who just start with these gonna find it very helpful