3 Shape Pattern Of Hammer-On Technique

This lesson will help you with areas of left hand speed and agility (or "shredding" as people like me who grew up in the '80s will call it), changing shapes and patterns. Specifically designed for players who have some trouble stretching or spanning, and for players who want more muscle out of each finger.

Ultimate Guitar
The following exercises are designed to be played firstly at a slow speed so you can evenly sound out the notes. Only when you are comfortable with it should you increase the speed. This 3 shape pattern will let you appreciate the power of the 'rolling hammer-on' or 'double hammer-on'. I am writing this presuming that you people already know what a hammer-on is. Please refer to hammer-ons in the main lessons section if you are unsure. We will start with the first of the 3 shapes, this shape being the 2, 3, 5 (2nd fret, 3rd fret, 5th fret). The 2nd fret is picked. The 3rd fret is a hammer-on, as is the 5th fret. I have included the left hand fingering underneath.

The First Shape

2, 3, 5.
 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4
For anyone who doesnt't understand the meaning of 'left hand fingering' -- follow the numbers running underneath the tab. 1=1st finger, 2=2nd, etc. Like the other 2 main shapes to come, you can run up and down the fretboard with this basic shape, wherever you want. Try playing just 2 or maybe 3 strings with this shape: eg. Using only the D and G strings, play the first shape of 2, 3, 5 on the D string, then the same shape on the G string straight after, then back to the D string. Play in a loop like this:
 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4
Now try adding something new to this 'rolling' pattern. Try ascending the 2, 3, 5 shape one fret at a time after you've played both the D string and the G string. It can go as high as you like up the strings, like this:
Please note that the same 'shape' as the 2, 3, 5 is applicable, with the 1st, 2nd and 4th fingers.

The Second Shape

3, 5, 7. This is a very similar pattern as in Fig.1, only this time we've spread out the 1st and 2nd fingers that were forming the 2nd fret and the 3rd fret.
And same as before, you can play this shape over just 2 or 3 strings, like in Fig.2. You can also take this shape one fret higher each time like in Fig.3.

The Third Shape

5, 7, 8. This shape is just a mirror image of our first shape, the 2, 3, 5.
 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3
Note that some players may like to use a different method of fingering for this shape and introduce their 3rd finger onto to 7th fret and the 4th finger onto the 8th fret, and it doesn't really matter as long as the notes are there. Although the existing fingering is merely a recommendation, keep in mind that everyone will find one of the suggested ways more comfortable than the other. Also, as you take this shape higher one fret at a time like the previous shapes (Fig.3), you'll find your shape shrinking, that's why I allow for the fingering pattern of 1, 2, 3. To save space when we start running out the higher we go. Now, all that's left to do is split up the shapes into their appropriate order. Fig.1/Fig.4/Fig.5 is displayed (ascending) over the D string and G string below:
 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 3 1 2 3
The above exercise shows how use of the 3 specific shapes can be seamlessly carrying on from the one before. As you can see, each shape is played twice; once on the D string, and once on the G string. Using your own creative playing styles, try making up your own patterns like this. Now for one last exercise to really open up the possibilities for shredding/left hand speed. We can use one or all of the above shapes as shown in Fig.7. to introduce the inbred half-cousin of the hammer-on, the pull-off. Knowing that Pull-offs are like the exact opposite of a hammer-on, try combining the two techniques of hammer-ons and pull-offs into a loop:
 1 2 4 1 2 4 2 1 4 2 1 2 4 1 2 4
The above exercise shows how use of the 3 specific shapes can be seamlessly carried on from the one before. it's quite good because it allows your right hand freedom. We only have to pick a total of 4 times in Fig.7. But get a total of 18 notes out of it! For a real challenge, try picking every note. Fig.7 is exactly the same shape as in Fig.1 - except it starts on the 7th fret instead of the 2nd. You can follow on in this way, creeping your way higher and higher each time. Try playing the 3 shapes in order like in Fig.6 but this time add the first shape again from your 7th fret, to start the 3 shape cycle all over again, like this:
 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4
If you feel like doing something different or you just want to get your pull-offs better, try going backwards. You can turn Fig.8 into a mirror image and play from high all the way back, using pull-offs instead of hammer-ons. Again, for a challenge try picking every note and see how fast you can get it. There's so much you can do with these 3 simple shapes, the list could go on. I hope this gives you something new and unusual to play with and has helped you to advance your playing style and/or helped you to become a more well-rounded guitarist. As we all know, you can never have too much information regarding various techniques.

110 comments sorted by best / new / date

    even though it was an easy subj. you thoroly covered it. nice job i gave 10 to ya
    Good lesson, I include some of this in my warm-ups. I move up one fret and one string after each set and then back down. I'd like to see you include a lesson on left and right hand combo hammer-ons as well. Well done...
    Just when i couldnt find anything to learn that wasent above or under my playing level and i was going stale i found this. Awesome lesson thanks for rekindling my passion to learn guitar!
    Blue Blur
    Great! I've already knew this, but this kind of stuff is what I base most of my origional work from. I'm glad you made this for others to understand.
    great lesson! i think one thing needs to be emphasized here. a lot of players claim to have hammer-ons and pull-offs down like a pro. but it's important to listen to how loud the notes are, primarily by listening to your own recordings. consistent volume between the pick and hammer/pull is tricky, and different pressure is required up and down the fretboard/different strings to get that. great exercises!
    that gets the fingers moving dude cheers i can fit this style in with some of my songs and really liven them up
    yeah its an excellent warm up / dexterity lesson for anyone really, I guess more beginner/intermediate than expert but still really good in my opinion. thanks bro, i knew this subconsciously but its funny how you lose attention so quickly when ur stoned lol. peace
    thanks man, people say im stupid and dont know what the f*** im doin when i do these but you showed me theyre wrong and im right thanks
    It's an easy subject, but you did a great job on it. Though I think a lot of metal heads just pick up the pattern pretty easily, but for those who don't or are beginners this is a great start. I like how you were thorough but it didn't sound like text book gah gah.
    Nice Dude n a great lessons too..i'm gonna practise them everyday...thanx once again
    Great lesson. art of shred, you think too much haha:-D It's all about how the band presents each riff, not the technique used.
    great lesson. i think its worth embelishing how important it is to practice this technique at a slow tempo. that way the fretting hand has time to train on playing the notes correctly, then when the tempo is incresed there will be no sloppiness, only accuracy with no mistakes or dud notes. players often try to practice and progress too quickly. so turn off the distortion and try it at full speed. a clean sounding guitar wont cover the mistakes like the distortion will. Great lesson.
    Great Lesson, nice to see an in depth lesson like this one. i think its important to mention the importance of starting to learn this technique playing the exercise slowly, this will allow the left hand to train in playing each note fully, so when the tempo is increased the notes will sound fuller lacking any mistakes and increasing the impact that the technique will have.
    Great read man! It really did help me build up some dexterity. A lot better than what I was doing before.
    BFMV fan
    i think this will help me so i can try the song "To end the rapture" from A7X, cuz they do this a lot and i get mad cuz i try to play along and im slower than SYNYSTER GATES
    The only thing that would have made it better (helped me more) is putting in some stuff about the actual scales these patterns make up. But I like how you leave it up to the player to expand on these basic shapes. It leaves room for you to grow on your own. Great Job!
    Thanks! great job, I'm not a beginner, but this helped me a lot! I Appreciated! Rico
    Good Job, this helped me allot! I Appreciate. Jose Rico colrock.com
    cool... wee i did it haha. .. it makes my pinky finger now important its hard on the start though.... but it make your leads fast and easy.. nice lesson hehe
    dude your so good at postin lessons ,that they simplest ever, keep up the good work
    good exercise. great for practicing hammer ons and pulloffs and those are so important.
    im new to guitar(havent hade a teacher either)i just wanna make sure hammering is when you press down on another note while the first one is still resonating.
    Really good lesson helped me out alot... although I still need to work on reaching... -.-
    Thanks. I'll use this... I was having trouble trouble in some of the hammer-ons in Pushed Again (Die Toten Hosen)
    I could already do hammer-ons but I'm definitely recommending this to my friend who can't.