In this article, I’m talking about the lead guitar technique that makes your life a lot easier when playing solos AND sounds awesome. This is a favorite technique of all genres from the fingerstyle of singer-songwriter to the screeching solos of heavy metal. I’m talking about, of course, the hammer-on.
What Is A Hammer-On?
A hammer-on is a technique where you make another note sound without strumming or plucking the string a second time. In short, you do this by putting your finger down forcefully after strumming the string. This causes it to sound.
Hammer-ons are used for many different purposes. In solo work, it can help the guitarist play lines faster. In fingerstyle play, it offers a delayed resolution of the chords drawing the audience in.
It can also be specifically used to create a smoother sound from one note to the other as you don’t have the harsh sound of the strum happening. In function, it’s the opposite of the pull-off, which we may talk about in another article.
How To Do A Hammer-On
To do a hammer-on you’re going to need a note which moves higher on the same string. You can’t hammer-on to a lower note (in this case, you may be looking for the pull-off). It works best when the first note you play also has a finger already down.
Strum your note with your finger down. Then, soon after, quickly and forcefully press the next finger down on the same string for the note you’d like to move to. You don’t lift the first finger you played usually. This pressing makes the note sound again.
Practice by placing your pointer finger on the 1st string, second fret. After you strum, hammer your middle finger down on the 1st string, third fret. The sooner after you strum and the more forceful your finger, the louder the hammer-on will be.
In guitar tabs, hammer-ons are shown with an “H” around the note.
There you have it, folks. Now get out your guitar and give it a try. Once you play around with it, you’ll learn why it’s popular with all play styles. If you’re looking for a place to start, here’s a short list of famous songs with hammer-ons:
- Over The Hills and Far Away
- Crazy Train
- American Girl
- New Orleans Is Sinking
- White Room
- The Trooper
- May This Be Love
How do you learn these songs? Well, you could try YouTube-ing some tutorials, but they’re usually hit or miss. I recommend accessing a quality guitar lessons program with a song catalog. JamPlay is one of these online lesson programs with a ton of songs and specific lessons for each song to help you learn it.