Beginner Hammer-Ons

Hammer-ons are fun to work into tunes here and there, whether you’re playing some backing chords or if you’re soloing. They provide some interesting ornamentation (which we’ll be looking at more in the next lesson!) and they allow you to add a little of your own flare to the music.

To do a hammer-on, the technique is simple enough. You play one note, and while it’s ringing out, you hammer down a second finger onto the same string. This allows us to hear a second note without you having to pick the string a second time.

For this to work, though, you’ve really got to hammer that second finger onto the string! It takes some force, specifically, some finger strength. It also promotes finger independence and overall dexterity, so that’s a nice bonus.

While the concept is simple, the execution might take some work!

How To Practice

Start with your 1st finger in the 5th fret of the thickest string. Pick the string, and then hammer on your 2nd finger one fret higher. Get it accurate and be sure to use the tip of your finger. Don’t be afraid to hit it hard - but you don't have to go crazy. Experiment and find the right amount of hit you need to apply (please don't hurt yourself!).

Repeat this on each of the strings, working your way down to the thinnest string and then coming back to the thickest.

Next, try hammering between different fingers, repeating the exercise.

  • 1st to 2nd
  • 2nd to 3rd
  • 3rd to 4th

And then ONLY if you have time you can try these few below but don't be in a hurry.

  • 1st to 3rd
  • 2nd to 4th
  • 1st to 4th

As you can probably guess, this is not a speed exercise! Stay focused on what you’re actually here to practice. You’re working on building up your finger strength and independence. Ultimately, you want there to be little to no difference in tone and strength between the first picked note and the second hammered-on note. To help with this, you might want to pick softer than you normally would so that it’s easier to match the first note’s sound and intensity.


Lesson 10: Weak G Bamba