Mastering hammer-ons is a vital element of playing lead guitar and solos.

A hammer-on is basically what it sounds like. You use a fretting finger to hammer onto a string at a given fret, and if you do it hard, fast and accurately, you will sound that given note.

Once you master it, you will be able to perform consecutive hammer-ons on the same string, which are called trills. Hammer ons enable you to play at speeds you just could not if you were merely plucking.

Check out our video lesson on hammer ons now, it's really helpful.

How to do a Hammer-on

  1. Pluck an open string
  2. Smack one of your fretting fingers onto a higher note on the same string.
  3. The note you hammered onto should be the same volume as the first note you plucked.
  4. Do hammer ons with all of your fingers, since you’ll need to be able to do it with any fretting finger.

Once you are comfortable with the actual motion, you’ll want to practice not by plucking an open string, but by fretting a note with your index finger, and hammering onto a higher note with another finger 1, 2, 3, and 4 frets higher.

TIPTry practicing the pentatonic scale using hammer ons every other note, instead of picking them.

Hammer-on tips

  • come down hard and straight with the tip of your fretting finger
  • try not to touch any other strings in the process
  • the force of your hitting the fretboard will resonate the other strings as well (especially if you are using distortion), so you may need to mute the strings you don’t want sounding

You can hammer on slowly or fast, each will create a different effect. Try it out, play around with it. Watch this video lesson on how to do hammer ons, it's really useful.

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