4 Useful Tips to Improve Hammer-Ons and Pull-Offs
Have you ever heard of hammer-ons and pull-offs? Yup? No? Let’s go step by step. We give a definition of these two little monsters and then 4 – I say four! – useful tips to improve the technique.
First of all, let’s debunk a myth: being fast will not make you do things right. It is also true in life. What do I mean? Well, it does not mean that to go fast you should have a monstrous alternate picking and, above all, to pick all the notes you want to play! Particularly in the Blues and beyond, speed is achieved with good coordination and a good legato technique. As for me – but it is an artistic choice and it is entirely personal – I prefer to use alternate picking, hybrid picking, and legato to get a dynamic and nuanced phrasing.
What is the hammer-on? What is the pull-off?
I have already written an article on “How to Improve Coordination” between right hand and left hand – take a look at it, for sure it will be very useful! – now we define hammer-on and pull-off. We use Anglo-Saxon terms, as it is used in modern teaching – about teaching, here my students and I are having a lot of fun playing and learning new things if you want to take a look! (http://guitarlab2.davidepannozzo.com) – but this technique has always been present in the practice of classical guitar and all string instruments.
Hammer-on, and pull-off, indicate the ascending legato and the descending one. With the hammer-on, we reach a note higher than the starting note by hammering the second after picking the first. With the pull-off we reach a lower note of the starting note by tearing the first one after picking it.
All clear? Good. Now try these two exercises:
Four tips to improve your legato!
Now, how can we improve both movements to get more dynamics, speed and control in our phrasing? A magic wand? No, through these 4 useful tips.
1. Put the fingers of the left hand more perpendicular to the strings: you must have the feeling of playing with your fingertips. Try to take the string about 1mm under the nail limiting the angle between finger and string as much as possible. Doing so will have more room for the pull-off, especially in the central strings set (II, III, IV, V), and you will be able to easily switch between hammer-on and pull-off.
2. Slightly rotate your left hand to the right: keep the fingers of your left hand on the strings while you play. This means that you do not have to go too far especially to play with the 4th finger of your left hand. If you start with your hand completely to the left, you will have to go a long way to be able to get to the fingerboard in time to use this technique.
And then …
3. Do not make too wide movements. Hammering means that the second sound is generated by a percussive movement on the key. But this does not mean taking the run-up getting a good result of the technique. Relax your fingers and eliminate unnecessary movements: they will make you tired in a short time and will take away your precision.
Feel the “step” when you pull off. The most common error on the pull-off is to raise only the finger of the first sound simply by resonating the second. But no: literally tears the first sound to make the second sounds good. In this way, you will feel like a “step” under the finger with which you tear and you will have a great attack on the note that you’ll get with the descending legato.
4. Try to practice very slowly – start with a metronome around 70bpm – then increase the speed gradually. Remember: speed comes from of accuracy. Do not rush! And do not distract yourself: concentrate on performing the technique correctly.
It’s not Easy, of course, but following these valuable tips, you will already see improvements.
Did these tips help you? Do you have any difficulties? Ideas to share? Write a comment below! And if you liked the article, share it. The more we are, the better. 🙂