Hammer-on and Pull-off Techniques | Hub Guitar

Hammer-on and Pull-off Techniques

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Let's talk about hammer-ons and pull-offs.

This is a fret-hand technique, so it doesn't have very much to do with the picking hand. So I'm going to play the first note with the picking hand. But the second one I'm going to just activate with my fret-hand.

So we can use a hammer-on to play the note above, or we can use a pull-off to play the note below. Notice that you can see my hand when I do that if you want, which means my hand doesn't need it to do the motion. Once again, here is the hammer-on, and here is the pull-of. I just picked the string one time.

As you can see, they're basically the same but opposite. The only difference is a hammer-on is played by the force of the finger striking the string, but the pull off is played by dragging the string outwards slightly as you come off of it. You can't simply pull up, you have to pull to the side to cause the string to ring again.

We're going to practice with an E major scale on the open E string.

First, we'll hammer-on going up the scale.

It's also a good idea to try this with other fingers, but you get the idea.

Next, we'll do two hammer-ons going up the scale.

Okay, so let's try the scale with pull offs.

We can combine the techniques as well.

Now, we can do two pull-offs.

We can also make a lot of different combinations.

So practice these techniques to add some more interesting sounds to your playing. You can use this when playing a scale, a melody, or even chord progressions. So try it out for yourself.

What are Hammer-ons and Pull-offs?

Hammer-ons and pull-offs belong to a group of techniques that decorate single-note lines, up and down a string. Similar to the slide, a hammer-on is executed by playing a single note, and then striking the same string at a higher fret with the fret hand. A pull-off is simply the reverse of this motion.

Many students of the guitar ask how to master hammer-ons and pull-offs. The key is to condition the fretting-hand to cleanly articulate them by repeated practice, and to exercise discipline during practice to play them in time so that it sounds clean.

Simple Hammer-on

First, let’s execute a basic hammer-on.

  1. Fret the high “E” string at the fourth fret, using your index finger.
  2. Pluck the high “E” string with your picking hand.
  3. As the string rings, strike the same string at the fifth fret with your second finger. You must use considerable force at first. Strike just below the target fret.

Simple Pull-off

Now, a basic pull-off.

  1. Fret the high “E” string at the fifth fret, using your second finger.
  2. In addition, fret the same string at the fourth fret with your index finger.
  3. Pluck the high “E” string with your picking hand.
  4. As the note rings, pull your second finger off of the fifth fret with a motion downwards towards the floor.

You can execute both of these techniques at any level, but they will get slightly easier as your fretting-hand calluses build up. A firmer fingertip surface will help you to execute these moves.

Scale for Practicing Hammer-ons

e natural
fret tile
f sharp, g flat
fret tile
fret tile
g sharp, a flat
fret tile
a natural
fret tile
fret tile
b natural
fret tile
fret tile
c sharp, d flat
fret tile
fret tile
d sharp, e flat
fret tile
e natural
fret tile
fret tile
fret tile

Exercises for Hammer-ons and Pull-offs

Exercise #1: Hammer-on a major scale

Play the open E. Use the first finger to hammer-on the F♯. Repeat the open E, and use the first finger to hammer-on the G♯. Once you reach the high E, repeat backwards. Repeat this exercise with every finger for best results.

Exercise #2: Two hammer-ons

Play the open E, then hammer-on F♯ with your first finger and G♯ with your third finger. Play open E, and hammer-on the next two notes. When the high E is reached, reverse directions.

Exercise #3: Pull-off a scale

Play the open E, then play the F♯ with your index finger and pull-off again to the open E. Repeat the open E, and play G♯, pulling off once more to open E. Repeat up the scale, then reverse directions. Repeat this exercise with every finger combination for best results.

Exercise #4: Two pull-offs

Play the open E. Then play G♯, pull-off to F♯, and pull-off to open E. Repeat up the scale and then reverse directions.

Exercise #5: Hammer-ons and pull-offs

Play the scale ascending with hammer-ons and then descending with pull-offs.


The hammer-on and pull-off are two of the most widely-used guitar techniques, and players from nearly every style will need to master them. With patience, you will get a grip on this fundamental technique, and it will help you to play music of nearly all styles.

As the creator of Hub Guitar, Grey has compiled hundreds of guitar lessons, written several books, and filmed hundreds of video lessons. He teaches private lessons in his Boston studio, as well as via video chat through TakeLessons.

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