Jul 10, 2008

Better Hammer-ons, Better Pull-offs

The guitarist who seeks out revolutionary music through his or her playing, is always striving to be as inventive as possible. There are plenty of techniques out their to use and certainly just as many ideas, but unfortunately I hear way too much of a mundane sound coming from most players.

They are never conscious nor care to be, of how something can always be more interesting. Sweep picking, tapping, legato, tremolo picking, alternate picking, harmonics, sweep/tap combos, are all fantastic tools to have in ones arsenal, but it really comes back to the little things.

I think that it is very important to develop the smallest things, because in the long run and at least to me, it is always about the small things. A riff doesn't always have to be fast. It is quite possible to make something very interesting to the ears, that is so simple.

Clarity. I've never done the math, but I bet you that I spend the largest part of my time, working on clarity. I don't always get it right, too. When I speak of clarity in technique, I'm talking about that extra 10%.

One thing that irritates me is tapping. Not tapping itself, just the approach that some guitarists have to it. I'm not the greatest when it comes to tapping, nor would I ever claim that, but there are a lot of guitarists who can do 8 finger tapping and yet it all runs together. Part of it is the distortion, and tapping can be very noisy if you don't learn to control it just right, and that is to me the hardest part, but part of it is also a lacking of strength in the fretting hand.

My goal is not to attack, because I am still growing as a player as well, and I know that process will never end, because if it did, playing guitar would become quite boring.

That is why I share with you what I have already learned and what I am learning as of today. I am constantly finding new ways to improve my playing and my first intention is always to post what I have learned on this blog.

This post is about developing hammer-on and pull-off strength, and if you focus on this, it will really pay off on down the road, especially when you start getting into tapping, or if you are already there, this will help to refine your approach to tapping.

If you don't know what a hammer-on or a pull-off is, the process goes like this.

For Hammer-ons:

1. Fret the 7th fret on any string with your index finger.
2. Pick that note.
3. Hammer your middle finger down onto the 8th fret.

For Pull-offs:

1. Fret the 7th fret on any string with your index finger.
2. Fret the 8th fret on that same string with your middle finger.
3. Both fingers should be fretted.
4. Pick the string and the 8th fret will sound.
5. Pull your middle finger off of the 8th fret, so that the 7th fret may sound.

That is a simple step-by-step explanation. You can use any fingers or any combination of fingers and do these anywhere on the fretboard. There are no rules. However, we must focus on strength and clarity.

I'm going to show you an exercise that will develop mad amounts of fretting hand strength, by using hammer-on/pull-off combinations.

4 things that you need to know about this exercise.

1. You only pick the 9th fret out. Everything else needs to be a hammer-on or a pull-off.

2. Alternate picking is not important for this exercise. I pick the string with an upstroke. Use a down stroke if you like.

3. The exercise loops, so keep it looping.

4. Takes breaks, as it can be quite strenuous

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