Lesson 2: Hammer-Ons and Pull-Offs

Welcome to lesson 2! Today we are going to look at a technique that will dramatically increase your playing speed and make your guitar solos sound as smooth as a hot knife going through butter.

This technique has been around since the first guitar and guitarists have used it to shred for years. It is none other than the Hammer-On and Pull-Off.

Like all other techniques remember to play in time with a metronome and start slowly. Focus on producing the best tone for each note. Speed will come.

Warm-up Exercises

Again, warm-up exercises are not meant to be played for hours but rather to get your hands “warmed-up” and both hands working together. Before you know it you will be flying around on the guitar at warp speed. At that point, warm-up exercises will become even more important. Think of your hands like a singer thinks of his vocal cords. Practice 5 minutes of slow to moderately paced warm-ups before you put start screaming at the top of your lungs.


Play each exercise at 120 BPM (beats per minute). The (quarter-note) quarter note gets the beat. There are 4 beats in a measure. Count 1-2-3-4. Unless otherwise noted use alternate picking for each warm-up exercise.

Warm-up Exercise 1


Warm-up Exercise 2


Warm-up Exercise 3


Warm-up Exercise 4


Repeat each exercise until you feel like your fingers are warmed up. Play them smoothly, in time and keep your fingers at the bottom of the fret to produce good tone.

Guitar Theory

Last lesson we focused on the A Minor Pentatonic scale. Every scale is made up of half-steps (1 fret apart) and full-steps (2 frets apart). The half-steps help determine what Key you’re in. Most of the time, you can take the first note of the song or solo and guess that that is the key.

For example, if the song starts on a C chord then it most likely is in the key of C. It could be C Major or C minor. It will depend on the rest of the chords played in the song. Although some songs don’t start on the “root” chord, most do. Let’s assume for now that most will start on the root note.

Relative Minor Scale

Let’s assume we are in the key of C Major. How can we solo in the key of C Major when all we know is the Minor Pentatonic scale? We can use the relative minor pentatonic.

What is the relative minor pentatonic scale?

It’s simple going down 1 1/2 steps (3 frets) from the root note. In our example, it would be going down the fret board 1 1/2 steps (3 frets) toward the headstock from the C (8th fret).

Key of C Major (song starts on C) – you could use A minor pentatonic.

Now you know what notes to play for Major or Minor key signatures.

If the song is in a Major key find the Relative Minor and solo using the minor pentatonic.

Keep in mind that if you are using a relative minor pentatonic scale you’ll need to focus on landing on the major scale notes. We will dive deeper into this in subsequent lessons.

Hammer-On/Pull-Off Technique

Hammer-ons and pull-offs help create legato (smooth, flowing, without breaks between notes) phrasing that when combined with good picking techniques produce some lightning fast guitar solos. This is one other piece of the puzzle to blazing fast and screaming guitar leads.

The Hammer-On

When you think of Hammer-On think of an actual hammer. It strikes down and hits the nail and drives it into the board. It really has one purpose – to strike the nail.

It’s the same with the guitar solo hammer-on. You want to strike the string with your fretboard hand without picking the note.

Play the following exercise by picking the first note and then hammering-on with your 3rd finger. Pick, hammer-on, pick, hammer-on. Play slow and steady with the metronome. Each beat gets a note.



The Pull-Off

The pull-off is the opposite of the hammer-on. For the pull-off you will strike the note and then drag your finger down off of the string. The motion will cause the finger remaining on the string to sound.

Pick the note and pull off with your ring finger.

Time To Shred

Now let’s put all of this together in a lick. We’ll continue to focus on using the A Minor Pentatonic scale. You can use this scale to play in the key of C Major or A Minor.

Played slowly:

Full speed:


Now you have 2 lessons under your belt with the A Minor Pentatonic. This will serve as the foundation for your guitar solos. As we continue to add more techniques we’ll also explore additional notes and patterns that can be added to make each guitar solo interesting and unique.

In the next lesson we will add another technique that will add tons of speed to your solos. Until then, practice slow and steady and concentrate on your tone.

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