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Hammer-ons and pull-offs are essential techniques to any genre. Steve provides examples of how these techniques are used in bluegrass playing. He also demonstrates some exercises designed to enhance finger dexterity.
Taught by Steve Eulberg in Bluegrass Guitar with Steve Eulberg seriesLength: 33:34Difficulty: 2.5 of 5
1. Pay VERY close attention to the rhythm in which a hammer on is to be played. Many inexperienced guitarists cut the first note (the picked note) way too short. Consequently, the hammer on note is held for too long. For starters, practice all hammer-ons and pull-offs in an even eighth note rhythm.A. Hammer-On Exercise No. 1
2. Performing a hammer-on requires a forceful movement with a left-hand finger. The tone of a hammer-on is much clearer and louder when the hammering finger comes down fast and forcefully. If you bring your finger down to slow, the hammer-on will be weak or inaudible.
3. All rules regarding proper left-hand finger placement in relation to the frets become even more crucial when playing hammer-ons. Hammer the finger down right behind the fret. Hammering on top of a fret or too far from it will result in a poor tone.
4. Use the hard calluses on the tips of the fingers when making contact with the strings. This will help generate a louder tone.
This exercise combines an open, picked note with a hammer-on. Watch carefully as Steve demonstrates a hammer-on on the low E string. Pay attention to the tone he creates as well as his left-hand technique. Practice hammering from the low E to the first fret. Ignore proper rhythm for now. Focus all of your attention on creating a clear tone.B. Additional Hammer-On Practice
Once you can consistently perform a hammer-on with this string, feel free to move on to Steve’s exercise. Start by setting your metronome to a relatively slow tempo. Make sure that the picked note and the subsequent hammer-on are exactly equal in length! Ascend the strings by playing an open string followed by a hammer-on to the first fret. It is much easier to perform a hammer-on on the fatter strings. Once you reach the high e-string, play the same pattern while descending down the strings.
Now, repeat this exercise using the second finger. Instead of hammering on at the first fret, hammer-on your second finger at the second fret.
To ensure that you are creating the loudest possible tone with your hammer-ons, practice them without picking the open string first. Transcribers refer to this technique as a “hammer-on from nowhere.” Repeat the exercise demonstrated in letter A with this method. Notice how forcefully Steve brings each finger down in order to produce a loud, clear tone.Note: Performing hammer-ons on an electric guitar with low action is much easier than playing them on an acoustic with high action. As a result, acoustic students may need to spend more time practicing the exercises in this lesson. Chapter 3: (6:54) Advanced Hammer-Ons Once you feel comfortable with hammer-ons involving the first and second fingers, repeat the same process with your third and fourth fingers. The finger number corresponds with the fret number it is hammering onto.
This exercise forces you to play hammer-ons using all possible combinations of the left-hand fingers. This exercise is performed entirely in first position. As a result, the finger number used corresponds with the fret at which it plays. Practice hammer-ons up and down the strings using the following finger combinations:Chapter 4: (2:02) Multiple Hammer-Ons Prior to this scene, all hammer-on exercises involved a single plucked note, followed by a single hammer-on. However, guitarists frequently perform multiple hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides on a single string after only picking it once. This technique is primarily used in rock guitar solos. However, it can be used to great effect in any genre. Steve demonstrates a couple great exercises that you will get you started with this process.1 and 2The third and fourth fingers are significantly weaker than the first and second fingers. As a result, more time must be spent perfecting hammer-ons involving these finger combinations. Be careful that you do not over-exude the muscles in your hands! This could result in permanent injury!
1 and 3
1 and 4
2 and 3
2 and 4
3 and 4
A. Pluck the low E string, then hammer-on to the 1st fret with the first finger. Next, hammer onto the 2nd fret using the second finger. You only need to pluck the very first note! Repeat this process on every string.Chapter 5: (2:59) Even More Hammer-Ons Instead of starting with an open, plucked string, fret and pluck the note at the first fret. Then perform two subsequent hammer-ons. The first hammer should be played with the second finger at the 2nd fret. Then, hammer onto the 3rd fret with the third finger. Chapter 6: (6:06) Pull-Offs The second form of a slur is called the pull-off. A pull-off is essentially a backward hammer-on. For this reason, a hammer-on is frequently referred to as a forward slur, and a pull-off is referred to as a backward slur. Follow these guidelines whenever you play a pull-off.
B. Pluck the low E string, then hammer-on to the 1st fret with the first finger. Next, hammer onto the 3rd fret using the third finger. Repeat this process on each string.
C. Devise your own exercises that involve multiple hammer-ons. Steve barely scratches the surface of all the possible finger combinations. Steve demonstrates another possible combination in the following scene.
1. The plucked note and the subsequent pull-off must be equal in volume.Pull-Off Exercise
2. Pull the finger straight down towards the floor when playing a pull-off. This will create the best tone.
3. Be careful that you do not pull your finger down too far. This may cause one of the adjacent strings to vibrate.
Start by fretting the low E string at the 1st fret with the first finger. Now, pull your first finger off the string towards the floor. Practice pulling off from the 1st to an open string on the other five strings as well. Repeat this process with the second finger at the 2nd fret. Once again, you will be pulling off to an open string. Then, practice pull-offs with the third finger and fourth fingers.Chapter 7: (2:50) Advanced Pull-Offs In this scene, Steve demonstrates how to play a pull-off between two fretted notes. When performing this technique, always fret the lower note first. Then, prepare the other finger for the pull-off. Playing a pull-off that involves two fretted notes is much more difficult than pulling off to an open string. The most common issue that beginner’s have is getting the pull off to sound loud enough. Playing any slur well requires sufficient force on the string. If you find that you are having this problem, you are most likely pulling your finger downward with insufficient force.
At this point, playing cleanly and accurately should be your primary focus. Do not increase the tempo until you can play these exercises perfectly! Be patient! It takes most guitarists several weeks before they begin to feel comfortable with hammer-ons and pull-offs. Remember at all times that speed is simply a means to a musical end.
Although Steve demonstrates this exercise in first position, it is recommended that you begin practicing this exercise at the fifth fret. Here are the left-hand finger combinations to use when practicing pull-offs. They should be performed in the following order. Once again, these exercises must be practiced on each string.Chapter 8: (4:56) Hammer-Ons and Pull-Offs A. Hammer-On and Pull-Off Exercise No. 1
Pull off from finger 2 to 1, then:
3 to 1
4 to 1
3 to 2
4 to 2
Essentially, this exercise combines the first hammer-on exercise and the first pull-off exercise into a new technical drill. Begin by plucking the low E string. Then, hammer onto the first fret just like you did in Hammer-On Exercise No. 1. Now, pull off from the first fret to the open string. The first note in this sequence is the only note that needs to be picked. Repeat this exercise with all four fingers.B. Hammer-On and Pull Off Exercise No. 2
This exercise is quite similar to the other exercises in this lesson as well. Using the pull-off finger combinations discussed in Scene 7, perform a hammer-on followed by a pull-off. For example, for the first combination, begin by picking a note fretted by the first finger. Then, hammer onto the next fret with the second finger. Finally, pull off with the second finger back to the first note. Repeat this process with all possible finger combinations.
Bluegrass is one of the most recognizable styles of guitar. Some refer to bluegrass as a celebration of the simple things in life. Dive into this series to learn the essential components of the bluegrass guitar style.
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About Steve Eulberg
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An Award-winning multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, Steve Eulberg weaves mountain and hammered dulcimers with a variety of unusual instruments to create thought-provoking, smile-inducing, toe-tapping acoustic experiences.
He has sung and composed for religious communities, union halls, picket lines, inter-faith retreats, mountain-top youth camps, as well as the more familiar venues: clubs, coffeehouses, bookstores, festivals, charity benefits and showcase concerts.
Born and raised in the German-heritage town of Pemberville, Ohio, Steve was exposed to a variety of music in his home. Early piano lessons were followed by trumpet in school band, and he became self-taught on ukelele and guitar and harmonica. Mandolin was added at Capital University where, while majoring in History, he studied Ear Training, Voice and took Arranging lessons from the Conservatory of Music.
While at college, he first heard hammered and mountain dulcimers, building his first mountain dulcimer just before his final year. Seminary training took him the west side of Denver where he built his first hammered dulcimer. With these instruments, he was able to give voice to the Scottish, English and Irish traditions to which he is also heir.
Following marriage in 1985 to Connie Winter-Eulberg he settled in Kansas City, Missouri. There he worked cross-culturally in a church of African-Americans, Latinos and European Americans, with music being a primary organizing tool. He moved with his family in 1997 to be nestled beside the Rocky Mountains in Fort Coillins, Colorado.
Founder of Owl Mountain Music, Inc. he teaches and performs extensively in Colorado and Wyoming with tours across the US and the UK. He delights in introducing the â€œsweet musicâ€ of dulcimers to people in diverse settings and in addition to his own recordings, has included dulcimers in a variety of session work for other musicians.
In 2000 he was commissioned to create a choral composition featuring dulcimers for the Rainbow Chorus in Fort Collins. It was recorded in the same year (BEGINNINGS). He is currently at work on a commissioned symphony that will feature hammered dulcimer and Australian didjeridu.
Eulberg passionately believes that music crosses cultural and language barriers because music builds community. Influenced by a variety of ethnic styles, his music weaves vital lyric with rap, rock, folk, gospel and blues. Audiences of all ages respond well to his presentation and to his warm sense of humor.
Steve is a member of Local 1000 (AFM), The Folk Alliance, BMI and BWAAG (Better World Artists and Activist's Guild).
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