Beginner Hammer-Ons

Explore hammer-ons for beginners and develop your finger's independence and dexterity!

View the full lesson at Beginner Hammer-Ons | JustinGuitar

Why does my brain hear the ending to the james bond tune somehow when i do pull offs when on the 5th fret doing this exercise?

I jumped the gun and did pull offs as well on the 5th fret.

How important is it to start with first finger on 5th fret? I find that puts my arm in a really awkward position when doing the ring finger/pinky finger pairing. It’s much more comfortable if I move down to the 4th or even the 3rd fret.

Welcome to the community Keith.
It really doesn’t matter where you start as long as you start.
Everything you learn applies all over the neck.
If it help starting on the 4th or 3rd fret then that’s fine.


So, I’ve been doing hammer ons and pulls off for years on my acoustic, but always in the lower range of things (top few frets). Now, that I’m getting into soloing on an electric, I’m trying to do some high up the neck (10th fret and above) and finding them very difficult. The strings don’t seem to ring nearly as long and so it’s hard to hear the hammer ons and almost impossible to hear the pull offs after those hammer ons.

For instance, I’m working on the intro to Layla (the Derek and the Dominos version, not the unplugged version that Justin has a lesson on). The opening solo parts has some hammer on followed by pull off on the high E string at the 13th fret. The hammer on is barely audible and the pull off that follows…well, I basically have to pick it to even know that its a note and not just me moving my finger between notes.

It makes sense as the string is significantly shorter at that high fret so it won’t ring out nearly as low or as loud. Any advice? When I watch other tutorial videos, that part sounds like Clapton’s recording, distorted and cool. That’s how mine sounds (although much slower) on the lower parts. But the high parts don’t ring out (the higher I go on the neck, the less distorted things sound too).

Is this technique? Strings? Guitar? For reference, I’m playing a cheap strat type electric on an amp that only distorts if you crank it up. No effects. The guitar overall sounds really good (even some high solos picked) so I’m thinking it’s my technique.

Any tips?


Hi Brian, have you cranked up gain on your amp? That could help to get any sound. I suggest though going through Justin’s finger gym excercises to strengthen your hammer ons. Hopefully this will help:

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Hey Brian,

What does it sound like unplugged? That’ll likely give you an idea on whether technique is involved, or even whether there are unlevel frets in that area.
As @adi_mrok says, gain is your friend.

I had a similar experience with vibrato bends around the dusty end, frets 16, 17, 18 etc. While I continue to work on technique, I’ve found that the use of compression can aid in getting more sustain, or a drive pedal like a tube screamer or similar. I play in more of a software environment, so not sure if you do as welk, or what pedals you might have.


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Some good tips already on gain. Maybe action tweak might help too, I think a lower action might make it easier?

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@adi_mrok @sclay By gain, do you mean something different that volume? My amp has volume, high, mid, and low knobs. I’ve got the main and high volumes all the way up as well as the volume on the guitar itself. That helps (although it does not endear me to me wife haha…really wish we had a basement) but still have the issues up high. Increasing the volume DEFINITELY helps the lower end ring out and the hammer ons and pulls off sound great. I don’t have any pedals yet.

I suspect that maybe it’s a strength issue (although i’ve done the finger gym exercise multiple times and I feel like my fingers are all pretty strong, maybe just not strong enough for stings that are so short?

@jkahn maybe I’ll try adjusting the action down, although this is really only a problem up high where the strings are so short. I remember years ago trying to play some things high up on the fretboard on my acoustic and running into the same problem, the strings just didn’t seem to ring out long enough above say fret 10-12. I just assumed it was an acoustic/electric thing then.

Usually but not always there is another knob marked as gain - it’s like sensitivity of your amp. The higher you set it the more sensitivity you get and hammer ons are becoming more heard. Perhaps your doesn’t have it as it might be a cheaper model? That should fix your issue on top of dedicating few mins a day to finger gym to make sure it’s strong enough. I suggest going to a friend or a music store and trying out an amp and cranking up the gain, you will then see a massive difference :wink:

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It sounds to me like a technique problem. With an electric guitar hammer-ons and pull-offs at the 13th fret should ring out clearly, even without heavy gain or distortion. I’m not an expert by any means, but my hammer-ons/pull-offs high on the neck are clearly audible on the electric (with a clean tone).

Might be best to post a video in the hopes that somebody can spot the problem.

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OK, I think it is technique+. I just tried again but realized I’d had the neck pickup selected, I dropped it to the bridge pickup and it does much better. Still have to have everything cranked to the max, but it’s clearly audible now. Really need to figure out something better so I don’t have to have everything turned up to 11. I was able to do it now as I’m home alone in the middle of the day.

@adi_mrok No gain knob that I can see. This is the amp Behringer | Product | AT108 it looks like it’s discontinued now. Like I say, my father in law gave this to me and it works really good for most thing I need. I’ll probably want to get something better or at least add effects pedals to this one at some point. It’s hard because I don’t have a great place to play, I have a study in our hose, but it’s right in the middle of everything so I can only crank it up loud if I’m home alone. Even then, it was really loud and I’d prefer the volume down a bit TBH. haha I’m getting old!

Plan to get a pedal to be able to add some distortion in without requiring max volume. But it’d be nice to be able to increase the gain without increasing the volume. Maybe I’ll look into a Tube Screamer vs a new amp.

Gain also takes care of how much effect you apply to your amp, you will need amp with that facility at some point so I suggest starting with that. There are so many options on the market which won’t break your bank, have a look at gear section of the forum. There have been some posts where people were actually looking for good home solutions where loudness was an issue.

If you have gain you can play around with gain and volume together so you are able to get more sensitivity without cracking down walls in your house with the volume :grinning: that is what you should be aiming for IMO.

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To be frank, your hammer-ons and pull-offs should be audible even with the amp turned off. So, you probably have some work to do on technique, yet.

I clicked on the link of your amp: I see that it’s an acoustic amp, which explains why there is no gain knob – it’s not designed to provide distortion.


My hammer-ons really improved after the luthier lowered the action on my acoustic, so I second this.


First thing I thought when I looked at the amp was it’s an acoustic one… like @jjw said.

A fit for purpose electric guitar amp is going to do wonders for your tone, add gain, reverb, etc. before getting pedals I’d get a different amp.

I also agree that hammer ons / pull offs should be audible acoustically on an electric guitar once you’ve got them down. Hammer ons being much easier than pull offs. However the right amp settings allow their volume to sit better.


When doing this exercise, the tips of of our fingers cannot accidentally touch the strings above and below? It has to be cleanly fretted?

yeah, pretty much. try missing and see. :slight_smile:
you will also want to be next to the fret you intend as well hitting the correct string cleanly.

I noticed this Hammer On lesson is the same as the Finger Gym. Any issue with doing this method multiple times per day? I feel like I could grab my guitar several times each day and crank out the method in a couple minutes, then get back to work. Any drawback, assuming I’m not hurting myself physically?

Nothing wrong with doing it multiple times a day @pittpanther, you’ll just get it under your fingers faster that way.