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Bluegrass Guitar Lessons: Beginning Hammer-Ons

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This page contains a transcription of a video lesson from Flatpick Guitar with Bryan Sutton. This is only a preview of what you get when you take Bluegrass Guitar Lessons at ArtistWorks. The transcription is only one of the valuable tools we provide our online members. Sign up today for unlimited access to all lessons, plus submit videos to your teacher for personal feedback on your playing.

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[MUSIC]
We're
gonna jump now right into what I feel are
key elements of what really defines flat
picking as a style unto itself and
certainly defines the way I play and
in things that I think are important and
when I, you know,
key things that I work on all the time and
continue to try to improve.
And there we've talked about different
picking patterns and
we've talked about different ways to think
about the pick and different and
the rest stroke and all that kinda stuff.
This is gonna move into more left hand
techniques if you will.
When you hear a lot of flat pickers, and
you hear the rapid fire of notes,
the cascade of notes, a lot you know,
it's,
it's a, there's a lot of fast picking
going on that defines it.
But as the left hand is, is working as, as
equally as much as the right hand,
especially in my, in my approach to the
style.
And the first, the first thing we work on
is what's called hammer ons.
And the reason it's called a hammer on, is
that you're,
you're literally you're not playing a
note, you're playing a note, and
then the note after that, subsequent note,
is, is hammered on with the left hand.
So to give a quick example is, here's an
open D string.
[MUSIC]
And
the next one I wanna go to is the E on the
second fret.
So you notice my left hand is around the
fingerboard sort of positioned here with,
with my hand in the right area where
working is still with our sort
of four-finger, four-fret kind of concept.
So, hammering we can look above and
it's a really good view of what's gonna
happen here.
Play the D open.
[MUSIC]
And this is, once again,
as we look above, notice that my finger is
right behind this second fret.
[SOUND] If, if anything you use the, the
fret to kind of hammer into.
[SOUND] If there's a slight angle.
If it were straight on.
[SOUND].
It's more like that.
[SOUND] As just from the natural way my
hand feels.
[MUSIC]
And so the goal here with a hammer on and
this is what creates the real the effect
of the you know the, the, the,
the, the, the clarity of notes and the
consistency and the cleanliness.
The sort of, all that, the way that kinda
works is trying to make the,
the, the note that is hammered, make that
as loud as the note that is played.
So as I would practice this, this basic
example of a hammer on, it's not this.
[MUSIC]
Like here's a loud note.
[MUSIC]
You know, just,
just laying your finger on the note
creates that effect.
If I were, you know, playing at a full
volume.
[MUSIC]
It's not that.
So what you wanna do is figure out for me
it's an, it's an actual hammer, you know.
It's, I'm, I'm really sort of starting
from out here.
[MUSIC]
That's the basic movement.
If I were in a, in a quicker pattern, you
know, obviously my hands wouldn't be
doing, doing this kind of thing, but
that's the basic idea behind it, and
a lot of these things that we've talked
about is left and right hand approaches.
We mentioned this earlier are sort of ways
to, you know, things to think about.
How to start these kind of ideas, and what
you want to keep in mind is,
is with your hammer on's is that the
notes, again, the note that's hammered
needs to be as loud as the note before it
and the note after it.
[MUSIC]
So as you move along.
[MUSIC]
So, so just from the strength of my
finger I'm able to, to make the note ring
without even playing a previous note.
[MUSIC]
And
here's the second fret open using the ring
finger.
[MUSIC]
All right so
that's, that's the basic, the basic idea
behind, a hammer on.
And we got some I got an exercise that you
can practice.
[MUSIC]