Easy three shape fast hammer-on legato exercises

Easy three shape fast hammer-on legato exercises

It’s Hammer time!

This lesson is perfect for beginners that have been playing for a few months and want to add some speed into their solos. The exercises are meant to be played slowly at first and only once you are comfortable should you increase the speed. The three shape patterns shown here will let you get that sweet ‘rolling hammer-on’ or ‘double hammer-on’ sound. It is assumed that you know what a hammer-on and a pull-off is. If you are unfamiliar, please go back to a previous lesson. We will start with the first shape being the 2, 3, 5 (2nd fret, 3rd fret, 5th fret). The 2nd fret is picked. The 3rd fret is a hammer-on and so is the 5th fret. Below the chart are also the fingering positions, which tell you which fingers you should be using for each note. 1st is index, 2nd is middle etc.

The First Shape


 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4

You can run up and down the fretboard with all the shapes wherever you want. Try playing just two or maybe three strings with this shape: eg. Using only the D and G strings, play the first shape of 2, 3, 5 on the D string and then switch down to the G for one pattern then back to the A string. Play in a loop like this:

 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4

Now try mixing it up with different orders of playing the pattern. You can try ascending the 2, 3, 5 shape one fret at a time and go higher and higher on the neck after each repetition.You can go as high as you like up the fretboard, eg.


The Second Shape

This pattern is very similar to the first example, only here we have an extra space between our 1st and 2nd fingers that is forming the first 2 parts of the pattern. You will need to spread you fingers a little wider and it may take some time to get used to this.


The same as before, you can play this shape over just two or three strings, like in Fig.2. You can also take this shape one fret higher each time like in Fig.3.

The Third Shape

This shape is just a mirror image of our first shape, the 2, 3, 5. Fig.5

 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3

Some people prefer to use a different fingering for this shape and introduce their 3rd finger onto the 7th fret and the 4th finger onto the 8th fret. It doesn’t really matter how you decide to do it as long as you feel comfortable and you can hear all the notes clearly. Some people just have a different preference or different sized hands. You may notice that as you go higher on the neck it becomes harder to play the pattern because there is less space for your fingers between the frets. You may want to try switching between using your 3rd or 4th finger as the last because one way might be more comfortable and easier than the other depending on where on the guitar neck you play. Just don’t neglect your pinky finger too much. It is a good habit to choose to play the riff with your pinky whenever possible. The more you use it, the stronger it will get and a strong pinky opens up the door to all kinds of insane new riffs and solos.

Now that you know the different shapes, it is time to join them all together and play them in order. Fig.1/Fig.4/Fig.5 is displayed below on the D string and G string in an ascending pattern.

 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 3 1 2 3

The exercise above shows how you can use these three different shapes and link them together in interesting ways to create new runs. In this example, each pattern is played twice, once on the D string and once on the G string. Try to make up your own combinations. Just go with what sounds good to your ear, or if you are playing with backing tracks try and follow with your first finger the root note that the rhythm guitarist is playing .

Turn it up to 11!

Now that you are familiar with the shapes and have practiced them for a while, you can up the speed and technicality. See the exercise below for something that really opens up some shredding  possibilities. We can use one or all of the above shapes as shown in Fig.7. and introduce the pull-off in places to make things really interesting. Knowing that a pull-off is almost the exact opposite of a hammer-on, try combining the two techniques together to form some sweet licks.

 1 2 4 1 2 4 2 1 4 2 1 2 4 1 2 4

The great thing about these hammer-on and pull-off licks, sometimes called legato, is that your right hand does not need to do very much work which makes it great for playing with speed. If you are ready for a real challenge, try to pick every note. This will give a completely different sound to the lick. Picking each note tends to give the lick a much more aggressive sound and is perfect for heavy metal while the standard hammer-on pull-off is better for jazz and blues, although these are not absolute rules! You will notice that the patterns in Fig.7 are the same as in Fig.1 except that we are starting on the 7th fret instead of the 2nd. You can choose anywhere on the neck to start and it usually depends on what the rhythm guitarist is playing or what key the song is in. Try playing the three shapes in order like in Fig.6 but this time add the first shape again from your 7th fret and start the three shape cycle all over again, like this:

 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4

If you feel like changing it up even more, you can try going backwards. If you flip the shapes into a mirror image and play from high up the neck all the way down, using pull-offs instead of hammer-ons you will strengthen other parts of your hand and open up new possibilities. These three simple shapes allow you to do so much if you use them wisely. I hope this lesson has given you some inspiration to try more hammer-ons and pull-off in your playing. Remember – practice makes perfect, so if you don’t get it at first just start slow and keep coming back to it day after day. You will notice that you can get some really fast sounding legato riffs if you just practice these patterns once every day. Have fun with it, enjoy messing around with random combinations and throw some legato in with your solos.

Peace out. – Guitar Graph

Photo – Pixabay
Victor Geiger

Victor is a young creator with big dreams and a passion for recording and engineering music. As a seasoned guitarist he is well versed in the art of rocking out to many genres and is also known for dropping some sick beats. Enjoy his writing here and find his music on SoundCloud.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments

Leave a Reply: