How To Get Your Guitar Hammer Ons Under Control

Hammer On Control Drill

The other day I was teaching a student how to play Led Zeppelin’s “Bring It On Home”.

When we got to the riff with the hammer-ons, the student struggled with the rhythmic placement of the notes.
This is a common finger control challenge many people encounter on guitar: playing hammer-ons evenly without speeding up the hammer-on.

Here’s that Led Zeppelin riff btw:

Here’s an exercise that immediately will give you more rhythmic control when playing riffs or melodies that have hammer-ons.

For this drill, we are only going to use the first 5 notes of the “Bring It On Home” riff.

We’re not going to play those notes as transcribed above.
The riff is notated in 16th notes (4 notes per beat)

We’re going to play those first 4 notes as 8th notes instead (2 notes per beat)

Here’s the exercise

Set your metronome to 150bpm or slower, not faster.

Play the first 5 notes of the above Jimmy Page riff, with the metronome at 150bpm

  1. On the 1st beat: Pick the first note and hammer onto the 2nd note (played as 8th notes)
  2. On the 2nd beat: Pick the 3rd note and hammer onto the 4th note. (played as 8th notes)
  3. On the 3rd beat: hit low E note (half note, 2 beats long)
  4. On the 4th beat: low E is sustaining.

That is a bar. Keep repeating it without missing a beat, till your hand is tired or you want to move on to something else.

Focus really hard on making the 8th notes equal in length.
In other words: the note you pick falls right on the beat, and the note you hammer falls right in the middle between 2 beats (metronome beeps)

Here’s a quick video explaining all the above.

Speaking of technique: A Case for Practicing Each Hand Separately.

I thought you might enjoy seeing this video where Tom Hess showcases some of the same concepts that I teach to help students gain massive increases in speed and technical proficiency on guitar.

One of these techniques is to practice both hands separately from one another, so one hand does not become dependent upon the other one for execution.
You can learn more about this here:


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