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Hammer On ukulele

How to Play a Ukulele Hammer-On – Improve Your Skills

The ukulele hammer-on is a technique that adds a lot more dynamics into your playing. It can blend notes together easy and seamlessly when done correctly.

Performing a ukulele hammer-on involves plucking one note, then playing the next note without plucking again. It increases your speed when playing songs. That’s because it allows you to get from one note to the next without using your plucking hand.

When played correctly, it can elevate your ukulele playing to the next level.

How to Play A Ukulele Hammer-on

The concept behind the hammer-on is really simple and involves just 2 steps.

How fast you perform the hammer-on really depends on the pace of the song you are playing. However, it’s important to get your finger on the next note as quickly as possible. This is so we don’t lose any “power” from the first note. The first pluck is what’s going to create the sound. So if we let the note ring out, when it comes time playing the hammer-on. There’ll be no juice left in the note, so to speak.

To make this technique as effective as possible, you want to hammer down as hard as you can. The harder you press, the louder the next note will be.

Let's Give It Go

Now you know how to play a hammer-on and how they work. It’s time to put it into practice and start bringing it into your playing.

Put your first finger on the 3rd fret of the A string. Usual fretting policy applies here, so press it down firmly.

hammer on ukulele part 1hammer on ukulele part 1hammer on ukulele part 1hammer on ukulele part 1

Let the note ring out for a few moments. Then use your ring finger to fret the 5th on the A string. Be sure to place it firmly and directly in the middle of the fret.

hammer on ukulele part 2
Did you hear two notes but only plucked once? Congratulations, you just performed your first ukulele hammer-on.
 
You might find the second note sounds nowhere near as loud as the first. That’s totally fine and very normal when you first start performing this technique. 
 
As boring as it sounds, it’s just going to take lots of practice. As you build up strength in your fingers. The power of your hammering-on finger will increase. Thus make the second note sound louder.

What Do They Look Like On Ukulele Tabs?

Whenever you see a “h” sit between two numbers on the ukulele tab. That means you need to perform it with those two notes.

Let's Play Some Examples

Now we are going to look at some popular songs and riffs that utilize the hammer-on. If you are asking yourself why are there loads of numbers on this page that I don’t understand? It would be wise to check out this guide on how to read ukulele tabs.

Black Sabbath - Paranoid

This is usually played by hammering-on chords (well talk about that later). Let’s simplify it and put what we have learnt to use.

Start by placing your first finger on the 5th fret of the E string. Pluck it then rapidly place your ring finger on the 7th fret. Repeat that four times, then play the rest of the tab as normal.

ukulele hammer-on black sabbath

Bob Marley - Redemption Song

For this song, we are skipping between strings to play the hammer-ons. The same principles apply though.
 
Start by placing your middle finger on the 7th fret of the C string and your first finger on the 5th fret of the E string. Play the first four notes as normal, using your ring finger to play the 7th on the E string.
 
Preparing your fingers by placing them on the frets before they are played is a super way to increase your speed.
 
Your first finger should be already placed on the 5th fret of the E string. We are going to pluck that and then hemmer-on our ring finger to the 8th fret. Dropdown a string use the same fingers on the 5th & 7th frets.
ukulele hammer-on bob marley

Hammer-on Chords

Once you have got the hang of this technique. A very cool way to spice up your playing is to hammer-on chords.
 
It works exactly the same way, except instead of using one finger on one string. We are using 2 or sometimes 3 fingers and hammering-on all of them at the same time.
 

It sounds a lot harder than it actually is so let’s try it. Barre your first finger across all the strings on the 3rd fret. Strum that chord.

hammer on barre chord ukulele

Quickly place your ring finger on the 5th fret of the G string and your middle finger on the 4th fret of the E.

hammer on barre chord ukulele part 2

Lift off your hammered-on fingers and strum the chord again. 

ukulele hammer-on chords

More than one finger?

This is another advanced technique that involves hammer-ons. Instead of playing two notes with one pluck. We can play three or even four notes just by hammering-on.
 

Let’s use the open strings as our first note. Pluck the open C string. Then use your first finger to hammer-on the 2nd fret. Without plucking again, use your middle finger to fret the 3rd.

The need for speed increases the more notes you add when doing multiple hammer-ons. That’s because we have less time for the first note to ring out. 

ukulele hammer-on multiple

Summary

The hammer-on is a staple technique that every intermediate ukulele player has in their arsenal. Although it might be a little jarring when you first start doing them. Keep at it, sooner or later they will become second nature to you. This video tutorial i made for Here Comes The Sun by The Beatles features some hammer-ons. Give it a watch to advance your skill further.