Hammer-ons From Nowhere (HFN) is a term I came up with a long time ago in order to provide students with tab notation that described the idea of hammering on to a string that was not previously fretted. Most of us are quite familiar with the term hammer-on, which is of course a technique performed by forcefully bringing a fretting-hand finger onto a string that was previously fretted or previously sounded in order to execute a new note without having to simultaneously pick it. A typical hammer-on will always be higher in pitch than the note that preceded it, however with HFN, this is not necessarily the case.

One of the advantages to using HFN is that you can basically hammer-on to any string you choose and produce results in which a hammered note ends up being lower in pitch than the one preceding it. In fact, the HFN concept actually lends itself to the idea that a hammered note is lower in pitch than the preceding note. This can result in many unusual and unorthodox sequences, many of which can involve huge interval jumps that easily simulate licks and passages more commonly associated with advanced fingerpicking techniques. The most blatant example of this can be heard on the Extraction album, in the unaccompanied acoustic guitar instrumental piece called “A Delicacy.”

The first few examples are basically repetitive exercises consisting of short sequences in order for you to get comfortable with the whole concept of HFN. The later examples online at premierguitar.com illustrate more complex sequences, some of which include the use of open strings.

Note: When using a lot of distortion and gain, I find that rolling way back on the guitar’s volume knob, along with applying palm muting with the picking hand, significantly helps in achieving clarity and articulation with these types of ideas. Also, for tone reasons, I often use the second finger of my picking hand (hybrid picking) in place of upstrokes, but this is not necessary.

Greg Howe
Greg Howe has enjoyed a successful recording career since bursting onto the scene in 1988, and his talents have been sought after by some of the biggest names in the music entertainment industry, such as Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, and Enrique Iglesias.