To improve your bass playing, the best thing that you can do is to try different techniques. Learning new skills helps you to expand your approach to the instrument, whether that is through adding those learned techniques, or through gathering new insight into your note groupings.
In this article, we’ll talk about one of the most basic techniques available in bass guitar playing, the open hammer on, and how it can be used to spice up your playing in new and interesting ways.
In order to learn open string hammer ons you are going to need to build up your finger strength, as you won’t have a fretted string to help you play the next note; you will be tapping the note into sound.
The easiest way to build finger strength is to do some simple exercises. Buy a stress ball, and four five minutes a day, squeeze it between your fingertips. Squeeze until you can feel your fingertips practically touching though the body of the ball, then hold for five seconds. Release, and repeat twenty times. Do the same exact exercise three times throughout the day to get your required five minutes.
Another great way to build finger strength is by strengthening all of your fingers. Try fretting with fingers that you don’t typically use. This means that if you primarily use your index finger and middle finger use your ring finger and pinky finger instead.
Evening the strength of your fingers allows your other fingers to do less work, as you will be dispersing the work load. In turn, this allows your fingers to conserve strength for more arduous techniques such as one fingered hammer ons.
Learning the open string hammer on is the easy part; you simply play an open note, and hammer on a fret. Take for instance your low E string. In order to play a hammer on for the octave, you would pluck or pick the low E, and then tap onto the twelfth fret with your fretting hand. Easy, right?
A great way to develop finesse with the open string hammer on is to play a lick using only single hammer ons to and from open notes. This means playing that same low E, hammering on the twelfth fret, then pulling off back to the open note and fretting another note, such as the G on the third fret. This will allow you to get a handle on the full technique and allow you to develop speed and accuracy.
Try adding open note hammer ons into licks and riffs alike. Tool’s Schism is a great example of using an open note hammer on to start of a riff. It is an extremely popular riff for bassists, and it sounds ethereal. If you are playing an octave of your open string within a lick, such as a G on the G string, try pulling off to the open note, then hammering back on.
Don’t always approach the open note hammer on in the same light; try different variations of use, such as adding it in different places or within different structures. Although we talked a lot about octaves, by no means do you have to only use octaves; open note hammer ons can work on a variety of notes.
JamPlay has thousands of video lessons that are conveniently arranged in structured lesson sets. With high quality instructions from world renowned bassists, Jamplay is an unparalleled learning resource. Whatever your genre preferences, you’ll find something here to help you improve your current level of playing.