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Check out these tabs. It includes hammer on's and pull off's but I see a lot of covers for that song on youtube that don't use 'em. They just pick.

Plus I don't know if the original song uses 'em either. How do you figure hammer on's and pull off's in a song?

And where did hammer on's and pull off's come from? Why do you have to use them, why not just pick? Do they make any difference in a song?

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Do they sound different? – NReilingh Jan 22 '14 at 5:33
@NReilingh- yes ,and no.You can make one sound like the other, but they're used more to help the phrasing than to help picking, which they still obviously do. – Tim Jan 22 '14 at 9:20
If you are speaking about the "intro," then the tab is wrong. While it is true that a hammer/pull can sound a lot like quick picking, the guitar setup and sound in this particular song really highlights the attack you get from striking the string with a pick. the easiest thing for you to do to test for yourself is to record that passage playing it both ways and then listen for the pick attack. – horatio Jan 22 '14 at 18:14
@NReilingh Yeah they do, but I am confused, the original song doesn't sound like they use hammer on's or pull off's, but the tabs claim so. From Tim's answer, I figured the original song involves only picking, but I am not sure. – Amar Duplantier Jan 23 '14 at 3:49
@horatio Yeah, thanks. That makes some sense. – Amar Duplantier Jan 23 '14 at 3:50
up vote 5 down vote accepted

They are part of LEGATO playing, along with bends and slides. They SHOULD provide smooth transition from one note to the next. Picked notes generally have an edge to them, so all sound 'attacked'.Whereas hammered-on and pulled-off notes will sound a little more gentle. They are being produced by skin rather than a piece of plastic.

They mean that pick strokes can be fewer when playing, thus speeding things up. They also mean a phrase can be played 'in one breath'. Some forms of playing are expected to use alternate pick strokes, and will sound more authentic played this way. However, in other styles, it's well nigh impossible to tell if certain notes are picked or pulled/hammered.

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I've found on this site that people tend to over-specify. And yes, the other answer is right, its for a legato feel. You're probably accentuating these hammer ons and pull offs more than is intended or letting them interfere with timing.

Party the natural thing to do when transcribing from a recording is try to nail down the exact sound, including the artists interpretation. Partly its also to do with the limitations of tab. It's quite hard to express something like Legato in tab, when unaccompanied by notation. Hopefully you've got the music as a guide. Always take the tab with a pinch of salt and think what they were trying to achieve. Often its better to strip them out at first (although tim makes a good point in the comments), learn now embellish later, to better decide on what sound to create.

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@Nathan-the trouble with learning a quick piece from scratch is that once you've put in/ left out legato, you've maybe got to re-learn the whole lot because of the difference in picking when you want to change.Somehow it would (in theory) be better to 'get it right' initially. Not that I believe most tab I see anyway. – Tim Jan 22 '14 at 9:17
@Tim I think it depends. Something like legato I'm usually inclined to agree. However, if this legato is achieved in a complex manner, depending on skill level, it can be better to focus on nailing rhythm first. I wouldn't learn the whole think simply and then go back, but i probably would do it passage by passage. – Nathan Cooper Jan 22 '14 at 9:23
yes, except that the more one plays a piece or part of it, the more it gets embedded. It's what practice is all about. Then you've got to unlearn... – Tim Jan 22 '14 at 9:33
@Tim In your case you have to unlearn your poor timing. And you're not making hard music approachable. If you had something like riverdance (very fast constant stream of notes with some ornamentation) to learn you really would not be helping yourself with that approach. Anyway, I think this is a philosophical divide tangential to the question. – Nathan Cooper Jan 22 '14 at 9:57
I felt our comments were totally apposite, since the OP is concerned about to pick or not to pick. Hard music doesn't equal fast music. Getting legato smooth in slow passages can be demanding.Timing will be affected when one learns a phrase with alternate picking and subsequently re-learns it legato.(And vice versa). The timing of the picking, not that of the phrase.But how did 'poor timing' get into this equation ? – Tim Jan 24 '14 at 15:48

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