In guitar technique, starting a note by quickly pressing down a string with the fretting hand's finger instead of picking or finger-picking the note is called a hammer-on, and it's notated with a legato slur and a letter H. Usually this is done in a combination where a note is first picked on a string, and while the note is sounding, the same string is "hammered" on a higher fret, starting a new higher note, but with a softer attack.

However, it's not unheard of to hammer-on strings that weren't sounding previously, creating a similar effect and attack sound. I started learning the Guitar Pro notation software and was surprised that I cannot write this technique as a hammer-on, I have to write it as a "Left Hand Tapping" effect, which has a circled letter T symbol instead of H.

Hammer-on vs Left hand tapping

Is it a commonly known and accepted meaning for the term hammer-on, that a string has to have a previously sounding note in order to be hammered-on? I can understand the distinction from a programming point of view, but I wouldn't have any problem understanding the notation if it was denoted with an H and called a hammer-on.

  • Can't you just write it as a hammer-on from a rest or hidden note? – leftaroundabout Nov 5 '20 at 21:01
  • @leftaroundabout I don't know how to do that. I was interested in hearing from other people, if this very specific meaning for hammer-on is a common "truth". Are you a seasoned Guitar Pro user? This is only my second solo transcription, day 2 of my free trial period, and already having to learn hacks around the program. ;) It's apparently the same with all notation programs! Anyway, Guitar Pro seems just phenomenal for notating guitar solos. I'm writing very detailed techniques incredibly easily after using the program for only a few hours. Stuff that would be way too tedious in Sibelius. – piiperi Reinstate Monica Nov 5 '20 at 21:13
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    I was under the impression that "tapping" was defined as a two-handed technique which utilizes hammer-ons and pull-offs. – Yorik Nov 5 '20 at 21:44
  • I don't use Guitar Pro, but in MuseScore (which can also do tabs – although... why would you use tabs?) you can just make notes invisible. – leftaroundabout Nov 5 '20 at 21:50
  • I may have heard this as "hammer-on from nothing" or something similar, but a bit clunky... – user45266 Jan 16 at 5:28

I would just call it a hammer.

FWIW, my teacher never made a distinction about whether the string was already sounding.

Seems to me the question is prompted more from the limitations of the software rather than the actual technique or what one might call it.

If I think of something like this...

  h  p  h  p  h  p  h
G -2--0----------------
D -------2--0----------
A -------------2--0----
E -------------------3-

...something I might do just goofing around, played all left hand while the right does nothing, I would think of it as just hammers and pull offs.

  • I'll accept this answer, because it's more directly to the point than user1079505's answer. The technique should be denoted with an H, and this "left hand tapping" thing is just some Guitar Pro weirdness. In Guitar Pro, a hammer-on is entered by selecting the previous sounding note that's on the same string and typing H on the keyboard. If there's no previous note, there's nothing to select, so the user interaction is impossible. I think they should fix this by at least optionally allowing to mark the "left hand tapping" with an H. – piiperi Reinstate Monica Jan 16 at 16:20

It's confusing because it's not so common technique. Many guitarists don't use it at all, and you (probably?) won't find it in classical music.

Typically we speak of hammer on when the string has been previously plucked. Left hand tapping (or perhaps "fretting hand tapping") seems a proper name for a note that starts by pressing a string to the frets without plucking with the other hand.

Calling this hammer on would be probably understandable for most guitarists, but apparently choice of GP staff was to strictly name it tapping.

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