Does anyone know how I would interpret this hammer on in the guitar tab seen in the image?

enter image description here

I would usually read this as "play the third string on the fourth fret, hammer on 5, hammer on 4" but this doesn't make sense in this case since you would usually hammer on higher up the neck in relation to the previous note hammered on.

Thanks in advance for any replies.


2 Answers 2


It’s a hammer-on fret 4 to 5 immediately followed by a pull-off fret 5 to 4. You just pick the note once, but do a hammer-on followed by a pull-off. Hammer-ons and pull-offs both use the same slur notation (the curved line); therefore, the only way to distinguish between them, is whether you are going from a lower-to-higher or higher-to-lower fret.

And yes, you can have multiple hammer-ons and pull-offs under one slur. This hammer-on, pull-off back to the first note, would be termed a mordent in classical terminology. If you repeatedly alternate between two notes under a slur, this would be a trill: enter image description here


In addition to Bob's answer, it's a slur mark. That means the three notes are played 'in one breath' - without any more than one pluck of the right hand. That's legato playing.

As Bob says, it's usually executed by plucking the first note, hammering-on the second (one fret higher), then pulling-off with the same finger that hammered-on, back to the first note pitch.

That's the usual way to play slurs on guitar. However, another way is to slide - where the first note is plucked, then the second is slid to, then the third slid back to. That way, the transition between notes is smooth, which is, after all, what slurring is supposed to do.

So, two ways in which to play a 'slur' in guitar music. Often, in tab, it's indicated, but not always - sometimes left to the discretion of the performer.

  • 3
    Slides are usually indicated with a straight diagonal line, so the notation is not ambiguous.
    – J...
    Commented Jun 11, 2021 at 14:11
  • @J... - in the absence of anything except a slur mark, either is an option.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 11, 2021 at 15:26
  • 2
    I don't think that's correct. A slur always means a hammer/pull on plucked string instruments. A slide is always marked with a glissando.
    – J...
    Commented Jun 11, 2021 at 17:35
  • @J... - on tab, true, but on real music...
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 11, 2021 at 18:41
  • 1
    Maybe you should click that link... either that or we have a serious difference of opinion about what "real music" means.
    – J...
    Commented Jun 11, 2021 at 18:49

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