My left hand speed isn't good enough to do fast hammer on pull offs or similar stuff. I want to learn some basic iron maiden solos and go from there but I simply can't get the hammer pull offs right. My friends who play tell me to practice with a metronome but that never improves my speed. Whenever I increase the tempo a bit too high I struggle. What are some good ways to get hang of it?

  • I appreciate this question. I'm pretty old school music wise and recently revisit d the licks from the old Chicago song 25 or 6 to 4. This solo is pretty fast, around 148, and it was a good reminder of how fast you can string riffs together by rapidly hammering on and pulling off, mostly with just the ring finger. Sadly it also showed me how limited is my endurance, making me realize its not just speed, but the ability to keep it going like a machine. I'm sure the only way I'll progress toward both speed AND endurance is by putting in the practice hours with that metranome.
    – Randy
    Dec 27, 2016 at 17:01

4 Answers 4


Play it slow but correct and then speed up. Try to play it perfectly, as slow as you need it to be. It's better to be able to play it slowly and well then to play it fast and sloppy.

Your friends are right, a metronome can help. First, set it to a speed at which you can comfortably play it. From there on, put it a bit faster each time. The song is at 120 bpm? And you can play it at 80 bpm? Try it at 85 or 90. And up it once you're comfortable at that speed. Don't just go from 80 bpm to 120, it won't work.


Chromatic finger exercises with a metronome will help if your fingers are really weak. This is where you play 4 notes on each string from low (low e) to high (high e), and then back up again to low e. One finger on each fret, and when you have done all 6 strings, you start by moving one note up and do the exercise in the next position. (for example, you would start on the f note of the low e string, play f#, g, G#, g, f#, f, and then move down to the a string, play a#, b, c, c#, etc.)

"Play it slow but correct and then speed up"

As Carra said, the key is really to play as slowly as necessary to play it correctly and get a LITTLE faster each time, because THIS is where you will strengthen your fingers and develop the timing necessary to play it at the correct speed. There is no quick way to do this. I would also like to add that it is important to ensure your hand is in the correct position while you are practicing.

Make sure you are practicing correctly, and you will save lots of frustration. Progress can be slow but just make sure that you are progressing and you will get there.

Remember if you are practicing poorly, you are essentially practicing mistakes, which could cause you years of frustration.

  • are you talking about starting with index, then hammering on with middle, then hammer on with ring, then with little finger, then pull off with little, then ring, etc? It's a good exercise, but very difficult. If you're doing that, start around fret 9/10, and go TOWARDS the headstock by one fret each time - the frets get wider, so it gets more tricky.
    – Tim
    Mar 24, 2014 at 13:38
  • Incidentally with long fingers I found it easier on the lower frets to start off with, and started there from day one, but you make a good point, it may be easier for some higher up.
    – 333Mhz
    Mar 24, 2014 at 18:59

according to my personal experience:

  1. Be patient , it may take for years to reach your ideal speed .
  2. play every day ,seems exaggerating ! it's better to play half an hour a day but every day than to play 7 hours but 4 day per week. if you don't have practice schedule make one as soon as possible.
  3. warm up before start practicing, it strengthens your fingers and helps you play more fluently and efficiently.
  4. play with metronome , set the metronome tempo a little slower than to what you feel comfortable with, then very very slowly speed up , you will reach to the ceiling of your playing tempo that can not speed up no more , now it's time to leave your instrument for 10 minutes , then come back again and start practicing with little slower tempo of your maximum speed.Amazing! after a while you've improved your maximum speed.
  5. play notes in scale and practice rock cliches, it improves your muscle memory and improvising skills. many songs have repetitive pattern you've practiced .
  6. start covering with simpler songs such as wasting love (1992, Fear Of The Dark-iron maiden) and keep on.
  7. follow your hero ,preferably John Petrucci :)

Practice the left hand more. It's as simple as that really.

One of the big problems with piano is that you make some sort of breakthrough with the right hand and the left hand can't keep up. Then it's easy to get discouraged. But your left hand will make progress too. Just don't keep letting your right hand tell your left how deficient it is, if you take my meaning.

I've talked to famous concert pianists who say that they spend three or four times as much time on their left hand as their right, so you're not alone. Persevere. Work with the left hand alone.

Also, when you've gotten as far as you can at any point, walk away for a while. When you come back to it, you'll be surprised to see that it has improved, apparently without any further work. Think of it like this. You're trying to lift weights. You go until you're tired. You can't keep going past a certain point. You quit. When you come back, you can lift more. It works the same way with your hands. Keep that in mind. That's worth repeating: keep that in mind.

  • 1
    the OP is asking about fretting hand work on a guitar. It's quite different, although the principle of practice is similar.
    – Tim
    Mar 23, 2014 at 6:55
  • Oops! Thanks for the correction. There's a "fast hammer" in blues piano as well, having to do with hitting the blue note and the note a half step up quickly, although come to think of it it's rare in the left hand. A good example that comes to mind is Otis Spann's improv on Muddy Waters's rendition of "Five Long Years".
    – BobRodes
    Mar 24, 2014 at 13:08

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