Hi guys, sorry if this is in the wrong forum, I'm new to the community and to banjos altogether.
I'm trying to learn to "hammer" the strings as I believe it's called, in this case, "double-hammer", but I keep muting the string when I hit it or at most play it softly. I strike down the strings as quick and hard as possible on the fretboard with my left hand's ring finger right before the fret bar and make sure I hit it all the way down, but to no avail.
Any suggestions my friends?
The hammered note will be softer than thenote struck by your finger, but it will ne heard. Is another finger muting the string? What do you mean by "double hammer"? Work on a single hammer-on first and then get fancy.
Can't remember if, or when, I hammered on using my ring finger. Usually, I use my middle finger. If I used my ring finger, I'm sure I'd need to exercise that finger in some way (like a lot of hammer-ons in a structured way) to strengthen that motion. Based on the notes before and after, maybe the ring finger would be the best choice.
I do hammer a lot with my ring finger. Some of my favorite licks call for a ring finger hammer (or pull off) when my index finger is anchored on another note. Some thoughts...
1) Like David above, I also wonder if another finger is muting the string.
2) The ring finger is not initially the strongest finger for snapping off a good hammer, so it does take some time and practice to build it up.
3) You don't have to be right behind the fret to hammer effectively. In fact, if you are too close to the fret, or actually touching it, it tends to muddy (mute?) the sound...especially if you are hitting right on top of the fret.
4) I don't exactly know what a double hammer is either. I can thing of several possibilities.
Some folks have a LOT of trouble with hammer-ons — almost like a mental block. Try out this progression to learn ‘em or to figure out where you’re going astray:
1) Hold your hands away from the banjo entirely, shake them out, open them wiiiiide and stretch the fingers out, and then snap them shut into your palm. Do this a few times — either on a broom handle or just into your own palm. Relax and feel the muscle in your forearm doing the work - the fingers are being yanked shut from WAY up the arm. Realize that the old koan riddle was nonsense… THIS is the sound of one hand clapping… ;-)
2) Now wrap your left hand around the banjo neck and try this snapping motion less aggressively - just let one finger hit the first string and let the rest miss. Do nothing with your right hand. You may need to stop and practice a bunch right here — many people have a ton of trouble clamping one finger a bit more than the rest — and are used to an all or nothing movement. Instead of asking your brain to clench 1 finger independently … ask it to clench them all 4 fingers BUT to do a half-assed job with 3 fingers and a great/forceful job with just 1 finger.
3) Do #2 a bunch of times - hitting different strings, using different levels of force, and striking different places between the frets. See what sounds good and what sounds bad. Your right hand still shouldn’t be involved. Take note that some fingers and strings are much harder to do cleanly than others. That’s ok — as a handful of your hammers are WAY more common/useful than all the rest put together. For finger/string/fret combinations that sound good — move those hammers into the next steps. Leave the rest of them (and, almost certainly, your pinky) back here and work on them in isolation or, if ya don’t need a particular finger/string/fret combination, forget about it.
4) Add in a right-hand open-note and do a hammer that sounded good in step #3 on a different string with your left hand. Yes - learn these before same-string hammers. It will help you a ton long-term. Get your two hands taking turns and get a clean note out of each hand - leaving plenty of room between each note.
5) Now hit a right-hand open-note and hammer the same string with the left. I recommend the 4th string (open pick) and the 2nd fret (hammer-on) to start. Practice this and get into a 1-2-1-2 rhythm with even time. Don’t add it into a bum-ditty or any kind of stroke or a tune yet — just do a right-left even cadence - back and forth until it is smooth and the volume roughly matches. Try them harder… try them softer… get a feel for the range of volume where you’ve got control and they sound like pals.
6) Finally - add the hammer into the cadence of a real stroke and then into tunes where appropriate. You may have gotten here in 15 minutes, days, or months — it doesn’t matter. Do not add bad/weak hammers into tunes — leave them out until they are clean in isolation. Some people will have solid slides and pull-offs way before hammers — don’t sweat it… it is ALL ornamentation, you don’t need to rush any of it.
Bonus stuff for the masochistic:
7) Hit a right hand fretted note and hammer the same string a fret lower (a fretted hammer).
8) Strum with the right hand and hammer-on two strings with two different fingers at the same time. Try an open-G strum and hammering the 1st and 4th string at the second fret (a chord hammer). Use the same fingers as an Em chord for this one. Try out different chord hammers - which are basically just fast/forceful chord changes.
9) Hit one string open with the right, then hammer two fingers into that same string at two frets (e.g. 2nd and then 3rd fret on the 4th string) in quick (1/16th) succession - like a one-two punching combination (a bluesy double hammer that sounds sort of like a quick slide or a side-slur).
Get help from a teacher in-person or with a Zoom closeup session if you get stuck. Don’t go past step #6 for good long while - or maybe never.
I wouldn't get overly concerned. These things take time and practice. Practicing with a metronome can be helpful. Timing and accuracy are both acquired through repetition and practice. It may take a year or two for these skills to develop.
The pounded note will be gentler than thenote struck by your finger, yet it will ne heard. Is another finger quieting the string? What do you mean by "twofold sledge"? Work on a solitary mallet on first and afterward get extravagant.
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