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Thread: Hammer-Ons

  1. #1

    Default Hammer-Ons

    I've landed in mandolin land by way of Irish tenor banjo, which I started learning this past fall. I'm using Enda Scahill's banjo tutor for the banjo and mandolin simultaneously, which is a lot of fun. Hammer-ons are not new for me, but the mandolin certainly is.

    So my question is, when encountering hammer-ons with two notes before landing on the final note (in this case b, c#, landing on d) is it common practice on mandolin to pluck the b, hammer the c#, then hammer the d, like I would on the banjo, or would it be better to also pluck either the c#, or both the c# and d as well? The shorter strings on the mandolin don't have much sustain to carry through the sequence the way the banjo does, so volume suffers. This may get better as I get more skilled with the mandolin, but I would appreciate hearing from someone with more experience to give me an idea of how this is normally done. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hammer-Ons

    With Irish trad on the mandolin, it's basically whatever you can get away with.

    For example, in the D version of "Toss the Feathers" with a setting where the initial D note is followed by a triplet, I'll pick the D and then pick the first note of the triplet followed by two hammer-ons.

    Here's the tricky thing though... they're not exactly hammer-ons in the guitar or maybe banjo sense. They're a hammer and a slight pull off to the side at the same time, to get enough volume on the mandolin. You can do this on double course strings without tearing up your fingers if you have some fingertip callus.

    This only works in solo playing or very small groups of players though. It's the way I like to play this kind of thing, but in a loud Irish session you'll never hear it, and might as well just pick the full triplet.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Hammer-Ons

    I think I found the version you're describing. Is it a descending triplet? If so, from my five string banjo days, I'd call those alternate string pulloffs. I've haven't encountered the need for that yet on the mandolin, but it does work fine for that phrase. The scale I'm referring to is ascending, which requires either two hammer-ons (as called out in the tutor) or picking to get enough oomph to be heard well. Based on your comments, I think that might be a good place to pick the triplet! Thanks.

  4. #4
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hammer-Ons

    Right, the example I used in Toss the Feathers is a descending triplet with pull-offs, so it's not a good example for hammer-ons. That was just the first thing that came to mind.

    Here's another example, a short clip where I'm trying to fake a fiddle roll in the second bar of this tune (Tony Molloy's) with a combination of hammer-ons and pull-offs. It sort-of works, but it's much quieter than the picked triplets. Anything you do on mandolin with hammers and pulls is going to be quieter than picked triplets:

    http://ptjams.com/mb/mp3/Mandolin%20Roll%20Demo.mp3

  5. #5

    Default Re: Hammer-Ons

    Wow, that was great! Softer, yes, but it still sounded great and added a little complexity to the piece. Thanks for posting that....I think I have a little work to do!

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