Slurs on Classical Guitar (Hammer-Ons, Pull-Offs)

A Lesson on Slurs for the Classical Guitar (Hammer-ons & Pull-offs) – A lesson on playing and practicing slurs on classical guitar. The above overview lesson covers a definition, context, and some beginner exercises. Check out my method books and technique books at the sheet music page. This is great video for beginners or intermediates looking to improve and existing problems.

The above video is good for beginners or crossover students but scroll down for dedicated slurs exercises for all levels from my comprehensive technique book.

Slur Definition – A slur is a symbol in musical notation that indicates a legato articulation. On guitar it is also a specific technique used to accomplish the musical result. A slur is shown in notation with a curved line placed over or under the notes. The common result of playing slurs on the guitar is to facilitate legato and sometimes, if wanted, create a strong to weak sound between notes. However, depending on your technique, the notes can either be strong-weak or quite even in sound.

Ascending Slurs (Hammer-ons) on Guitar – Occur from a low pitch to a higher pitch. This involves playing the first pitch as normal while the subsequent notes are played with only the left hand snapping into the fret to create the next note. See video.

Descending Slurs (Pull-offs) on Guitar – Occur from a high pitch to a lower pitch. This involves playing the first pitch as normal while the subsequent notes are played with only the left hand plucking the string with a pull-off motion to create the next note. See video.

Example of Ascending and Descending Slurs. Also notice the tie which looks similar to a slur but differentiated as it connects two of the same notes. From study No.20, Op.60 by Sor.

Slurs on Classical Guitar

Example of Slurs over Multiple Notes – Notice that slurring over multiple notes may include both ascending and descending slurs. In this example your would pluck the first note of the slur and the remaining five notes would be executed with the left hand slurs only. Example from Tarrega’s Marieta.

Slurs Over Multiple Notes on Classical Guitar

Not to be confused with phrase marks – Phrase marks look similar and sometimes imply legato but are different symbols. You can almost always identify slurs and phrase marks based on the context. It is obvious below that all the notes are not intended to be slurred. Example is the melody from Mertz’s Romanze.

Phrase Marks on Classical Guitar

Find Slurs Exercises in My Technique Books

Dedicated Slur Exercises for Classical Guitar

This is from my book Classical Guitar Technique: Essential Exercises, Scales, and Arpeggios. The 122 page book includes: Practice Routines, Tips, 100 Open String Exercises, 120 Giuliani Arpeggios, Scales, Slur Exercises, Shifts, Finger Independence, Barre, Tremolo, Common Harmonics, and much more.

Slurs, along with scales and arpeggios, are one of the main guitar techniques that need to be maintained regularly. Ascending slurs (hammer-ons): Have the fingers hovering over the frets and strings so they need only to drop down into place with a light, direct snap of the finger. Descending slurs (pull-offs): Practice as left hand rest strokes by pulling the string down toward your feet into the string below. This should provide a clear pluck in the left hand (which will add clarity to the slur). Once you feel comfortable with this technique you can use varied degrees of downward snap or even just lift off a finger (which will produce a softer sound).

Video Times for Exercises 

  • Left Hand Alone: 1:17
  • Open String Slurs: 4:15
  • Alignment Open String Slurs: 8:03
  • Closed Slurs: 9:54
  • Alignment and Closed Slurs: 12:57
  • Slurs in Triplets and Threes: 14:55
  • Horizontal Builders: 17:46
  • Shifts with Slurs: 20:54
  • Slurs in Groups of 4, 5, 6: 22:56
  • Multi-Finger Slurs in Groups of 15 and 11: 29:10

Two Slur Exercises from 20 Favorite Exercises

These are two lessons from my 20 Favorite Exercises for Classical Guitar – For beginner to intermediate classical guitarists (Includes: notation, TAB, fingerings, practice tips). This exercise, No. 6 & 7, aim to expose the beginner player to what is required of ascending and descending slur techniques (also called hammer-ons and pull-offs in guitar lingo). I walk through the exercise and then give a lesson with a few tips. This is the vertical exercise you’ve seen above but also a horizontal one.

Intermediate Shifts and Slurs Combo Exercise

This is a video lesson for my ebook: 20 Favorite Exercises for Classical Guitar – For beginner to intermediate classical guitarists (Includes: notation, TAB, fingerings, practice tips). This exercise & lesson, No. 14 – Intermediate Shifts and Slurs Exercise for Classical Guitar, is a great way for intermediate guitarists to practice both shifts and slurs all at once. I love these types combination exercises. The video walks you through the exercise and gives a small lesson.


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