I was in a recording studio a couple of years ago and was just practicing the song I was about to record.
My bandmate was looking at me and said “You play hammer-ons and pull-offs? I thought only guitar players did that!” We all laughed but, yes bass players can play hammer-ons and pull-offs!
Realistically any stringed instrument can play them, the positioning of your plucking or picking hand is what changes.
These are simple but effective techniques. The reasoning behind these techniques would be to do a quick note transition in a song or sometimes to give your fingers a break if you have been playing quickly.
*Fun Fact: Multiple hammer-ons and pull-offs are called rolls.
There are many songs that you can add hammer-ons and pull-offs to. My favorite to use both of these is Paranoid by Black Sabbath.
Below are three exercises that you can do to work on your hammer-on and pull-off game.
Ex 1a, 1b and 1c
Ex. 1a – Pointer and ring fingers will be utilized
Ex. 1b – Pointer and middle fingers will be utilized
Ex. 1c – Pointer and pinky fingers will be utilized
Ex. 2 – Hammer-On/Pull Off (with plucking once)
You will pluck the main note (labeled) and will basically be tapping the rest of the notes with just the fretting hand.
Po = Pointer finger
M = Middle
R = Ring
Pi = Pinky