Nuno Bettencourt Style Open String Hammer-Ons

This week's "Lick of the Week" comes from one of my favorite guitar players on the planet, the incredible Nuno Bettencourt.

Nuno Bettencourt's guitar style combines an incredible sense of rhythm with virtuosic displays of many advanced techniques, all wrapped up in a highly melodic and inspiring guitar style.

One of his signature moves involves the lick we are going to study today. It uses hammer-ons that start with an open string followed by two fret hand notes. This is performed with a lot of string muting which allows us to not only control the feel of the strings better, but also helps the notes sort of pop out at you a bit more.

The key here is to work on repeating the pattern in just one spot first before moving it around through the scale. The pattern itself is just 6 notes, but by repeating those 6 notes in rapid succession you can create an almost hypnotic affect.

Then, as the lick is moved throughout the scale it becomes not only a very melodic musical device to use, but also highly unpredictable. But, Nuno Bettencourt style hammer-ons are no joke. You have to try and keep the timing of the hammer-ons very precise for this lick to be effective.

You can find this sort of lick within a lot of Nuno Bettencourt's lead and rhythm playing and in both his acoustic and electric guitar work. It is just one of the many signature tricks that he has up his sleeve, all of them very effective.

Perhaps Nuno's greatest quality as a player is the fact that he always seems to have a killer groove going. Just the attitude in his playing alone would inspire legions of guitar players.

OK OK, I will shut up about how much I love Nuno Bettencourt's playing now. 🙂

Don't forget to "Grab the TAB" for this video lesson from the link below.

Nuno Bettencourt Style Open String Hammer-Ons TAB PDF

So lets see what you can do with this lick. After mastering it, try creating your own musical licks using the same pattern. I think you will find it to be a very inspiring and completely fresh sounding musical device that can be used in limitless musical situations.


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 Nuno Bettencourt Style Open String Hammer-Ons


  1. thomas pappas on January 10, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    What ever happened to this guy? In the mid- nineties when being a competent player was not considered cool courtesy of hacks from the “alternative” genre, he put out this solo record where his highly technical yet inspired playing was nowhere to be found. I am sure I could do a google search but I am interested to hear what guitar players may know about him today. Funny how being a terrible musician was in vogue. The asses of the masses did note even realize that, save for a few hard rock bands like Alice in Chains, STP, Sound Garden, Pearl Jam and a few others such as Smashing Pumpkins, no one was capable of playing their instrument with skill. Music is a craft and an art requiring a huge commitment of time and effort. Then bands make millions playing power chords and pretending to have a social conscience and most college educated people did not realize they were paying for garbage. I know the hair bands can take credit for turning off people to real music because of their ridiculous look and artistically shallow lyrics but at least they could play. I think Nuno got lumped into that category because his band cheapened him as a talent with songs like “Get the Funk Out”. Oh well, I am still waiting for a rock and blues Rennaissance but I won’t hold my breath. At least we have Joe Bonamassa a d some bands that survived the 80s and 90s like the Black Crowes

  2. Eric Flores on February 28, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    Great licks lessons Carl, all of them!! WOW! Do have anything from Richie Kotzen you can throw at us? He has some sick licks on Paying Dues from the Peace Sign CD. But anything you have from Kotzen will be awesome!!
    Thomas Pappas…last I heard, Nuno went on tour with Rhianna. Yes, THAT Rhianna. Currently Extreme is doing a 25th Anniversary tour in Europe. It’s on his FB page, check it out.

    • Carl Brown on March 1, 2015 at 10:13 am

      Hey Eric, yes I follow Nuno on Facebook as well. He has always been one of my favorite guitarists. The only Kotzen lesson I have at the moment is my advanced legato technique lessons where I demonstrate some legato licks in his style.

      You can find that lesson in the advanced section of the site under the technique area. 🙂

  3. Steve Guldseth on March 19, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    This is one of the best sites I’ve seen on the internet. Great stuff. I am a beginner and your lessons help a lot. I’m a little older than most for starting out but I’ve got the ambition. I have progressed from an old 12 string “the ol lady” and now have a Eppi Les Paul and a Fender Strat. I was wondering if you might possibly find the time to put out a lesson on “you better think Twice” by Poco. I have always been fascinated with the guitar parts and would love to see how it’s played. Anyway, super site and I’ll be here for quite some time. By the way, I’m 62. Steve G

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