How To Master The Guitar Pull Off

You've seen guitarists like Angus Young twiddling away without even using their right hand. You've enjoyed the legato licks of Hendrix and Clapton. Perhaps you've even drooled over some of Kirk Hammett's two handed tapping pull offs.

Pull offs are a great way to achieve legato, to play speedily and to give your right hand a rest.

But, when you try to pull off on your guitar, you get a very unclear sound, or even no sound at all.

Why?

Well, there are a few little things to be aware of in order to successfully pull off a pull off.

Here are 4 tips to help you master the guitar pull off...

1) Flick, Don't Jump

I remember my first guitar teacher telling me that you could argue that a more appropriate name for a pull off would be a “flick off.”  I think he was right.

When you pull off from a fret on the guitar, what you’re really doing is flicking the string using your fretting finger. If you simply remove it, you’re going to get very little sound. It’s best to see it as though your fretting hand is now doing the picking hand’s job for it. Say you’re doing a pull off from fret 5 to fret 3, you will need both fingers in position, but after you’ve played fret 5, flick the string as you remove that finger, leaving fret 3 to ring out.

2 Nothing Wrong With A Little Overdrive...

Overdrive makes a lot of electric guitar techniques more easily audible, and pull offs are a key example of this.

If you’re doing two-handed tapping, especially, it might be a struggle to hear all of the pull offs if you’re on a clean setting.

Whack some overdrive on, and enjoy hearing your pulled off notes ring as loud as those that are struck. You could also try using a distortion pedal.

3) The Far Side Of The Fret

Placing your fingers towards the far side of the fret - towards the body - will allow them to ring out more clearly and prevent buzz.

This is always important, whether you’re doing pull offs or not, but it’s particularly useful when you’re using these kind of tricks which are reliant on sustain.

strumming the guitar

4) Say Your Finger Numbers In Your Head

This one might sound a little odd, but if you’re playing a run of pull offs, say frets 8-7-5, and you need to use fingers 3-2-1 in that order, it can sometimes get a little jumbled.

Particularly on the way back up, it’s not unusual - when practising - to accidentally go 3-2-1-2-3-2-1, rather than 3-2-1, 3-2-1. Saying your finger numbers out loud or in your head will help to get the message from your brain to your fingers, helping to ensure that you achieve the correct patterns.

Do you have any other tips or tricks for how to pull off guitar pull offs?

If so, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Rock On  🙂

Roz is a music teacher and our go-to person for anything music theory! When she’s not teaching or writing for Zing, Roz writes and plays in alternative/ psyche /art rock band The Roz Bruce Infusion.

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