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Guitar Pull-Offs

Updated on January 14, 2016

Basic Guitar Pull-off

Using pull-offs in your guitar playing is a great way to add energy, and variation into your playing.

Let's go over how a pull-off is performed.

  1. Place your ring finger on the high "E" string at the 7th fret.
  2. Place your index finger on the high "E" string at the 5th fret.
  3. Pick the 7th fret note, which is a B note, using a downstroke (the "^" symbol depicts a down-stroke for our purposes) with your pick.
  4. Immediately pull your ring finger towards the floor to sound the "A" note at the 5th fret on the high "E" string (please see the guitar tab below).
p = pull-off

       ^  
e|-----7-p-5-----|
B|---------------|
G|---------------|
D|---------------|
A|---------------|
E|---------------|


That is the basic pull-off in a nutshell. Practice performing your pull-off using only downstrokes at first to get the hang of how to do them. Try performing your pull-offs on the high "E" string only at first, and moving your pull-offs up and down the neck, since playing pull-offs up high on the neck feels very different than performing a pull-off down low on the neck, let's say between the first and third frets. Practice slowly at first, and speed up your pull-offs as you get better. Use of a metronome is a good idea starting in the 40 - 60 beat per minute range when first starting out, and increasing speed a click or two at a time as your playing improves.

Next try pulling off with your second finger to the first finger (index finger) from the 6th fret to the 5th fret (please see the tab below). Then third finger (ring finger) to the first finger from the 7th fret to the 5th fret, and last but not least the fourth finger (pinky) to the first finger from the 8th fret to the 5th fret. Practice these pull-offs in all of the variations you can think of. Spend at least 10 - 15 minutes of practice time whenever you practice your pull-offs.

p = pull-off
    
       ^       ^       ^
e|-----6-p-5---7-p-5---8-p-5-----|
B|-------------------------------|
G|-------------------------------|
D|-------------------------------|
A|-------------------------------|
E|-------------------------------|


After you have the basic guitar pull-off under your fingers move on to the next section where we will work on two string pull-offs.

Two String Pull-Offs

The two guitar strings we are focusing on are the high "E" string and the "B" string. The pull-offs will be played over the chord progression of E, B, C#m, and B. Two measures of each chord are played. The goal is to get to the point where you can play 16th note pull-offs over these chords at the tempo of the rhythm track I posted below. This means there are 4 notes played per beat.

Please see the tab below for the fret positions for this set of two string pull-offs.

The way I play these two string pull-offs is with the first, fourth, and second finger of the fretboard hand. For instance when playing the notes over the "E" chord I barre my first finger across the high "E" and "B" string, and place my fourth finger (pinky) at the G# note at the 16th fret of the high "E" string. I pick the G# note and pull-off to the E note at the 12th fret. Then I pick the C# at the 14th fret on the "B" string. I'm using the second finger of my fretting hand to play the C# pulling off to the B note at the 12th fret of the "B" string. The first finger stays put barred across the high "E" and "B" strings, and does not move while playing these notes. The first finger moves only when changing position to the next set of notes when the chord changes in the rhythm track.

In this case the next chord is a B chord. The notes played over the B chord are D# played at the 11th fret on the high "E" string. B played at the 7th fret on the high "E" string. G# played on the 9th fret on the "B" string, and F# played at the 7th fret of the "B" string. The fingering is exactly the same as how you played the notes over the E chord, except your first finger is barred at the 7th fret. The spacial relationship of the fingering is exactly the same as when playing over the E major chord just lower on the neck. The most challenging part of playing these pull-offs is changing positions in time with the rhythm track.

The next chord in the progression is C#m. Since this is a minor chord the fingering changes slightly to fit the minor chord. As you can see in the tab below we start with the E note at the 12th fret fretted with the fourth finger (pinky). Your first finger is barred at the 9th fret and plays the C# note on the high "E" string, and the G# note at the 9th fret of the "B" string. Your second finger plays the A note at the 10th fret on the B string. The order of the notes played is E, C#, A, and G#. Since this is a minor chord you don't have to stretch your fingers quite as far (one fret less for the fourth and second fingers). These notes are all picked the same as before, one downstroke for each pull-off.

For the next B chord you slide back down to the 7th position, and play the same notes as you did for the B chord in the tab below. Then the progression starts over on the E chord.

Let's talk about picking for a minute. When starting out playing these two string pull-offs, I suggest picking with only downstrokes. Then try starting with an upstroke on the high "E" string, and a downstroke on the "B" string (this is called outside picking). Next try picking with a downstroke on the high "E" string, and an upstroke on the "B" string (this is called inside picking). Use whatever picking and fingering combinations that you are most comfortable with. I have listed in the explanation of the pull-offs the fingering that works best for me. Experiment to find what works best for you.

The rhythm track below starts out with two chords as a lead in that you don't play over. Start playing your pull-offs on the third chord (E) where the palm muted eighth note rhythm starts.

Practice slowly at first without the rhythm track one position at a time making sure you can perform the pull-offs properly. Even playing the notes out of time at first can be useful in getting your fingers used to playing the notes in the specified positions on the neck. After you are comfortable playing the two string pull-offs in one position at a time. Then you are ready to play along with the rhythm track playing quarter notes (one note per beat) or even half notes (one note per every two beats) to get the feel of how the notes fit over the chords. As you get better at playing the pull-offs, work up to the point of playing eighth notes (two notes per beat), and finally 16th notes (four notes per beat).

Have fun with this, and please leave any questions in the comments section below.


p = pull-off

       E
    
       ^        ^        ^        ^        ^        ^        ^        ^
e|-----16-p-12-----------16-p-12-----------16-p-12-----------16-p-12--------------|
B|--------------14-p-12-----------14-p-12-----------14-p-12-----------14-p-12-----|
G|--------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
D|--------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
A|--------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
E|--------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

p = pull-off

       B
    
       ^        ^       ^        ^       ^        ^       ^        ^
e|-----11-p-7-----------11-p-7-----------11-p-7-----------11-p-7-------------|
B|--------------9-p-7------------9-p-7------------9-p-7------------9-p-7-----|
G|---------------------------------------------------------------------------|
D|---------------------------------------------------------------------------|
A|---------------------------------------------------------------------------|
E|---------------------------------------------------------------------------|

p = pull-off

       C#m
    
       ^        ^       ^        ^       ^        ^       ^        ^
e|-----12-p-9-----------12-p-9-----------12-p-9-----------12-p-9--------------|
B|--------------10-p-9-----------10-p-9-----------10-p-9-----------10-p-9-----|
G|----------------------------------------------------------------------------|
D|----------------------------------------------------------------------------|
A|----------------------------------------------------------------------------|
E|----------------------------------------------------------------------------|



Please listen to the example below below to hear how the two string pull-offs should sound.


Below is a rhythm track you can practice over.

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    • Kris Youngsteadt profile image
      Author

      Kris Youngsteadt 2 years ago

      Thanks for taking a look and listen, Terri!

    • profile image

      Terri Nakamura 2 years ago

      The technical stuff was way over my head, Kris, but I enjoyed the videos!

    • Kris Youngsteadt profile image
      Author

      Kris Youngsteadt 2 years ago

      Thanks for checking out the page, Scott! I hope you liked it.

    • Fox Music profile image

      Fox Music 2 years ago

      Hi Kris - I'm here via Empire Avenue and a Hubber As Well Thanks For Sharing this Article "Picking Guitar Pull-Offs" -- Good Luck

    • Kris Youngsteadt profile image
      Author

      Kris Youngsteadt 2 years ago

      Thanks for checking out my HubPage, Old Guard.

      LuAnn, I have been playing for a good 15 years for this segment of my life. I played a lot in high school and college, so add another 10 years on for a total of 25 years. There was a good 10 years where I hardly played at all then when I started up again right around the turn of the century I felt like I was kind of starting from scratch, but the basic stuff came back pretty quick. Thanks for checking out my page. I appreciate it.

    • LuAnn Braley profile image

      LuAnn Braley 2 years ago from Crab Orchard, KY

      I did piano, a smidge of flute and violin. Hubby is trying to learn the dulcimer. Looks like great info for folks learning more guitar (and at a higher level). How long have you been playing?

    • The Old Guard profile image

      John Wilson 2 years ago from Whereever I hang my hat is my hone. Currently in Ibarra, Ecuador

      Always wished I had learned to play the guitar.

      Interesting!

      Cheers

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