Pulling Off: What Is This Guitar Technique?

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 16, 2022

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A pull-off is a stringed instrument technique performed by plucking a string by “pulling” off the string with one of the fingers being used to fret the note so that a lower fretted note (or open string) will sound as a result.

Pulling off is a guitar technique that allows you to play a note or chord and then immediately pull your finger off the fretboard, resulting in a short, sharp sound. It’s similar to hammering on, but the hammer-on technique requires the player to simultaneously fret a note, while pulling off allows the player to play a note and then immediately remove their finger from the fretboard.

You can use pull-offs to play melodies, as well as for playing single notes. It’s a great way to add variety and interest to your playing.

What is a pull off

The Art of Pull-Offs, Hammer-Ons, and Slides

What Are They?

Pull-offs, hammer-ons, and slides are techniques used by guitarists to create unique sounds and effects. A pull-off is when a guitar string is already vibrating and the fretting finger is pulled off, causing the note to change to a longer vibrating length. Hammer-ons are when a fretting finger is quickly pressed onto a string, causing the note to change to a higher pitch. Slides are when a fretting finger is moved along the string, causing the note to change to a higher or lower pitch.

How Are They Used?

Pull-offs, hammer-ons, and slides can be used to create a variety of sounds and effects. They are often used to create grace notes, which are softer and less percussive than regular notes. They can also be used to create a rapid, rippling effect when combined with multiple hammer-ons and strumming or picking. On electric guitars, these techniques can be used to create sustained notes when combined with overdriven amplifiers and guitar effects such as distortion and compression pedals.

Left-Hand Pizzicato

Left-hand pizzicato is a variation of the pull-off technique used in classical music. It is when a string player plucks the string immediately following a bowed note, allowing them to intersperse pizzicato notes into rapid passages of bowed notes. This technique can also be used to create a louder and more sustained sound.

How to Pull-Off, Hammer-On, and Slide Like a Pro

If you want to master the art of pull-offs, hammer-ons, and slides, here are some tips to get you started:

  • Practice! The more you practice, the better you’ll get.
  • Experiment with different techniques and see what works best for you.
  • Use your fretting finger to pluck the string for a louder and more sustained sound.
  • Use your left-hand to flick the string prior to playing a deep-pitched open string to help the string “speak”.
  • Use overdriven amplifiers and guitar effects such as distortion and compression pedals to create sustained notes.

Guitar Pull Offs for Beginners

What are Pull Offs?

Pull offs are like magic tricks for your guitar. They allow you to create a sound without the need for a pick. Instead, you use your fretting hand to pluck the string as you lift it off the fretboard. This creates a smooth, rolling sound that can add texture to your solos and make descending runs and phrases sound amazing.

Getting Started

Ready to get started with pull offs? Here’s what you need to know:

  • Start by getting comfortable with the basic technique. You’ll want to make sure you can lift off the string and pluck it with your fretting hand.
  • Once you’ve got the basics down, you can move on to some finger exercises. This will help you get all your fingers involved in the pull offs.
  • Finally, you can start experimenting with different rhythms and patterns. This will help you create unique and interesting sounds.

Tips for Success

  • Take it slow. Pull offs can be tricky, so don’t rush it.
  • Listen to how the sound changes as you pull off the string. This will help you get a feel for the technique.
  • Have fun! Pull offs are a great way to add texture and creativity to your playing.

How to Master the Pull-Off Technique on the Guitar

Taking it to the Next Level

Once you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to challenge yourself a bit more and try combining hammer-ons and pull-offs. The best way to do this is to try playing scales – ascending with hammer-ons and descending with pull-offs. Check out this audio clip of the A blues scale being performed this way (MP3) and give it a go yourself!

Tips and Tricks

Here are some tips and tricks to help you master the pull-off technique:

  • Hammer onto a note and then pull off to the original note. Keep doing this as long as you can without re-picking the string. This is known as a “trill”.
  • Play the descending version of every scale you know using pull-offs. Start by playing the ascending version of the scale normally. When you get to the top note in the scale, re-pick the note and pull-off to the previous note on that string.
  • Make sure you use your fingertips on the frets instead of the pads of your fingers.
  • Try hammer-ons and pull-offs whenever you play guitar. Most songs that include single notes use these techniques.
  • Have fun with it! Don’t get frustrated – just keep practicing and you’ll get there.

5 Tips for Pulling Off Like a Pro

Fretting the Note

When you’re about to pull off, make sure you fret the note you’re pulling off from in the usual way. That means using your fingertip placed just behind the fret. It’s like a handshake, you gotta do it first!

Fretting the Note You’re Pulling Off To

It’s pretty darned important to make sure the note you’re pulling off to is fretted before you do the deed. Unless you’re planning to pull off to an open-string note, in which case no fretting is necessary.

Don’t Pull the Whole String Down

Whatever you do, don’t pull the whole string down while carrying out the pull-off. That’ll cause both notes to sound sharp and out of tune. So, keep it light and gentle.

Downward Direction

Remember, the pull-off is done in a downward direction. That’s how you pluck the string. It’s called a pull-off for a reason, not a lift-off!

Muting the Strings

Mute as many strings as possible. Think of the string you’re playing on as your friend and the other ones as potential noise-making enemies. Especially when you’re using a lot of gain. So, muting them is a must.

TAB Notation

The TAB notation for a pull-off is pretty simple. It’s just a curved line above the two notes involved. The line goes from left to right, starting above the picked note and ending above the note that’s being pulled off to. Easy peasy!

5 Simple A Minor Pentatonic Pull-Off Licks

If you want to master this vital technique, check out these five simple A minor pentatonic pull-off licks. Start slow and build up strength and dexterity in your pinky. Before you know it, you’ll be pulling off like a pro!

Getting Started with the Minor Pentatonic Scale

A great place to start with pull offs is the minor pentatonic scale box pattern. You can position this at any fret, but in this example, we’ll use the 5th fret on the low E string, which makes it the A minor pentatonic scale.

  • Fret your index/1st finger on the 5th fret of the low E string.
  • With your index finger still fretted, fret your 4th finger in its designated position on that same string.
  • It’s important to have that index finger ready to “catch” the pull off you’ll make with your 4th finger.
  • Once you’re in position, pick the string as usual and, about a second later, pull your 4th finger away so you’re lightly plucking the string.

Getting the Balance Right

When doing a pull off, there’s a fine balance to attain. You need to pull away enough so the string will be plucked and resonate, but not so much that you bend the string out of pitch. This will come with time and practice! So don’t just lift off the string, as the resonance of the following note will be too weak. Rather, pull off! That’s why it’s called what it is!

Moving Up and Down the Scale

Once you’ve got the hang of the pull off technique, it’s time to move up and down the scale pattern. Try and come up with your own little pentatonic pull off sequences. For example, try pulling off from the high E to low E string, or vice versa.

When playing under gain/distortion, the resonance of the pulled-off note will be a lot stronger and your pull off action can be more subtle. However, it’s good to learn the technique playing clean first so you don’t cut any corners.

Tips for Perfecting the Pull Off

  • Start slow with any technique and gradually build up speed with practise.
  • Make sure to keep the timing smooth and constant, no matter what speed you play.
  • Let the pull offs flow or “roll” into each other.
  • At first, you’ll experience unwanted noise from other strings, but as your pull offs become more accurate, you’ll minimise this noise.
  • Each note needs to sound cleanly and clearly!


Pulling Off Vs Picking

When it comes to playing electric guitar, there are two main techniques that you can use to make your playing sound great: picking and hammer-ons and pull-offs. Picking is the technique of using a pick to strum the strings of the guitar, while hammer-ons and pull-offs involve using your fingers to press down on the strings.

Picking is the more traditional way of playing guitar, and it’s great for playing fast and intricate solos. It also allows you to create a wide range of tones, from bright and twangy to warm and mellow. Hammer-ons and pull-offs, on the other hand, are great for creating smooth, flowing lines and for playing more melodic passages. They also allow you to create a more subtle, nuanced sound. So, depending on the style of music you’re playing, you may want to use one technique over the other.

Pulling Off Vs Hammer-Ons

Hammer-ons and pull-offs are two essential techniques for guitarists. Hammer-ons are when you pluck a note and then tap your middle finger down sharply on the same string a fret or two up. This creates two notes with one pluck. Pull-offs are the opposite: you pluck a note, then pull your finger off the string to sound a note a fret or two down. Both techniques are used to create smooth transitions between notes and add a unique sound to your playing. Hammer-ons and pull-offs are so common in guitar music that they’re just part of how it’s played. So if you want to sound like a pro, master these two techniques!


How Do You Pull-Off Without Hitting Other Strings?

When you’re doing a pulloff on strings 2-5, the key is to angle your finger on the 3rd fret so that it mutes the higher strings. That way, you can give the pulloff the attack it needs without worrying about accidentally hitting another string. Even if you do, it won’t be heard since it’ll be muted. So don’t worry, you’ll be able to pull off like a pro in no time!

Who Invented The Pull-Off On Guitar?

The pull-off technique on guitar was invented by the legendary Pete Seeger. He not only invented this technique, but also popularized it in his book How to Play the 5-String Banjo. Seeger was a master of the guitar and his invention of the pull-off has been used by guitarists ever since.

The pull-off is a technique used by guitarists to create a gentler transition between two notes. It’s done by plucking or “pulling” the finger that is grasping the sounding part of a string off the fingerboard. This technique is used to play embellishments and ornaments like grace notes, and it’s often combined with hammer-ons and slides. So, next time you hear a guitar solo that sounds smooth and effortless, you can thank Pete Seeger for inventing the pull-off!

Important Relations

Guitar Tab

Guitar tab is a form of musical notation that is used to indicate the fingering of an instrument, rather than the musical pitches. This type of notation is most commonly used for fretted stringed instruments such as the guitar, lute, or vihuela, as well as for free reed aerophones like the harmonica.

Pulling off is a guitar technique that involves plucking a string after fretting it, which causes the string to sound a note that is lower than the one that was fretted. This technique is often used to create a smooth transition between notes and can be used to create a variety of different effects. It can also be used to add emphasis to a note or to create a unique sound. To perform a pull-off, the guitarist must first fret a note and then pluck the string with their other hand. The string is then pulled off the fretboard, which causes the string to sound a note that is lower than the one that was fretted. This technique can be used to create a variety of different sounds, from a gentle slide to a more aggressive sound. Pulling off is a great way to add some extra flavor to your playing and can be used to create a wide range of different sounds.


If you want to master the pull-off technique, practice makes perfect! Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and try playing scales, combining hammer-ons and pull-offs. And remember, if you’re having trouble, just PULL yourself together and you’ll get the hang of it! So, don’t be intimidated by the pull-off technique – it’s a great way to add some flair to your guitar playing and make your music stand out.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

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