How to Add Guitar Articulation with Pull-Offs - dummies

How to Add Guitar Articulation with Pull-Offs

By Mark Phillips, Jon Chappell

A pull-off is a guitar articulation technique that enables you to connect notes more smoothly. It enables you to play two consecutive descending notes by picking only once with the right hand and, as the first note rings, pulling your finger off that fret. As you pull your finger off one fret, the next lower fretted (or open) note on the string then rings out instead of the first note.

You can sort of think of a pull-off as the opposite of a hammer-on. However, a pull-off also requires that you exert a slight sideways pull on the string where you’re fretting the picked note and then release the string from your finger in a snap as you pull your finger off the fret — something like what you do in launching a tiddly-wink.

  1. Press down the 3rd string at the second fret with your first or second finger (whichever is more comfortable) and pick the note normally with your right hand.

  2. While the note is still ringing, pull your finger off the string in a sideways motion (toward the 2nd string) in a way that causes the open 3rd string to ring — almost as if your left-hand finger is plucking.

    If you’re playing up to speed, you can’t truly pluck the string as you remove your finger — you’re half lifting and half plucking. Experiment to find the left-hand finger motion that works best for you.


The tab (and standard) notation indicates a pull-off by showing the letter P centered over a slur (short curved line) connecting the two tab numbers (or notes).

The following figure shows a pull-off involving only fretted notes. The crucial factor in playing this kind of pull-off is that you must finger both pull-off notes ahead of time. This requirement is one of the big differences between a hammer-on and a pull-off. You must anticipate, or set up, a pull-off in advance.

  1. Press down both the second fret of the 3rd string with your first finger and the fourth fret of the 3rd string with your third finger at the same time.

  2. Strike the 3rd string with the pick and, while the fourth-fret note is still ringing, pull your third finger off the fourth fret (in a half pluck, half lift) to sound the note of the second fret (which you’re already fingering).

    Try to avoid accidentally striking the 2nd string as you pull off. Also, you can see that if you aren’t already pressing down that second-fret note, you end up pulling off to the open string instead of the second fret!