What is a pull off on guitar ?

For you beginners that are wondering what is a pull off on guitar, you came to the right place to learn not only what one is but how to do them and exercises to get you doing pull offs like a pro.

Pull off Exercise 1 (1 finger, open string pull offs)

exercise 1

A pull off is where, in a lot of cases, a note is struck (sometimes if there is a hammer on or another pull off before it, you might not strike a note which we will cover that in this lesson as well).

For instance place your index finger on the 1st fret of the top string, strike the note and after you strike the note, pull your finger off the string in a way that it makes the open note sound out.

Now place your 2nd finger on the 2nd fret and strike it so you sound out the 2nd fret note and pull your finger off the string so that the open note rings out.

Do the same with the ring finger and pinkie.

Now do this same exercise on all the strings.

Pull off Exercise 2 (1/2 step pull offs)

exercise 2

For the next exercise we are going to pull off from 1 finger of one fret to the next finger of the fret below. Place your hand in 1st position (frets1-4) with each finger above a fret.have your middle finger (2nd finger) pressing down on fret 2 as your index (1st) finger is pressing down fret 1. Strike the string so that the 2nd fret sounds out and then lift your 2nd finger so that 1st fret sounds out .

While you are doing these exercises, try to make the note that is being pulled off to sound the same volume as the note you strike before pulling off. This may take some practice but if you keep at it, you will eventually be able to pull it off (pun intended).

Now move your hand in different positions and different strings doing pull offs with them same 2 fingers.

After you get use to the feel of it and are able to get the notes to ring out properly at the same volume, start in first position again. This time press down on both the 3rd and 2nd frets with your 3rd and 2nd fingers, Strike the string to make the 3rd fret sound out and then lift your 3rd finger so that the 2nd fret rings out, Continue with these fingers in different positions on all the strings to get use to the feel and so that you are able to make the pull off sound out properly,

For the last 1/2 step exercise you will be using your pinkie and ring finger to do the pull offs. Start at first position and do things as you have been in the previous exercises, on all the strings in different positions.

Exercise 3 (whole note pull offs)

exercise 3

In this next exercise start with your hand in first position as we have been and this time press down on frets 3 and frets 1. Make the 3rd fret sound out by striking the string and then pull your 3rd finger off to make the 1st fret sound out. As we have been doing, do this exercise with these same 2 fingers in different positions on all the strings,

Now it’s time to do pull offs from the pinkie to the 2nd finger. This will probably feel awkward at first but after a while your fingers will get use to this movement, Starting in first position press down 4th fret with your pinkie as you are pressing down 2nd fret with your index finger and make 4th fret sound out, lift finger to make 2nd fret sound out. Continue in other positions and all strings.

For the last part of this exercise pull off from the pinkie to the index finger. Up and down the neck each string.

Exercise 4 (2 finger pull offs)

exercises 4

These next group of exercises are going to be utilizing 3 fingers at a time. Starting in first position have your first 3 fingers pressing down on the first 3 frets. Pick the string to sound out third fret and then lift your 3rd finger up so the 2nd fret sounds out and then without using the pick hand, lift up the 2nd finger so that the 1st fret sounds out. Try getting it to be smooth and evenly sounding for each of the 3 frets. Do this in several positions on all the strings.

Second exercise in this group we will press down frets 4 3 2, striking string for 4th fret, lifting the pinkie and then lifting the ring finger so all 3 notes sound out properly.

The last 2 exercises in this group will both start with the pinkie. In the first position press down frets 4 2 1 strike the string, lift your pinkie for the first pull off and then lift your index finger for the 2nd pull off. Different positions each string.

Now we finish off with pressing down on frets 4 3 1, picking 4th fret, lifting pinkie and then lifting ring finger, different positions, all strings.

Exercise 5 (3 finger pull off)

exercise 5

For our very last pull off exercise, press down on all 4 frets in the first position, top string. Pluck the string so that the 4th fret rings out, lift your pinkie so that the 3rd fret rings out and now lift your ring finger so the 2nd fret rings out and then lift your index finger so that the 1st fret rings out.

Try to get the notes to not only ring out at the same volume but so that they ring out evenly so you don’t have a long pause between one pull of and a short pause between another pull of. You achieve this by using a metronome. Start at a slow setting (50-60 bpm) and as you can do this exercise flawlessly a few times than increase the speed up between 5-10 bpm and do it at that tempo until you can do it properly and keep increasing in 5-10 bpm increments to increase speed.

We have just discussed what pull offs are and pull off exercises. Practice these exercises daily.

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8 thoughts on “What is a pull off on guitar ?

  1. Nate

    What a great site!  I used to play back in the day to impress girls but never really learned how to play more than playing chords and strumming.  I’ve been wanting to pick it up again, but I don’t have time for lessons really.  This post is great, and I will try out th exercises to hopefully pick up a new skill. Thanks again!

    1. Mike Lanning Post author

      Thank you for the comment. That is a reason why guitar sites can be beneficial, as you can go at your own pace, when you have the time. preferably 15 minutes a day at least, to keep your already learned abilities without having to relearn them or start all over practicing them.

  2. Gomer

    I am currently using an acoustic guitar here, a steel string type of acoustic guitar and I following your suggestions here. Before, I have used an electric guitar and I can imagine what it would be like. We have one here but not in use because we don’t have amps yet. I wonder if, can these pull off exercises be done in an electric guitar too or are these just for acoustic guitars only?

    1. Mike Lanning Post author

      Thank you for the comment. These exercises can be used on both acoustic guitars and electric guitars. Bass players can use these exercises and though I don’t have experience playing other stringed instruments I would imagine these same exercises can be used on those and possibly even for piano/keyboard players.

  3. Topazdude

    Informative post indeed! It is a privilege to know little on guitar and greater privilege to add more knowledge from tips from wonderful site like this. I have brother that teach sometimes because I base more on piano. The pull-off is a technique guitarists use on a fretted string that is already ringing. By lightly “pulling” the string while removing the finger holding down the note, a new note can be played without re-picking the string. The pull-off is, in a way, the opposite of the hammer-on. I really learn through the steps by steps analysis on what pull offs are and pull off exercises. It’s time to take it into practice. Thanks.

    1. Mike Lanning Post author

      Thank you for the comment, yes indeed hammer on is opposite of a pull off. Take it in to practice so that it comes naturally and flows smoothly

  4. Divine13

    Great article..

    recently for some couple of days now, have benn battling with pull off exercise and have searched for it on many sites but couldn’t meet my satisfaction…so i strongly believe that practicing the pull off exercise daily according to the article will really improve my skills on guitar..thank you very much

    1. Mike Lanning Post author

      Thank you for the comment and strive for even volume from note to note and fluidity so that you can do them smooth and naturally and then increase speed, striving for the same result of perfection

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