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Dec 5, 2020 - 10:34:35 AM
71 posts since 7/26/2020

Hey guys,

I’ve been playing since March of this year. I feel like I’ve made decent progress in that time.

Something that I’ve recently noticed however, is that when I do my pull offs I basically just lift my finger.

I know that you can lift the finger and it works, but it definitely sounds like the lack of that extra pull on the string from the pull off makes my playing not sound as fluid.

Should I work on changing my style of pull offs?

Any tips would be greatly appreciated!

Dec 5, 2020 - 10:55:27 AM
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15043 posts since 12/2/2005

Welcome to the Hangout, Shane.

A properly executed pulloff creates the same attack as if you hit the string with a pick. Listen to JD Crowe - the crispest pulloffs ever!

So the answer is yes: it's probably best to change your approach.

I start my students with 2-0 pulloffs on the first and fourth strings. I tell them to put their picking hand on top of their heads, fret the note, and snap it. Doing this essentially means you catch the string in the callouses on your finger tip. It doesn't matter if you snap the string down, towards your toes, or up, towards your nose. The goals is to do it quickly and cleanly (and not choke the snot out of the string before the release.

When they can do that, they bring the picking hand to the party: set up on the left hand, pick the string with the right, and execute the pulloff.

Same theory applies with the 3-2 third string pulloff. Setup, snap; get that snap down and then bring the picking hand to the party.

With that one, I find most students find it easier using their index and ring fingers to start, rather than index and middle. They can generate more power. As you improve, you can start going index-middle. And also as you improve, you can develop the skill to pull off or push off with equal skill. Sonically, it doesn't matter which you use - but it can be handy to set up for the next fret position, depending on where that is.

Dec 5, 2020 - 11:31:16 AM

11379 posts since 6/2/2008

In sessions I had with her at banjo camp, Kristin Scott Benson said "today's standard" is snappy pull-offs. She didn't say who set that standard, but I'm assuming it's band leaders or record producers wanting a certain sound.

So, yes, work on your technique. Otherwise, you'll find yourself like me 48 years later with sloppy sometimes non-existent pull-offs and going on 70 years old trying to unlearn bad habits. My 2-0 pull-off and push-off and 1st and 4th strings is fine. My 2-0 on 3rd string is passable. My 3-2 on 3rd is most times a slide. Zero snap. I don't know how it happened. I suppose partly because until a few years ago I never heard anyone say to do it otherwise. Neither of my first two teachers that summer long ago spent time on it.

You have the benefit of people telling you. Don't be like me.

Dec 5, 2020 - 1:25:28 PM

287 posts since 4/14/2017

So, in essence, pull down or up, as Skip says, don't just lift straight up. In Tony Trischkas' Classic Bluegrass Banjo Solos DVD, he demonstrates this on Gold Rush, if you want a visual.

Dec 5, 2020 - 2:35:41 PM

71 posts since 7/26/2020

Awesome! Thanks for the input!

Dec 5, 2020 - 4:48:56 PM
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2417 posts since 2/10/2013

I think it helps to exaggerate special effects like pull-offs, hammer-ons, slides, etc. Playing everything slowly and when doing a slide, give that first note a little extra time. Also make it is a little louder You want to hear the slide being done. When doing a hammer-on, make sure you hear the note being hammer on before the hammer-on occurs.
So for a pull-off be able to hear the note being pulled-off before the pull-off actually occurs.
If you aren't an experienced player, and you start out trying to play them too fast, they are not likely to be heard.

Remember play slowly. Doing what I described makes sure every note is being heard. If you can play them correctly while playing slowly, they are less likely to disappear when you play a tune or exercise at a faster speed.

Pull-offs are more physical to play the most of the other special effects. They are not something learned over night. Consider this a long term project. When playing or practicing, stop every once in a while, and play a simple pull-off exercise a few times. A lot of short practices will work better than working on pull-offs for a longer time.

Good Luck

Dec 5, 2020 - 5:04:36 PM

11379 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Richard Hauser

I think it helps to exaggerate special effects like pull-offs, hammer-ons, slides, etc. 


Great observation! I believe if you practice the exaggerated version slowly, it will come out right when played at speed.

Something I apparently did not do enough of.

Dec 6, 2020 - 6:39:02 AM

71 posts since 7/26/2020

Thanks again everyone! Ken I was just thinking about how I’ve been doing it for all of these months and formed a bad habit that may be hard to break, but it’s better to catch it now than heats down the road.

Dec 6, 2020 - 8:20:19 AM
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3613 posts since 3/28/2008

Welcome to the banjo, Shane. You may discover that Skip and I agree on most of these technical/teaching questions. But when it comes to that classic 3-to-2 pullout on the third string, I have something to add. If you pull down (as most players do) instead of pushing up, it helps to have a slightly longer nail on the finger doing the pullout. That nail won't actually touch the string, but it acts like a retaining wall to stiffen the blob of flesh at the end of your finger. When I notice myself getting really good 3-2 pullouts, that's usually a sign that I've gone too long without cutting my nails. wink

Dec 7, 2020 - 3:53:36 PM

71 posts since 7/26/2020

I started working on my pull off technique yesterday.

I’m running into what I’m sure is a typical issue and that’s striking the fourth chord (or second) as I pull off.

Dec 7, 2020 - 4:13:32 PM
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15043 posts since 12/2/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Ira Gitlin

Welcome to the banjo, Shane. You may discover that Skip and I agree on most of these technical/teaching questions. But when it comes to that classic 3-to-2 pullout on the third string, I have something to add. If you pull down (as most players do) instead of pushing up, it helps to have a slightly longer nail on the finger doing the pullout. That nail won't actually touch the string, but it acts like a retaining wall to stiffen the blob of flesh at the end of your finger. When I notice myself getting really good 3-2 pullouts, that's usually a sign that I've gone too long without cutting my nails. wink


Damn you, Ira. Every time you post, I learn something new. And I fancy myself a limited expert.*

 

*Supremely limited, in fact. I first met Ira when I was dealing with a student with whom I has having trouble breaking through. I knew we would both be attending the Joe Val Festival, and promised to buy him a beer if he would offer me some guidance.

Truth is, I bought him two. Might have been the best investment I ever made. I not only got the guidance I sought - I also had the privilege to spend time with one of the kindest, gentlest, wisest people I will ever know. In addition to being one of the best damned all-around musicians on the planet, however unsung. I got into this game to late to be a better player, but Ira for damned sure helped me become a better teacher. That's a debt I can never repay.

I know this: if you ask a question and Ira suggests something, it comes from a DEEP well of experience and logic. Ignore him at your peril.

 

I also know this. It was Ira's birthday a few days ago, and a few HB wishes would NOT be out of place.

Dec 7, 2020 - 4:18:14 PM

3613 posts since 3/28/2008

quote:
Originally posted by eagleisland
quote:
Originally posted by Ira Gitlin

Welcome to the banjo, Shane. You may discover that Skip and I agree on most of these technical/teaching questions. But when it comes to that classic 3-to-2 pullout on the third string, I have something to add. If you pull down (as most players do) instead of pushing up, it helps to have a slightly longer nail on the finger doing the pullout. That nail won't actually touch the string, but it acts like a retaining wall to stiffen the blob of flesh at the end of your finger. When I notice myself getting really good 3-2 pullouts, that's usually a sign that I've gone too long without cutting my nails. wink


Damn you, Ira. Every time you post, I learn something new. And I fancy myself a limited expert.*

 

*Supremely limited, in fact. I first met Ira when I was dealing with a student with whom I has having trouble breaking through. I knew we would both be attending the Joe Val Festival, and promised to buy him a beer if he would offer me some guidance.

Truth is, I bought him two. Might have been the best investment I ever made. I not only got the guidance I sought - I also had the privilege to spend time with one of the kindest, gentlest, wisest people I will ever know. In addition to being one of the best damned all-around musicians on the planet, however unsung. I got into this game to late to be a better player, but Ira for damned sure helped me become a better teacher. That's a debt I can never repay.

I know this: if you ask a question and Ira suggests something, it comes from a DEEP well of experience and logic. Ignore him at your peril.

 

I also know this. It was Ira's birthday a few days ago, and a few HB wishes would NOT be out of place.


Aw, shucks....smiley

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