I'm trying to get a really clear and crisp 3-2 pulloff. I can technically do it, as in both the Bb and the A are sounding, but the transition between is really muddy and there's no lovely pluck sound like I hear in professional recordings. I am playing an absolute toy of a banjo though, and the action is really low. Is it possible that I just need to adjust the action to be a bit higher so that I have a bit more room to work with for the flick?
Ive attached a video showing me trying and failing to get a clear pulloff
Try doing a "push off"; i.e., instead of pulling off towards the 1st string, flick the finger off towards the 5th string. See if that makes a sharper, cleaner sound. It can be done either way, according to what you're picking/where the finger is going next.
I have seen some people actually use their fingernail to pull/push off to get a sharper sound.
Don't know what you're doing, so can't say if it's you or the banjo. I believe a beginner should always look at technique before wondering if the problem is in the banjo. Yes, a poorly set-up banjo can work against you. But you won't know if that's happening until you're as sure as you can be that you're doing it right.
That being said, here's a lesson from Jim Pankey, mostly on a G lick using the 3-2 pull-off, but he demos how to execute a snappy 3-2 pull-off. Includes extreme video close-up.
Here's a free teaser/preview of Banjo Ben Clark's banjo pull-off etude lesson:
He wrote a tune that extensively uses pull-offs, both from fretted to open strings and from one fretted note to another fretted note. The teaser doesn't include all the technique teaching and tips, but you can see whether this is likely to answer your questions about executing good pull-offs.
You can subscribe to Banjo Ben for just a short while to see lessons and download tab. I think you can even watch your choice of three free complete lessons before subscribing. So look through his whole curriculum to see if there's anything of use to you.
Aside from having a decent callous on the pull off finger, keeping good pressure on the finger still fretting the string is essential
When I started learning, I had a terrible banjo. I worked on Cripple Creek and Cumberland Gap for six months and nothing I was playing sounded like what I heard on my records. One day, I went into a music store and got an opportunity to play a high-quality banjo for the first time. It was the first time I could tell that I was actually playing those two songs. I would suggest that you try to get your hands on a really good sounding banjo and try playing your pull-offs. If they still don't sound right, then you can eliminate the banjo as the problem. If they do sound good, you'll get some positive reinforcement that will be beneficial for your development, and it will also demonstrate to you that you need a different banjo.
I think lighter strings give less pop when doing pull-offs than heavier strings. But then lighter strings are easier to play and a good choice for beginners.
I have better luck doing a 3-2 push off instead of a pull off.
The camera angle doesn't make this clear, but it looks like in the left hand you're doing your slide with your middle finger and then trying the pulloff ring-to-middle. Everyone is wired a little differently, but in my experience, of the three possible fingerings that can produce a 3-2 pulloff (middle to index, ring to index, ring to middle), ring to middle is biomechnically the weakest, and not by a little.
When my students are having trouble with 3-2 pulloffs, I have them try ring to index - which is arguably the strongest, biomechanically. After enough playing time, you may find that you keep it that way, or revert to the more common middle to index, which is the way a lot of fine pickers do it. I go back and forth middle to index/ring to index while playing without even thinking about it.
Several good suggestions here. Try them all--and also try my two favorites:
1) If you're doing a pull-off instead of a push-off, try growing a little bit longer nail on the finger that's doing the pull-off (usually the middle finger). The nail won't actually touch the string, but it will act as a kind of retaining wall that stiffens the blob of flesh at the tip of your finger, resulting in a snappier, more prompt pull-off.
2) Whatever the direction (pull-off or push-off), while you're doing the move, push or pull in the opposite direction with the other fretting finger. (For example, I do pull-offs from middle to index. While it's fretting that second-fret A note, my index is pushing toward the ceiling.) This creates a little more tension right at the moment of the pull/push-off, and counteracts the tendency to bend the second note in the same direction as the pull/push-off.
And while Skip is right about the biomechanical thing, check out this guy: https://youtu.be/teVuNoASfs0?t=506.
Edited by - Ira Gitlin on 12/07/2022 07:02:27
After watching your video, I would urge you to continue to do what you're doing. I don't know how long you've been playing, but it sounds pretty good to me.
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