Pull-off

From Academic Kids

A pull-off is a stringed-instrument playing technique performed (usually on an electric guitar) by "pulling" a fretting finger off the fingerboard. A pull-off is almost always performed on a string which is already vibrating (a normal note having already been played on it). When the fretting finger is pulled off (usually exposing another fretting finger on the same string, a few frets down the fingerboard) the note playing on the string falls to that corresponding with the new, longer vibrating length of the string. Pull-offs are common both on fretted and unfretted instruments, and are often used to sound grace notes: as the string is not picked or bowed again to produce the sound of the second note, the transition from one to the other sounds gentler and less percussive.

There are disadvantages, however, to performing pull-offs. In the transition between the initial and final notes, the string vibrates in an anharmonic manner for several cycles, producing a slight "quack" sound (which is particularly audible when the interval of the pull off is large). This transition also consumes some of the vibrational energy in the sounded string, and so the second note is generally much quieter than the original. On most instruments this means the second note has little sustain, and may be inaudible altogether. In consequence they are often used for grace notes, usually in conjunction with multiple hammer-ons and strumming or picking to produce a rapid, rippling effect. In rock and heavy metal music, where overdriven amplifiers ensure the second tone remains audible, pull-offs can be used for the primary sound (as opposed to their use in acoustic music, which is primarily as an embellishment).

A related technique has the player performing the pull-off drag the pulling-off finger slightly across the face of the string while performing the pull-off. This results in the string being gently sounded, either by the player's finger callus or by their fretting-finger fingernail. This increases the volume and sustain of the pulled-off note, although the sound of the fretting finger dragging over the string may be audible on both an amplified instrument and on a brightly-strung acoustic instrument.

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