Improvising and Pull Offs - technique question

Hi guys. Two questions.

When improvising, am I right in thinking that you have to plan pull offs in advance?
With a hammer on it can be a last second decision to hammer on up the neck, but with a pull off you need to already have a finger on the string further down the neck. Or is there another trick to this?

Secondly. I have watched an online lesson that says you should flick the string down (towards the ground) when doing a pull off. I’m finding it easier to flick the string up. Does this matter?

Here’s the thing with improvising, it’s not playing things you
can’t do comfortably on the fly.
Improvising is like talking. You wouldn’t use word that you don’t
know in a conversation.
You need to practice hammer ons and pull off until they are
naturally part of your playing to make them sound smooth in
your playing.
Have you ever noticed how smooth Kaspers playing is.
That’s because he doesn’t think about what sounds good, he knows what sounds good.

I quess what I’m trying to say is improvising isn’t improvising what
you don’t know. It’s playing what you know very well in different
ways. So no you don’t think ahead you play what comes naturally

And yes pull off should be pulled down to get them to have any
power behind them.
Hope that made sense.



Following on from what Stitch said I think all impro requires some planning. when you are starting out. I don’t necessarily mapping everything you are going to play over a certain piece, More learning licks or runs or phrases, Maybe working on once section a BT at a time or a certain chord and figuring out what fits there and how you can join that up with the other phrases in your arsenal. Which notes are you going to bend and if you are in a Key that’s new to you, where do that sit on the neck. How do convert what you know in one Key to that new Key.

Maybe I am little too analytical but that’s the way I tend to approach it when I am in unfamiliar territory. So yes I would in that respect plan where I would flick off. I’ll give you one example.
I love that 6 b7 R walk when I am playing over a Mixolydian track, I could stay there all day but now I think about doing that run back and forth using bends, slides and flick offs to make it sound different, so I’ll work on those 3 notes to see what works and what doesn’t. Then see where I can go next and how do I get back, where’s that run an octave up or down, kind of thing.

Then get it all wrong at impro time and start again. In no way an expert, far from it but just my 2 centimes.



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Don’t want to hijack Gordon’s thread but this may help both of you.
@TheMadman_tobyjenner the reason you like those three notes
is that is the essence of the Mixolydian scale. Try this, put on BT
using A7 D7 and E7 over the A7 play 6 b7 R in A.
Over the D7 play the 6 b7 R in D and over E7 play 6 b7 R in E
Play no other notes just those 3 any way you want make them
Sound good.

After you have play that put on a BT in A that plays A D and E
Without the dominant 7 in the chords Just Major chords and play
the same three notes as before. Notice how it doesn’t sound as
nice sometimes it will sound wrong.
This is where playing what you know comes in which also takes
some planning.
Over A7 mixo over A major or minor pent over Am minor pent.

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Without a rush of analysis, my head is saying the b7 would create an implied “clash” with the “plain” major chords and 6 7 R would be a better fit. Clash probably too strong a statement.
The A7 contains b7 G so a run using 6 b7 R the would fit. Same for the other chords. The A would be better served by G# pulling to the Root ie the 7. I’ll try and convert that quick theory into sound later and maybe express it differently.

@TheMadman_tobyjenner @stitch
Thanks for the replies guys but I’m afraid you’ve lost me with the 6 B7 R.

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That was a flat 7 they talked about :smiley:

As for pull-offs, I find them to be easier to play up the neck where the frets are closer to each other. When you say you flick the strings up, do you mean a motion like a sort of string bend? That sounds a bit weird to me, but if it sounds good…

Thanks Rick appreciate your reply. You’ve summed it up there pretty well I think. I’m busy practising licks at the moment one of which involves a pull off. I guess if I know in my mind which lick I’m going to play, I can get my fingers in the right position for the pull off.

Regarding pulling down for the pull off. I find my fingers are stronger pushing the string up than pulling it down.

No not a bend, just a flick to get the string to sound.

Thanks Toby. Yes. I’ve realised more planning is required with improv so that there aren’t last second pull off finger positions issues.

I’m currently working on the licks in the TrueFire course we talked about before.


That’s great, find the ones in a common key and try to link them together. Regarding what @stitch was suggesting 6 b7 R they’re just the interval numbers, every picture and all that =

Roots all red for the I IV V
So over the A7 or A chord play F# G A the 6 7b are the blue notes.
Over D7 or D play B C D the 6 and b7 are the green notes
Over E7 or E play C# D E the C# being the only black note but by now you should see the pattern. Some interesting results using those three notes over A D E.

Backing Track 12BB A7/D7/E7 x 4 followed by 12BB A/D/E with suspect midi organ.
Oh er missus !

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Thanks so much for trying to help Toby. I think I must be a bit dyslexic when it comes to all this theory stuff.
Interval. I thought that was the bit when you went for a p*ss, an ice cream or a beer. Or all three. :joy:

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I don’t know if this will be of help Gordon, since I am in your boat when it comes to getting to grips with bends, hammers, flicks, vibrato (oh never forget vibrato).

I think if working with Am pentatonic of 12BB in A then you could get a lot of mileage playing just on the D and G strings. Hammer and flick between the C and the D, bend the D to E or Eb, roll ring finger between D and A. Play things like D, flick to C, A, C, hammer D. You could keep the index finger down on the C to eliminate one moving part.

I think, but still to get it right, that if you do this with some appropriate rhythm/timing you could sound pretty bluesy while practising the techniques.


I’m now coming to grips with doing the pull offs by flicking my finger down. I’m rotating my wrist slightly as I do it and that helps put more power into the down flick.