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The TRUTH about Learning Guitar
Improve Your Skills > Blues/Rock > The Bend-Release-Pull Off On Electric Guitar

The Bend-Release-Pull Off On Electric Guitar

Students of the electric guitar often have playing problems because they have not adequately learned some of the very basic techniques properly, and yet are trying to play music that contains complex combinations of those very techniques. These basic techniques, such as a simple bend itself, are not broken down sufficiently in the usual guitar instructional literature, and so, many students out there are working on complex solos and licks, when they cannot even make a good sounding bend!

One of the very common techniques used is the bend-release-pull off. It is heard all the time in solos, and very often is a source of trouble for students. This technique is itself a combination of a few basic moves, namely, the bend and pull off. It is especially troublesome at fast speeds. And so, I would like to take a bit of a deeper look at it.

The Sound

One of the most famous occurrences of the bend-release-pull off is from the solo to "Stairway To Heaven". It is used as a repeating lick, being played over and over again as the chords change underneath. Let's listen.....

Bend-Release-Pull Off

(from "Stairway To Heaven")


Bend-Release-Pull Off
(from "Stairway To Heaven") Slow


As you can hear, it is a very cool sounding technique! It is also very easy to mangle this technique and get a sound that is "out of shape". Let's look at the reasons why.

The Mechanics of The Bend-Release Pull Off


Here are the mechanics of the bend-release-pull off:

1. Both the bending/pulling finger and the "receiving" finger go on the string at the same time (unless one of them is already on the string of course). In this case (and most cases), that means fingers 1 & 3.

2. For the bend, ALL fingers contribute, 1 and 3, and also the 2nd finger, which makes contact with the string as the fingers begin to bend the string up.

3. As the bend is brought back down, or released, the 2nd finger must come off the string right before the pull off. 

4. The 3rd finger pull off, pulls sharply on the string, pulling it toward the floor, WHILE the 1st finger holds the string firmly to the fret, and even pushes the string up toward the ceiling to counteract the force of the pulling finger and so hold the string in place. If it does not do this, the pulled off note will be weak and unclear, the lick containing the move will sound "flabby".

It requires quite a bit of strength from the fingers to make this move properly, even if you are doing things correctly, so if you find you have trouble even after reading this, it may simply be due to insufficient development of the fingers, which results in the fingers collapsing with the effort. That is a larger problem, and means the foundation of your left hand development is flawed, and you should be working with the Foundation Exercises in the Principles, and our Scale Course to develop the fingers properly for strength, stretch, and independence.


Timing The Bends

Often, even if the fingers are strong enough not to collapse during the bend-release-pull off, the sound still gets ruined by having the bends be out of time. Many students bend up too fast, or pull too fast, or release too fast! Or, they may do all 3 too fast! When you practice this, start from at least 2 click at 60 on the metronome, and work it up form there, recording yourself and listening back with something that allows you to play back at half speed. That is the best way to tell if you are rushing things, and putting the sound "out of shape".

During slow practice, focus on relaxing after the effort of each note. You can be doing all the other things right, and still start messing up at a fast speed, because you are carrying accumulated tension in the fingers/hand by keeping the effort, (especially of the pull off, which is one of the most strenuous left hand moves we do) in the fingers after the note is over. All good players completely release effort after each note.

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Licks - THE essential licks from each scale with detailed video explanations, fingering, pick strokes, etc. Muting, Damping, and Raking - Practice routines for developing string muting, string damping, and string raking.
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