The Downward Slur (Pull-Off, Descending Ligado)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The term pull-off gives a clue to the technique of the downward slur. The first note is played,then the left-hand finger pulls away, plucking the string as it goes.

Here is how it looks in tablature and standard notation:

It is important to remember that the left hand actually plucks the second note. Many begin-ners just lift the finger off, resulting in a weak slur. Try it now, and really sound the open string.

Where two fretted notes are involved, both fingers must be in position before starting the slur, otherwise the secondnote will be indistinct.

Place the first finger firmly behind the first fret. Then put the third finger on, play the note with the right hand, and pluck the finger away to sound the lower note.

Slurs on Inside Strings

When slurring is between notes on the inside strings, in most cases you will pluck down-wards, with the finger ending up on the fingerboard and in contact with the adjacent string. An exception is the rare case in which the upper string is meant to continue sounding. To avoid damping the upper string, pull sideways so that the finger clears the other string.

To practice these points, try this example.

Downward Slur Exercise

One of the distinguishing marks of the flamenco giants is the quality of their slurs. The hammers produce a powerful note, and the pull-offs have real snap to them. Often flamenco performers will go very fast with these, creating a fascinating and intricate web of sound.

Practice for Upward and Downward Slurs

The next exercise is in flamenco style. Play the first three measures alternating i and m. In measure four, follow the marked fingering. From measure five to the end use just the thumb.

Rhythm of Soleares

Exercise for Left-Hand Solo

Here is a challenging exercise for the left hand alone. Start by hammering on the first two notes, then pull off the next two. Then for the next group hammer the first, second, and fourth fingers and pull off to the second finger. Continue hammering on when going up in pitch, pulling off when coming down. This is excellent practice for slurs, and also for strengthening the left hand and particuarly the little finger.

The music notation is included to show which fingers are used, because in most cases the fingers do not coincide with the fret numbers.


Eddy said...

Thanks for the article! Can't wait to try this out.