Expanding the Left Hand, Part 2 - Even More Hammer-Ons, Pull-Offs & Slides

Welcome to Part 2 of exploring different fretting-hand techniques.
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Welcome to Part 2 of exploring different fretting-hand techniques. This time we are going to take a closer look at pull-offs. Keeping in mind what I covered last time (Holiday 2015 issue), two of the examples will also incorporate the hammer-ons and slides I discussed. I want to emphasize that these techniques are not just for soloists or fusion bass players. In general, they allow you to be more expressive with your articulation and your phrasing, no matter what style you play. So let’s get started.

Example 1 is a simple exercise to get used to using all of your fretting-hand fingers for pull-offs. Don’t take this too fast at first, because it’s important not to overexert your fretting hand as you are getting used to it. If this is new to you, it might not be so easy to pull off on the A, E, and B strings—so start on the G string, and then when you’re comfortable, move the three-part pattern across the strings.

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Example 2 is how I might incorporate these types of pull-offs into a fill. Don’t be intimidated by the 32nd-notes, as they are fairly simple to execute and have somewhat of a “vocal” quality. The idea behind this example fill is to evoke the kinds of things Stevie Wonder did with his left hand on a song like “Boogie On Reggae Woman.” In fact, once you feel comfortable with it, pull out your favorite octave pedal and see how close you can get to achieving that Minimoog-bass vibe.

Example 3 shows how I incorporate these techniques in a soloing context. In a sense, what I’m doing in this example is fairly close to what guitarists do when they utilize legato playing, as opposed to alternate picking. I have indicated which notes are plucked, hammered, and pulled off. Mixing these techniques makes your playing breathe and adds more of a singing quality, especially if you’re playing a solo line. To hear how I use this in the context of a solo, check out the first song on my most recent album, called “Leave this City Before You Can’t.”

Have fun trying out these combinations of techniques and finding ways to incorporate them into your own playing.



Maryland-born Steve Jenkins has grabbed the groove for Vernon Reid, Screaming Headless Torsos, Gene Lake, and numerous other New Yorkarea artists, while also releasing two acclaimed solo albums and teaching at the Berklee College of Music Summer Program. His website is stevejenkinsbass.com.


Stevie Wonder, “Boogie On Reggae Woman” from Fulfillingness’ First Finale [1974, Tamla]; Steve Jenkins, Steve Jenkins and the Coaxial Flutter [2013, Coaxial]