Banjo Technique – Pulloffs and Chokes

Banjo Pulloffs and Bends

Do you find your left-hand technique isn’t quite up to par?  Do your pull-offs not sound like JD Crowe’s?  Do your bends not sound QUITE like Earl Scruggs’ on “Foggy Mountain Breakdown?”  This video is here to help you.

I’ll preface by stating-Usually one of the main causes of incorrect sounds is doing things too fast and being in a hurry.  You’ve got time to get there 🙂

In this video, I go over some tips to help out with your pull-offs and chokes for the 5-string banjo.  Beginners struggle with this technique and here are the primary things to be on the lookout for. 


First and foremost, make sure you are pulling DOWN and not up. By pulling down instead of directly up, you can apply more force and work with gravity.  This results in a much stronger SOUND.  Yes, some people push UP and that isn’t wrong; however, if you are trying to do a pull-OFF, you need to pull down and not just lift the finger up.  Think SNAPPY and don’t be afraid to use some force.

Secondly, check the speed at which your other finger comes down.  See what happens if you put your fingers down one at a time, as opposed to trying to put them both down at the same time.  I’ve noticed a lot of students execution of pull-offs suffer from attempting to put both fingers down at once.

Third, make sure you are applying enough pressure with your index finger so when you pull down you don’t bend the string out of tune.  This is one of the most common errors with beginner banjo students.  If you hear the pitch of the second note changing as you do the pull-off, then this is something you must look into.

Lastly, sometimes Crowe and Scruggs caught a bit of the fingernail with their pull-offs, this can result in a sharper/crisper sound. 

Here is the FREE banjo lesson on Pull-offs and chokes:


For chokes, make sure not to bend too much or go too fast.  If you bend too much, you’ll bend it out of pitch for the key.  The release is just as important as the initial attack.  Think SLOW here.   I recommend listening to Earl Scruggs’ “Mama Blues” from the Live at Carnegie Hall album to hear how a good bend or choke should sound.

If you enjoyed this lesson, here is another lesson on LEFT HAND TECHNIQUE for banjo:

Increase your Left Hand Speed

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