This is an archived article. Click here for current issue.
Slurring Your Syncopations
How and Why to Teach Left-hand Pulloffs
By James Hill

Watch out! The syncopated rhythm that dominates the shout chorus of This Little Light of Mine is deceptively simple. In order to get this figure to really swing, you'll need to use left-hand slurs (also called "pulloffs"). This is a perfect opportunity to teach your students about this important skill.

Two Notes For the Price of One

Click here to read this article in D6 (a, d, f#, b) tuning.

The left-hand pulloff is useful because it lets you pick once but play two successive notes. Very handy. In fact, it's an essential technique in any ukulele player's toolkit. Here's how to do it.

Play the following exercise, picking every note as you normally would.

Fig. 1 (Click to enlarge)

Now play it again. This time, when you see a note marked with an asterisk (*), use your left-hand ring finger (which you were just using to play the c note) to pluck the open A string. Go ahead, give it a try.

Now another example. Same idea: notes marked with an asterisk are not picked with the right hand, rather they're sounded using a left hand finger (in this case, the ring finger). Hint: start with second and third fingers down, then pull off with the ring finger.

Fig. 2 (Click to enlarge)

Finally, apply this technique to the shout chorus of This Little Light of Mine. Start with Ukulele I (note: it's now the left-hand second finger that does the pull-off):

Fig. 3 (Click to enlarge)

The Open-String Workaround

One last thing: have a look at the first measures of Ukulele III. Notice that the first note is e, an open string. How is it possible to do a pulloff when the first note is an open string? It isn't. Solution: find the same note (in this case e) on a lower string. Now you have "room to move" below the starting note! Look carefully at the TAB in the following excerpt:

Fig. 4 (Click to enlarge)


The left-hand pulloff technique is an essential technique for all plucked-stringed instrument players. The shout chorus for This Little Light of Mine is full of opportunities to teach and learn this important technique. The best part? Your band's sound will be smoother, more natural and a lot more swingin'!

James Hill is editor of Ukulele Yes! and co-author of Ukulele in the Classroom. His online video-lesson program, The Ukulele Way, is used by thousands of students around the world. Visit for more..