Kicking ASPO - Alternate String Pull-Offs for Melody, Rhythm, and Fun
Alternate String Pull-Offs (ASPOs) are sort of like banjo magic tricks. It’s a technique where we achieve a note by plucking (pulling-off) with the left (or fretting) hand on a string that we didn’t strike with the right hand (or noting) hand. This is an anomaly for the standard clawhammer technique, and when you first try it, it can almost make you dizzy because there is note happening that it doesn’t seem like you played!
ASPOs are used in two ways – as a rhythmic device, and as a melodic device. As a rhythmic device, they allow the clawhammerist to fill blank sections of a melody with interesting rhythmic and tonal variations – in other words, they can add drive and colour. In this role they are especially useful for song accompaniment. As a melodic device, they provide options for note combinations that are either impossible or at least very awkward when using your standard clawhammer “toolbox”.
Although using ASPOs rhythmically isn’t a new concept - you can hear it in some of the Round Peak players as well as singers like Clarence Ashley and Buell Kazee – the use of it as a melodic device, if not new, has had a renaissance over the past 20 years. This is thanks to players like Adam Hurt, Ken Perlman, Lukas Pool, and Brad Kolodner (to name a few) who have taken the technique to new heights.
In this workshop, I’ll break this interesting technique down to its elements and show you the how, why, and when of ASPOs. Here are some of the things we will cover.
- we’ll zoom in on some of the subtitles of the left hand such as the mechanics of a pull-off (especially on the inside strings) and why it’s important to pay attention to what fret you pull-off from even though you’re not actually playing that note.
- We’ll compare playing some standard note combinations (phrases) using standard fingerings and then ASPOs. This will help give us a sense of why/when we might decide to use this technique…or why/when not.
- We’ll examine its use for song backup. We’ll look at how the open strings can be utilized in different tunings to add a second drone and how your choice of which drone can effect the vibe or colour that you add. We’ll look at how it can be incorporated into any chord.
- ASHO – Although it's not as versatile, you can do the same thing with a hammer-on. I’ll show you how that works -its limitations and when it shines.
- Although I likely won’t be teaching full tunes during the workshop, I will zoom in on parts of tunes to demonstrate how this technique works. There will be five tabbed arrangements of full tunes in the booklet that you can work on in the weeks and months after the workshop.
- You will be provided with some exercises that will get you familiar with some of the commons ASPO combinations in G, Double C, G Modal, and F (FDGCD) tunings. These will all be tabbed in the booklet.
If you sign up for this workshop…
Leading up to this workshop…
A couple of weeks before the workshop, I will send you an email with a video that demonstrates the very basics of this technique – a basic strum with an ASPO added. There will be tablature for this basic exercise as well a video demo. I want you to practice this basic exercise and get as comfortable as possible with it before the actual workshop takes place. There’s no pressure, but the better command you have of this basic technique the more you’ll be able to digest on the day of the actual workshop.
You’ll be sent an email on Friday March 8 with an invite and instructions for how to join the March 10 workshop.
The workshop will take place live at 2 pm Eastern Time onMarch 10. It will run between 90 – 120 minutes.
After the workshop you’ll be sent a recording of the workshop as well as a written overview of everything we cover. This will include tablature and video examples of everything that is tabbed.