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Legato Guitar Technique

In this lesson, we will look at what legato technique is and how to start using it on the guitar. Legato technique, on the guitar, is basically the combination hammer-ons and pull-offs. When you use this technique you end up picking the strings a lot less. This makes the sound that you get more smooth, fluid, and violin like. We will be using a G major scale to learn how to use hammer-ons and pull-offs. Every time that you see a hammer-on or a pull-off it will look like a slurr on the notation and tab. If you do not know what a slur is, that’s okay. A slur is just the little arc that is over or under the notes that are to be played with hammer-ons or pull-offs

Hammer-ons are basically coming down on any string pretty hard with any finger in order to make that string produce sound. For example, put your index finger on the 3rd fret of the low E string and pick that note. Now come down hard on the 5th fret of the low E string with your 2nd finger with out picking the note with your right hand. That’s a hammer-on. Now hammer on to the 7th fret of the low E string with your pinky. You will probably notice that hammering on with your pinky is a bit more difficult. The pinky is a bit weaker than your other fingers. It is a good idea to practice hammering on with just your pinky. That will help you to build up your strength in that finger. See if you can play all the way up the G scale that we have written out for you using just hammer-ons. Make sure that you only pick the first note of every string.

Now let’s take a look at the other half of the legato technique, pull-offs. Start out with your pinky on the 7th fret of the low E string and your middle finger on the 5th fret of the low E string. With those two fingers on those two frets, pick the initial note and then “pull-off” your pinky and leave your middle finger where it is. Think of the pull-off as being a kind of down and out motion. Pull down with your pinky and then out. You are basically using your pull-off to pick the note that your 2nd finger is fretting. Now leave your 2nd finger where it is on the 5th fret and put your 1st finger on the 3rd fret. Pull-off your 2nd finger from the 5th fret and let the note on the 3rd fret ring out. Now that you know how to do pull-offs, star on the highest note of the scale and try to play the entire scale all of the way down using pull-offs. For this example you should only be picking the first note of each string. Make sure to use alternate picking when you change to the next string.

Two of the hardest things about playing with legato technique are getting the notes to sound even in volume and time. If you hear a note sticking out that shouldn’t be, just be aware of it, go back and try to make the passage as even sounding as possible. If you have a metronome, use it to work on your hammer-ons and pull-offs. Start out slow. The cleaner and easier it gets for you, the faster you can go. If you are having trouble with a particular finger, just isolate that finger. Practice hammer-ons and pull-offs over and over again with that finger for a few weeks or until that finger gets stronger.