Aug 31, 2008

The Basics Of Legato

The Italian word Legato literally means "tied together" and the technique itself is at our disposal, for purposes of fluid guitar playing. Its always nice to have options and rather than picking out every single note, we can instead eliminate the chunking sound that a guitar pick makes when it strikes a string, by using hammer-ons and pull-offs.

The idea behind legato on guitar, is to pick a strings once and then hammer-on or pull-off the remaining notes. This requires a good amount of strength in the fretting hand. The reason for this is because when you pick a string on the guitar, you are giving a renewed vibration. The more that you mess with that string after the you have picked it, without picking the string for some time, the more that the sound is going to dwindle away.

Legato can sound pretty ugly if a guitarists' fretting hand is not strong and dexterous enough. It is better to get it right in the beginning, because you'll really be thanking yourself on down the road. There's a lot that can be done with any guitar technique. Just the other day I was watching a video of Michael Romeo and I noticed that there was something strange about the sound that was coming through his amp. I rewound it and started watching his picking hand as well as his right hand. Sure enough, and just as I had sensed, the man was doing sweep/legato. He was sweep picking on his guitar with his picking hand and using the legato technique with his fretting hand. Amazing.

This too is possible for any guitarist, but we really need to keep working on that strength. I'm going to show you a simple yet creative legato exercise in this lesson. Keep in mind that when you are picking out every note on the guitar, the fretting hand does not always need to be so strong, yet when you are picking out only one note and hammering-on or pulling-off the remaining notes, the fretting hand gets stuck with all of the work and this means that it can be quite revealing. You need to make sure that the fretting hand is really strong. Legato exercises are ideal for this and the best legato exercise that any guitarist could start with would be a chromatic
legato exercise. The reason is just as simple as why chromatic patterns are ideal for fretting hand strength. Any kind of chromatic exercise utilizes all four fingers on the fretting hand. You might as well start by training all of the fingers to work with each other, so we'll start with this exercise here.

When doing this legato exercise, make sure that you take it really slow. Not only that, but you will really want to hammer-on those notes, and when pulling off the notes - flick the fingers of your fretting hand off the strings, rather than just lifting them up. Pull the string down on your pull-offs and let the string snap back into place. In the beginning this will sound really crude, but as you get better at this, no one will even notice that little snapping motion.

Really work with this legato exercise and take the time to enjoy, as it will be good for your hand. You may also want to check out Fretting Hand Strength Building Exercise, which is not a legato exercise, but is still good for your dexterity.

Don't strain your hand! legato can be very brutal on "green" hands. In fact, just do this legato exercise five times through, and then take a break. Increase the number of times that you can do it in one go, a little at a time. Take care of your hands and happy shredding!

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