This guest post was written by Chris Lake, from The-Guitar-Guide.com a professional guitarist and guitar teacher of over 25 years.
Legato is a term that you will hear a lot once you start getting into lead guitar playing, but what exactly does it mean?
Translated literally as ‘tied together’ the term legato tells you that you should let the notes you are playing flow smoothly from one to the next, without any pause between them. With legato you get a very smooth flowing sound to the music, as opposed to ‘staccato’ in which each note played is sharply detached and separate from the following notes.
To achieve a legato sound different techniques are employed for different instruments. Take a wind instrument such as a flute. To produce legato here the player would play all the notes under one breath. With a bowed stringed instrument, the player would play the notes under a continuous bow.
To play legato on the guitar you need to minimize the use of the pick. This means using ‘hammer-ons’ and ‘pull-offs’, and when talking about guitar technique this is precisely what is meant by legato.
So, when employing a legato technique for guitar these are the two main techniques you will need to master. By combining the two you can play fast, smoothly flowing runs with ease.
So, to begin with let’s take a look at hammer-ons.
Hammer-ons are used to go from one note to a higher note on the same string without picking the new note. You can use a pick to play the very first note, but the subsequent notes will be played by ‘hammering-on’ to the string with your fretting fingers.
So for example, suppose you are playing the note E on the fifth fret of the B string with your first finger, and the next note you want to play is an F# two frets above. You need to use the tip of your ring finger to strike the string at the 7th fret to make the note sound.
You need to come down on the string perpendicular to the fretboard, and with enough force to produce the same volume, more or less, that you would with a pick. That’s about all you need to know about hammer-ons. Continue reading