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Hi there,

In this lesson we are going to look at the basics of legato technique, Legato means smoothly in classical terminology. So with this technique compared to the aggressive, cutting sound of alternate picking should sound smooth and connected.

Legato exercises will greatly develop fretting hand strength, which hand in hand with alternate picking exercises will surely help build a super strong technique base for you to be able to play anything you want.

A lot of guitarists will blame their picking hand for not being accurate enough or quick enough, but usually the problem will be prominent in the fretting hand. As the legendary Paul Gilbert says “You can’t press the gas if you can’t steer” so spend time working on a solid legato technique no matter what style of music you play, you will be grateful for it.

First of all, I would like to talk about muting. Its very important to keep unwanted strings ringing out, by using the flesh of the index finger on the fretting hand to mute any of the higher strings and the palm of the picking hand to mute any lower strings. You can even get more muting insurance by stubbing the index finger slightly under the string above the string your intending to play in order to keep it silent.

Hammering on and Pulling Off:

When hammering on it is good to aim to hit the fretboard directly under the string with the callus of your finger, aiming through the string so to speak shall ensure a clean attack of the note. The pulling off motion should be almost like a mini “picking” motion of the finger down toward the flow.

Practising legato:

Start with small bursts, speed and stamina come with regular bursts of practice. Always start slow, and aim for each note to last up to each other, this will aid the smoothness in the tone of your legato ideas. Let your muscle memory learn the correct movements, and before you know it you will be hammering on all over the fretboard as if it were a keyboard!


Its important to remember that legato is not only a speed based technique, but a great way of phrasing ideas, listen to players such as Jeff Beck, and Allan Holdsworth to hear how slow melodies can change the mood of a line.

Good luck with this, keep going at it, and reap the great results of a solid legato technique!

Thanks for reading, please browse the site for more guitar lessons, eBooks on learning guitar and much more!

Sam Bell and Tom Clark

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