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Good morning, left hand!


Alrighty, we had some requests for some article about legato, both in the forum and by Email. And it makes sense. I was actually planning on writing an article about combining picking with hammer on's and pull off's first, but it makes perfect sense to take a look at those techniques first, because some of us still have problems with those. Or maybe they wanna explore that kinda stuff a bit further.

First of all, what is legato? Legato is kind of an approach to playing, it is like a combination of several techniques: hammer-ons, pull-offs, even taps, slides etc. All those techniques have a different sound than straight alternate picking, so it's a different color we can use.

Legato-playing (if executed well) has some kind of a smooth, fluid sound. Think of it like this: Every melody played by picking exclusively resembles the sound of a piano, while a passage played with hammer on's and pull off's and slides rather resembles instruments like the saxophone.

Some players seem to favor either one of those two "concepts", either straight picking or legato-playing. But once you take a closer look you'll see that many of those can do both, but prefer one of them.

Steve Morse has an incredible picking technique and uses that a whole lot, but he also knows how to play wonderful legato-lines. Also, he uses trills (which are some kind of legato-playing too) to embellish his melodies.

Joe Satriani uses more of the legato-stuff, being able to play runs with hammer ons and pull-offs at about light-speed. But he's proven often enough that he can pick fast too. He just seems to prefer legato-style, and it has become an integral part of his style and sound.

Then there are guys like Greg Howe and Vinnie Moore, who manage to merge both techniques without preferring either one of them.

And sometimes, you don't even realize how much legato a player actually uses. Example: Good ol' Paul Gilbert. He sure is a really fast picker, but often, he combines fast hammer on's and pull offs with fast alternate picking to create very fast runs and patterns. The picked notes kinda add an accent. (This approach of combining legato and picking can i.e. be seen in the short excerpt of "Frenzy" that I posted in the forum).

Now certainly you can pick either one of them, choose one of them which you prefer, but I think it's the best to work on both. Strict alternate picking will help to work on the synchronisation of both hands, while legato helps to work on the strength and accuracy of the left hand.

If you can use both techniques, both strict picking and legato, you can use them to get different sounds, different sonic colors, and different ways to approach a certain lick. Some will sound better if ya pick them, some will sound better (or be easier) if you hammer / pull your way through it.
Let's start with the basics.

By the way, BEFORE we get into it: The licks and exercises I am gonna show you range from the easiest, basic stuff and are supposed to give you an introduction to legato if you are not familiar with it yet, to some very difficult stuff.

Just like picking, it takes a long time and lots of exercising to work on your legato. I am just trying to give you an overview, showing you both the basics and some of the neat things you can do once you work on it.

It's up to you how far you wanna take it, and what you wanna do with it, but maybe those more difficult licks will give you an idea of what you can do with hammer on's and pull off's, and maybe some advanced players among you will find those challenging too.

So, this is not a complete collection or method, just an overview with an introduction and simple exercises and some neckbreaking stuff too.

Let's get to work here !

Hammer-Ons >>