Legato is Italian for “tied together” and it means pretty much just that! Legato notes are played smoothly with a seamless connection – there is no silence between two notes. On guitar this translates to two separate techniques: Hammer-ons and Pull-offs (not to be confused with popular artist “MC Hammer” or winter clothing “pullover”!)

Legato techniques explained:
Hammer ons are when you pluck a fretted or open note, and then “hammer on” another finger to a different fretted note. The tip is in the name here, imagine your finger is a hammer and you have to hammer in a nail, it has to be a quick, precise action to result in a clean sounding note. You use hammer-ons when going to a higher note.

Pull-offs are the same thing, in the opposite order, ie you pluck a fretted note but then “pull off” that finger either to another finger which was already pressed down, or to open. The key to a good pull off is pulling down off the string using plenty of strength, simply lifting your finger from the string will not work. You use pull-offs when going to a lower note or open.

Thumb positioning/overall positioning and finger strength is crucial for good legato playing, visit the beginners section for some universally helpful lessons if you need to brush up or build further strength.

 

Legato Tab – h means hammer the note, p means pull off!

e |-----------------------------------------------------------------------|
B |-----------------------------------------------------------------------|
G |-----------------------------------------------------------------------|
D |-----------------------------------------------------------------------|
A |-------5h7--------7p5--------5p0---------0h5---------------------------|
E |-----------------------------------------------------------------------|
Please note that in printed tab, often a curved line (frown) is used to represent legato.

Key Points About Legato

  • Practice slowly, focussing on precise, strong movement

  • Legato is the key to speedy lead lines

  • Combine confident legato “rolls” with scales and you’re half way to shred-city!

Homework Task – Print this & write a simple legato lick

e |----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
B |----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
G |----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
D |----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
A |----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
E |----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

e |----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
B |----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
G |----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
D |----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
A |----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
E |----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

WAIT! GIVE ME MORE LEGATO!
Trills - this is where you use legato in rapid succession between 2 notes:
e |------5h8p5h8p5h8p5h8-------------------------------------------------------------|
B |----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
G |----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
D |----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
A |----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
E |----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
Note this is sometimes written as "trill" on tab - don't confuse this with tremolo!
For even more legato, master this lesson then move on to our "Advanced Legato" lesson (coming soon!).

Did you know?
The opposite of legato is staccato, meaning notes are clearly separated.

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