Thinking about Legato technique

amstrtatnut

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12,832
Recently discovered Tom Quayle on youtube. Hes phenomenal. My picking technique sucks so legato looks promising.

Its easier in one sense but seems harder to incorporate dynamics and my note selection seems to suffer as I just run up and down the scales. Legato for arpeggios seems hard to do without some picking.

Three note per string patterns seems especially challenging to sound musical.

I probably just need to mess with it more but would welcome any tips from guys who use it a lot.
 

stevel

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14,933
Hmm, I wish you had posted or linked to a video.

I found one and I have a pet peeve about this kind of stuff - "like the legato guys use"... It takes a standard musical term that's been around for centuries and presents it as if it has some kind of other significance...

Legato just means "connected". It's similar to words like ligature, or ligament - something that holds things together.

When you play legato, you are playing your notes as "connected" as possible - that is, one note sounds until the exact moment that a new note sounds.

Guitar can be quite difficult to execute legato on and it's a weak point for many players because they'll either let a note die out before they strike a new one, or bad technique may cause a finger to lift or fall too soon, cutting off the sound before the next sound stops. The end result is "choppy" playing.

One way a lot of people cover this up is by using a high gain sound that has plenty of compression because it "smooths out" the attack part of the note and the sustained part of the note, making them more equal in volume and reducing some of the choppier sound you get when playing without that gain.

One sure way to reveal to yourself how good your technique is is to play with a clean tone - an unforgiving tone, that doesn't cover up your deficiencies. Then concentrate on getting every sound to sustain until the next sound happens making them as "connected" as possible with no breaks, no matter how small, between notes.

BTW: Guitar also allows you to "overlap" notes so you can play "too legato" with notes on adjacent strings. So you have to get right up to, and not go over, where notes fall to execute a smooth legato.

BTW2: The opposite of legato is staccato, which means "separated" or "detached" (there's also a word "detache" commonly seen as a bowing instruction for violin). Staccato means you make an *intentional* break between notes and/or shorten durations of notes. Intentional "choppiness".

So I'm hesitant to say "legato" is a "method" and it's not really the appropriate word for a lot of what you're describing. However, playing legato, or "in a legato manner" or simply "smoothly, with connected sounds" is something that MOST players need to work on, and even those who are quite capable often could stand to reinforce or improve on what they already do.

BTW3: One thing guitarists do in order to make things more legato is *slurring* which is picking one note and then hammering on or pulling off the rest. This has the effect of a smoother sound because you're not re-striking the string for each note and you don't get that "pop" accent with each new note.

Both picking and slurring are important guitar techniques and I would encourage you to work on both, among many other things. Play scales picked and legato, picked and staccato, and slurred and legato (not really possible to play slurs staccato withough simply sort of LH tapping everything and controlling muting a lot...). In other ways, play everything using multiple techniques so you'll have all of those tools at your disposal when you want them and can choose the best to convey your artistry.

Best,
Steve
 

amstrtatnut

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Ok I understand the age old definition of legato.

I'm talking about slurring notes with hammer ons and pull offs like some do for their entire style. I think a guy like Tim Miller sounds a bit detached when he plays but I gotta love his freedom.

I'm basically a blues rock player who would like to add to the arsenal so to speak. I have a hard time picturing using this style over a Grateful Dead tune but, it would be a nice addition to smooth out some of my choppy picking on some other tunes we do.

I just recorded a bunch of takes with really crappy legato technique of a tune I'm not entirely sure it fits in, but hey its practice. I'll try to put one up that's not too embarrassing.
 

stevel

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14,933
Legato Mess - I love it!

Not bad at all - I think you're right in your original post - you just need to mess with it more. I also think you're right in that your not choice is going to be restricted to the notes you can get to on a single string. You tube is freezing a lot for me right now so I didn't watch the whole clip but how much sliding are you incorporating into it? A well executed slide can sound as seamless as the HO/PO and give you a greater variety of possible pitches on a single string. But I also agree that you essentially lose the dynamics picking gives and it can even have the adverse effect of causing unwanted accents as you strike a new string to get it going (unless you cultivate the whole hammer on to the first note on a new string technique - which we all should probably do more of - hell that's even in classical method books from the 1800s)

I'm a little concerned though in that it sounds like you're saying your picking technique sucks so rather than work on that, you're going to play a way that doesn't require it ???

I'm kind of in the opposite camp right now as my hand coordination sucks and I've been working more on picking everything and not relying as heavily on slurring - but as a result my slurring has gotten weaker. I need to work on both.

Steve
 

amstrtatnut

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12,832
I was half kidding about picking. I have trouble picking fast and even. If I can ger the hammer on pull off thing going acceptably (not Holdsworth; just so I can have some smother faster passages) I think it can round out my playing.

Ive been playing a long time and need to find workarounds for limitations.

Of cousre I try to work on limitations too but if workarounds work...then...
 

lifeinsong

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Works best with guitars that have a flatter fingerboard radius which makes it much easier to hammer-on and pull-off. I've been trying to get better at this myself and one of the big things I've discovered is that it's really important to build up strength in your left hand so that you don't have to pick as often or as hard with your right hand. If you haven't already you should also check out Allan Hinds.
 

frdagaa

Gold Supporting Member
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2,392
I've been watching the Allen Hinds videos in the last three issues of Guitar Techniques (I have the iPad version, which is fantastic. Cheaper than the print version, more integrated with the music files, absolutely killer app.) He does a great job of demonstrating legato technique, which in this case basically means lots of hammer-ons and pull-offs.

I really like the technique, but at times it doesn't have the energy and impact of more aggressive picking. That's the downside in my opinion.
 

matte

Senior Member
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legato is an extremely misused term. i was first introduced to it in the mid "70s, when i asked my guitar teacher at the time (the late ed mcguire/author of fingerboard harmony) to teach me how to play like holdsy.

it's quite possible to pick every note and play legato. this has everything to do with fretting hand release.

the solo is strict alternate picking, but the notes are still connected.



 

amstrtatnut

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do you understand that hammer ons/pull offs and legato are mutually exclusive?
I disagree. Guys like Holdsworth are known for their legato style. Nomatter what the real definition is everone know what youre talking about when you say legato in terms of electric guitar. I cant think of one instance where it equates to every note picked nomatter how connected it is.

As far as I know you could be 100% right aboit the video post but im talking about playing that utilizes lots of hammer ons and pulloffs is generally very smooth sounding and is widleyknown as LEGATO.whether its correct or not.
 

matte

Senior Member
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the notes may be "legato" but the technique of hammer ons and pull offs is not, in and of itself, legato.
I disagree. Guys like Holdsworth are known for their legato style. Nomatter what the real definition is everone know what youre talking about when you say legato in terms of electric guitar. I cant think of one instance where it equates to every note picked nomatter how connected it is.

As far as I know you could be 100% right aboit the video post but im talking about playing that utilizes lots of hammer ons and pulloffs is generally very smooth sounding and is widleyknown as LEGATO.whether its correct or not.
 

amstrtatnut

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12,832
the notes may be "legato" but the technique of hammer ons and pull offs is not, in and of itself, legato.
Have it your way. Ive seen other posts of yours and you seem reasonable. I dont understand why you need to make a thing out of it. Cause you know what Im talking about.
 

lifeinsong

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Everybody knows what you're talking about...people have different perceptions of the word legato, but there are plenty of well known guitarists that use the word legato to describe the hammer-on/pull-off technique. I don't think Matte is trying to criticize what you're saying, just pointing out the literal meaning of the word legato.
 

matte

Senior Member
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it's not my way. it's proper musical terminology.

staccato is the opposite of legato.


Have it your way. Ive seen other posts of yours and you seem reasonable. I dont understand why you need to make a thing out of it. Cause you know what Im talking about.
 

DøøG

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3,201
Battle of the network semantics, lol...

Anyway, getting that more together, practice clean, really get your left hand working. Even on acoustic (set up like electric tho, 10's and low action, not the usual heavier strings). If you listen to the old Holdsworth stuff, like Tempest & that Soft Machine record, it's not gainy at all. He does do an acoustic tune on Bundles (SM), all that "ahem" "legato" playing. I play a lot like this too, so I get what you're trying to do...
 




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