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Legato Exercises

I do not assume any responsibility for frustration, injury or death resulting from the application of these exercises.

Due to the nature of the guitar, legato playing places a different emphasis on the strength and dexterity of the left hand. After the first note of a legato phrase is picked, the left hand is basically on its own, and the player must then have enough strength and flexibility to allow the subsequent notes to sound loudly, cleanly and in tune.

As a result, it is recommended that the student pay extra attention to the nonlegato exercises before turning to this section.

How to perform these exercises

Legato exercises are to be played as written. i.e. you pick the first note of each group and then hammer and pull as indicated in the tablature. In the same way as the nonlegato exercises, the following boxes are to be considered a framework.

To expand your repertoire of legato exercises, you could sneak a peek at the nonlegato exercises and simply adapt them to legato playing. The stuff in here is more dedicated to developing stamina in that fretting hand.

Any exercise can be moved up one or more frets if you feel that it's out of your reach. Try starting in the 5th or 6th position instead of the 1st, practice there for a while, and you will soon notice that you can move the exercise down as your fingers get stronger and more limber.

Three Fingers

Hammer-on stamina exercise using the 1st, 2nd and 4th fingers:

  1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4
  1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4

Four Fingers

This is a slight variation of one of the nonlegato exercises on the previous page. The exception being that you play each cell twice:



Here is a madman of an exercise that focuses on trills. It also stretches your left hand to the max. Play it six times, one on each string. Move this exercise way up if you're not able to perform it as written.

  1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1  3 1  3 1  3 1  3 1  4 1  4 1  4 1  4 1  4 1  4

Tips and Tricks in Legato Playing

A common technique used by guitarists when playing legato is flicking the string slightly downward—parallel to the fret wire—when pulling off. This is akin to the so-called left-hand pizzicato employed in virtuoso violin music. There are risks involved in such a practice. When flicking downwards, there is a risk of the player pulling or pushing the string, effectively bending the string and raising the pitch just out of tune.

Performing hammer-ons with extra force can be risky when the guitar is fitted with tall fret wire. If the string is pressed down too hard behind the wire, it can also serve to raise the pitch just out of tune. Playing unplugged or on an acoustic forces you to play more cleanly, but this is an area where you could use the extra sustain only possible through a distorted sound. Let the amplifier do the job for you.