When learning any instrument, one of the fundamental concepts we come across is how notes are articulated. When we play notes staccato, they are played in a truncated fashion: short and bouncy. Legato, the opposite of staccato, is when we play notes longer, smoother, and without space between them. On the guitar, we achieve legato by three techniques: hammer-ons, pull-offs, and sliding.
In his course, Take 5: Legato, Chris Buono helps you incorporate all three of these techniques to perfect your legato guitar playing.
Here are three video legato guitar lessons from the course. For the full course, check out Chris Buono’s Take 5: Legato on TrueFire!
Legato Guitar Lesson – Level 4 – Overview
Here in the fourth segment, the all-powerful rolling legato technique is, well, rolled out in Bm. Rolling legato is comprised of three and four-note-per-string sequences that play a succession of hammer-ons and pull-offs and/or vice versa. The light touch you’ve been starting to develop is paramount with this approach. Another legato concept put forth is something I call alternate legato. The element you’re alternating with hammer-ons and pull-offs is picking. Combined with carefully placed sliding and ghost hammers you have a wild ride before you!
Take note: I can’t stress enough how important a light touch is to play legato. That notion becomes even more paramount when starting to playing rolling legato and alternate legato phrases such as the ones in this jam.
Legato Guitar Lesson – Level 4 – Performance
Long, flowing rolling legato (say that just five times fast) is a mainstay for the guys like Satriani and Van Halen, as well as Steve Vai and Allan Holdsworth – two more players I spent countless hours in the shed studying. I vividly remember sitting on the edge of my bed in my parents’ house with my ear to the boombox and the current issue of Guitar for the Practicing Musician learning the opening salvo to “Shy Boy” off David Lee Roth’s Eat’em and Smile where Steve Vai unleashed his own infamous brand of fury.
Among the many facets to making licks like that work, I came to appreciate the concept of looking ahead. That’s what you’ll need to do as well. As I play through all 16 bars, watch my head snap to each oncoming position. This is super important and something you’ll need to establish right from the get-go.
Legato Guitar Lesson – Level 4 – Breakdown
The lines in this jam are comprised of scales chopped into rolling legato goodness that vertically relate to each chord. That means they’re specific to the chord and not just diatonic with the same common notes. In the first eight bars, I’m playing B Dorian lines for the Bsus2 chords while the D and A7(13)/C# have the D Ionian and A Mixolydian applied respectively. Before you cry foul and say the latter two are the same notes, look at the shape of the lines, and more importantly, look at the starting and ending notes. They indicate the changes properly. Over the next eight bars, the D and A7(13)/C# chords get the same ingredients applied, however the Bsus2 is treated to symmetrical fingerings that call up hybrid Dorian and minor blues tonalities.
Looking ahead is what makes long, flowing lines like this work. That, and staying acutely aware of your time feel. This technique can be a valuable tool in your arsenal, but only if you learn to control it. Relaxation is key and will allow you to look ahead without getting lost and keep your wits about you so as to stay in the pocket.
Digging these free video legato guitar lessons? Check out Chris Buono’s Take 5: Legato.