Tackling the common problems
Before concluding this series, I want to briefly cover some common technical difficulties that may arise when first encountering legato playing.
The main issue is that of finger strength and endurance.
To be able to play long legato passages with the fretting hand only requires a great deal of stamina, and you can’t expect to achieve this overnight. This is developed over time. Practice regularly, and don’t overdo it.
Progress will come with time, and you’ll find it much less demanding on your fingers. Playing legato can also be quite tough on the tips of your fingers – a lot more than normal fretting.
Once again, there is no quick fix here, just keep practicing regularly and the skin on your fingers will get tougher and it will no longer be a problem.
When practicing legato, I always recommend using a fairy clean amp setting. Covering everything with distortion just makes it harder to hear whether your volume is even between your hammer-ons and pull-offs.
When you use a clean sound, you can hear much more clearly how even your playing is, and this should always be your primary objective.
From time to time though, it can be a good idea to crank up the gain, just to check if you’re not producing any unwanted string noise, so pay attention to good muting.
To begin with, as with everything, your practice of legato should be done slowly. Over time the strength in your fingers will improve, and then you can start increasing the speed at which you practice, but your main concern should always be accuracy.
Don’t make speed your main goal – once you have the accuracy and the strength, speed is easy to obtain. As I mentioned earlier, it is a good idea to spend more time working on the fingers that are weaker, so that eventually, all fingers will be more or less equal.
That brings us to the end of this outline of playing legato. Hopefully, it has given you an insight into what this playing style can offer you as a guitarist – the ability to play fast, flowing, melodic lines with a sound that you just can’t get from picking every note. I hope you’ve got some ideas on how you can start practicing, and then incorporating legato into your own style.
Chris Lake, a professional guitarist and guitar teacher of over 25 years. If you would like more help with all aspects of learning the guitar, head over to Chris’s website where you can get a free copy of his latest eBook about playing the guitar – The-Guitar-Guide.com