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Martin Goulding - Legato Primer - Part 2

The Masterclasses

Level 1 Legato will introduce you to the basic triplet co-ordination. Although this section is aimed at players that are new to the technique, it is still highly valid even for highly advanced players who wish to maintain their stamina. We will be using the Gmajor scale configured as a three note per string form in position one [examples are played over a static A minor chord - giving a Dorian tonality - js].

There are three exercises that are sub-divided into ‘a', 'b' and 'c.' The significance of this system is that all the ‘a' exercises concentrate on the low strings with a stretch of 2 tones between each finger. These exercises should be played with the first, second and fourth fingers. The ‘b' exercises concentrate on the middle string set with a semi-tone and a tone, played again using the first, second and fourth, and the ‘c' exercises are on the top strings with a tone and semi-tone between the first, third and fourth fingers.

In all these exercises be aware of the following things: LEFT HAND = follow the rule that in order to keep the technique clean you set up the first finger to mute the string above [the next thicker string- js] the one you are playing, most noise will come from this string. The first finger will make contact with the string that you are playing lower down on its pad, compared to the other fingers that should be arched and making contact on the tip. As a result of this you should almost naturally see that the first finger is laying over any higher strings and muting them too. When you do fig 1a, all the strings would be muted by the first finger except the low string being played. If you were on fig 1b, the first finger would mute the A-string by lying flatter, so the flesh of the tip of the finger is in contact with it. Everything underneath the string being played would also be muted by relaxing the finger gently on the strings. In this case the right hand will also mute any strings not attended to by the left. In fig 1b, for example the right hand would be muting the low E-string. So between the two hands it is possible to obtain a completely clean technique with no string noise in the background.

Right Hand: follow the rule that legato is a technique that is based on the principle that you only pick the first note on any string and all subsequent notes are either hammer-ons or pull-offs. Follow the picking directions on the tab and make the strokes light enough that they do not interfere with the fluid sound of the technique. Remember to mute strings that are unattended by the left hand.

With figures 1a, b and c, and figures 3a, b and c, make sure the first finger stays pinned down and that when the fourth finger goes down, the second finger snaps up out of the way so the pull-off can take you back to the first finger and repetition can be achieved. It may take you some time to perfect the motion, but when you crack it, then it's time for the metronome, the timer, and the diary! Don't bother timing anything unless you have put the work in to actually learn the exercise. Learn properly first and only then can proper practice occur.

After you have done the nine repetition fragments, then you will be ready to explore the musical potential of this technique. The following figs 4,5 and 6 are runs that are commonly used by legato players,and will demonstrate how you can link up your fragments to cover the whole scale form.

The example TAB's don't fit in my web page so you have to look at them on another blank page, sorry, I just don't have time to edit them all!

Level 1 tabs: Ex1 - Ex2 - Ex3 - Ex4 - Ex5 - Ex6

MA - Martin Goulding Legato Primer Masterclass Files by justinguitar


Go to Part 3 (Level 2)


About Martin Goulding

Martin Goulding is one of Londons busiest private teachers; has written for international best seller `Guitar: A Complete Guide For The Player' and specialises in modern-rock techniques at the Guitar Institute in West London. His band Linear Sphere have just released their debut album and can be found on

Lesson ID: MA-043