Playing Legato
Guitar Techniques|December 2020
In the second part of the series Chris Brooks continues his quest to make your playing fast and fluent using rock legato techniques.
Chris Brooks

Last month, we explored fretting approaches and technique builders for legato, including hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides. Using those chops, let’s stretch out on the fretboard using various scale shapes and numbers of notes per string. It’s helpful to treat the fretboard as one big scale box that acts as the host for patterns like CAGED and three-notes-per-string. Diagram A illustrates C Major (C D E F G A B) over the majority of the fretboard.

Good command of the fretboard gives you choices about where to play. Example 1 puts this into practice with six pathways for a two-octave C Major scale. Each pattern has a slightly different timbre, layout, and application of pick strokes and string changes.

Whenever you feel boxed in, a handy way to escape any positional scale shape is to include four notes on a string (Exs 2 & 3). Each group of four will move you up or down a position, as many times as you like within a line. Legato lines are well-suited to mixed numbers of notes per string since there’s no need to learn complicated picking patterns.

Two ways to make your legato chops sound more like real licks are melodic sequencing and burst phrasing. Sequencing is the process of taking a small musical figure and moving it up or down through a scale. Example 4 does this with a two-string motif on the low sixth and fifth strings, repeating it diatonically across the next two string pairs. Example 5 also uses a two string motif that contains nine notes, repeating on each descending string. See if you can come up with your own library of motifs, then move them across various strings and positions.

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