The other day somebody sent in a question regarding Legato and I thought I’d just share it with you all, because it’s a question I receive fairly regularly. (Bear in mind, this is a translated version of the question and my response. I have also had a little time to think on this, so I may have added a few more points)
Question: “Could you give me any advice about legato or your lines? For example, something you transcribed or any method that you studied which helped?
For legato and my lines, I tried to copy saxophonists, pianists and guitar players (those that have a similar sound.) For example, I did transcriptions of Michael Brecker and Chris Potter, though I also looked at some by Taylor Eigsti, Brad Mehldau, Aaron Parks and Nelson Veras (awesome guitar player, go check him out!!!). I’ve found that other instruments offer something unique, that when applied to guitar, gives a unique sound and forces you to think differently. Eventually, I would take these ideas and warp them to my own musical tastes, thus, allowing me to have a basis for forming my own vocabulary.
In relation to the actual sound, I tried mimicking the sound of guitarists such as Brett Garsed, Tom Quayle and Allan Holdsworth. There’s a really good video on YouTube by my teacher, Tim Miller, talking about the subject. One has to learn that legato is a manner of playing and articulation: not just a technique. All the notes have to be in time and absolutely clear. Tom Quayle also talks about subdivisions and working on the ability to move between subdivisions without much thought/difficulty (a really good exercise). This is why the aforementioned guitarists have an incredible legato. Every note is played with a great time feel and a really good sound (being that they let every note sustain for the appropriate duration).
As somebody who started out with alternate picking, it took a little time to transition over. I had to practice my scales and develop lines using the technique with a metronome. Personally, I’ve found that a lot of people who first start out with it, use it more as a means to play fast. I would suggest really making sure that each subdivision is clear and in time. Make sure that each note duration is even and consistent as well.
A note on touch: it is actually not all that necessary to be really heavy-handed. Just a light touch actually yields a good tone and is generally preferable for the sake of “economy of motion”. It would also of benefit to mention that an evenness in tone should be developed. What I mean by this statement, is that your pull-offs and hammer-ons should be of similar tone and dynamic. This helps to create that fluid and even tone we look for when using the technique.
Here is a link to Tim Miller’s Legato lesson (an extremely helpful video that synthesises all the points above in a nice little visual package)
I hope this has been of help to you guys and has given you a bit more of an insight into my playing. Again, if you have any questions or any topics you would like me to discuss, do not hesitate to send a message my way!
– Juan Dhas