Legato: What Is It In Guitar Playing?

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 20, 2022

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In music performance and notation, legato (Italian for “tied together”) indicates that musical notes are played or sung smoothly and connected. That is, the player transitions from note to note with no intervening silence. Legato technique is required for slurred performance, but unlike slurring (as that term is interpreted for some instruments), legato does not forbid rearticulation. Standard notation indicates legato either with the word legato, or by a slur (a curved line) under notes that form one legato group. Legato, like staccato, is a kind of articulation. There is an intermediate articulation called either mezzo staccato or non-legato (sometimes referred to as “portato”).

What is legato

How to achieve legato in guitar playing

Some guitarists use a technique called “hammer-ons” while others use a technique called “pull-offs.”

Hammer-ons are executed by placing the left hand fingers on the correct frets and then “hammering” them down onto the strings. This action causes the string to vibrate and produce a note.

Pull-offs are executed by plucking the string with the right hand and then “pulling” the left hand finger off of the string. This action also causes the string to vibrate and produce a note.

Both of these techniques can be used to create legato passages as do many others like sliding and hybrid picking.

The most difficult thing in legato playing is keeping the attack and loudness consistent across all the notes to truly make it sound like a continuous “rolling” movement.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

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