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Get to grips with legato playing using this simple guitar workout

Master legato with this guitar workout
Align your fingers one-per-fret to nail those legato leads (Image credit: Future)

Hammer-ons and pull-offs are some of the first techniques beginner lead guitarists learn, and they are some of the easiest. 

For the uninitiated, the idea is to sound a note with a fretting finger without picking the string - it’s done by either hammering down hard on the string or pulling off to essentially re-pick it. Simple! 

Here, we’re looking at ways to take these ideas a step further by using a technique known as legato - when you use a mixture of hammer-ons and pull-off s one after the other. Try out these exercises and hone your skills.

Example 1. Spinal Hammer

(Image credit: Future)

Kick off your legato workout with this triplet lick. If you struggle, just focus on each three-note grouping one at a time - on their own, these groupings are great beginner level legato licks.

Example 2. Getcha Pull-off

(Image credit: Future)

This line will incorporate pull-offs with a variation on notes-per-string. Practicing this will allow you to become more fluent in changing strings at will.

3. Challenge! Diminishing Returns

(Image credit: Future)

This smooth Allan Holdsworth-inspired line uses both hammer-ons and pull-offs to create a seamless flow of notes.

It looks pretty scary, but there’s a shortcut! Learn the first eight notes, then shift up a semitone and repeat the same pattern again. This repeats all the way up to the third string, before the final first-string lick.

Start slow: 60-90 BPM
It’s a weaving, windy lick, so, at a gentle tempo, make it your aim to memorize the notes.

Speed it up: 90-120 BPM
Hammer-ons and pull-offs are actually easier played at some speed. Find a moderate sweet spot.

Legato Master Tempo: 120-150 BPM
When playing at such fearsome speeds just make sure not to let your accuracy slip.