Why your legato technique isn’t that great

Is the legato technique hard? Or is doing hammer-ons and pull-offs easier than most other things? In my perspective it is definitely a great shortcut to playing fast, even on an acoustic nylon guitar. And if you dull down the pick strokes you use when going from string to string, it produces a fluent, liquid type of sound with no spaces in between each note that has given it its name: Legato (Tied together)

But this is not its greatest value. When you own an effective legato technique it will support all your other techniques and make you a faster, more fluent player, fast!



But this technique has a hidden challenge that very few people notice. Because the action of performing hammer-ons and pull-offs reminds the brain so much of merely fretting the notes, and because fretting the notes is very often enough to have lots of sound come out on distorted guitar, we fail to run the right pattern of movement at the right time and end up sort of doing hammer-ons and pull-offs.

This is a crucial understanding that can change the effectiveness of this technique completely

We often ending up practicing hammer-ons and pull-offs for a very limited time compared to the energy spent on other techniques like alternate picking or sweep picking, because we seem to get rapid results. The outcome of all of this is a weak technique that feels a little like cheating when ever we use it.



An effective legato technique can literally revolutionize your playing style if you start taking it very seriously and the first step to doing that is to never practice it with distortion or compression on your instrument.

I mean this very literally: If you have distortion or another form of compression on your instrument as you are practicing you hammer-ons and pull-offs you are not practicing!

Am I being brutally tough here? No! The legato technique is by definition the discipline of both fretting and activating the note using your fretting hand only. And, since there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to develop a very effective technique that works perfectly on an electric guitar with a clean sound, why would you then remove the accurate feedback you get from practicing with a clean sound?


Compression makes a weak note louder and a loud note will weaker. This equalizes the notes you play so you can’t hear the difference between an effective hammer-on and a weak one and this is a total disaster to your results. Why? Because practicing is the process of performing an action, determining whether that action was up to standard or not and then doing it again.

If you remove your ability to determine whether what you are doing is working or not you are absolutely guaranteed to waste your time.

But it’s even worse than that: Because you are not only not learning, you are practicing doing the wrong thing and thereby building an ineffective technique that has to be unlearned at a later point. So is a massive waste of time. The kind that works against you primary objective and the very reason you are practicing.

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions”
Ken Blanchard


1. Pick you favorite legato sequence. Something you can practice in a loop with no breaks. Connect your guitar and add nothing to the sound. No distortion or compression nothing.

2. Then practice it at a tempo where you can exaggerate the hammer-ons and the pull-offs and I mean to the point where they can’t be much louder. Make sure you are not overdoing the pull-offs in order to protect your finger tips, but make sure the hammer-ons are as loud as humanly possible. Do not compromise and take your time.

3. This will add up to a ridiculously slow tempo but decide to stay there and keep doing it, not aiming for speed at all.

4. If you haven’t been focusing very much on this technique lately your fingertips will start hurting pretty quickly. This is a sure sign you are not using this technique to it’s fully when you play on a daily basis and you need to be a little patient when the soreness sets a limit to how much you can practice in the beginning.

Do this for a week each night for at least thirty minutes. No rushing. Care for every single hammer-on and pull-off and don’t compromise. Go for quality only, not speed.

Then after a week of this, test to see what this did to your level of control. Crank up the distortion and feel the added power of your left hand. Then imagine what practicing like this will do to your legato technique one month from now.

Why your legato technique isn’t that great

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