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 » Home » Guitar Lessons » Scales and Soloing » Legato and the Major Scale
By ThickSkind

In this lesson we are discussing the Legato technique and applying it to the major scale. In order to get the most out of this lesson/exercise, it is essential that you pay attention to the short section on the Major scale. It is the basis on which this lesson is built.

Legato and Staccato:

What is "Legato" you ask? Legato is letting one note ring until the next note without a noticable break between notes (in guitar terms..hammer-ons and pull-offs). The opposite, Staccato, is distinct tones (in guitar terms...picking each individual note). For examples of Legato and Staccato playing, grab any Steve Vai or Satch album and listen to any song. You should notice a distinct difference between the notes that sound picked and the notes that sound like hammer-ons and pull-offs.

The Major Scale:

All scales are based on a series of "whole-steps" and "half-steps" (or "tones" and "semi-tones"). Within these whole-steps and half-steps, a pattern emerges for all scale types. What we are looking at here is the Major scale. The whole-step/half-step pattern for a major scale is:

                        W - W - H - W - W - W - H 

"W" = whole-step ... "H" = half-step. In guitar terms, a half-step is one fret up or down, and a whole-step is two frets up or down. With that in mind, the C Major scale would read:

        
                        C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C

C to D = whole step D to E = whole step E to F = half step (on the guitar F is the fret after E so it is a half-step) F to G = whole step G to A = whole step A to B = whole step B to C = half step (on the guitar C is the fret after B so it is a half-step)

You can apply the whole-step/half-step theory to any note and determine the spelling of the scale. A few of the Major scale spellings are listed below:

A Major = A - B - C# - D - E - F# - G# - A

|--------------------------|
|--------------------------|
|--------------------------|
|--------------------6--7--|
|-----------5--7--9--------|
|--5--7--9-----------------|

B Major = B - C# - D# - E - F# - G# - A# - B

|----------------------------|
|----------------------------|
|----------------------------|
|----------------------8--9--|
|------------7--9--11--------|
|--7--9--11------------------|

C Major = C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C

|-------------------------------|
|-------------------------------|
|-------------------------------|
|------------------------9--10--|
|-------------8--10--12---------|
|--8--10--12--------------------|

D Major = D - E - F# - G - A - B - C# - D

|---------------------------------|
|---------------------------------|
|---------------------------------|
|--------------------------11-12--|
|--------------10--12--14---------|
|--10--12--14---------------------|

E Major = E - F# - G# - A - B - C# - D# - E

|----------------------------------|
|----------------------------------|
|----------------------------------|
|--------------------------13--14--|
|--------------12--14--16----------|
|--12--14--16----------------------|

F Major = F - G - A - Bb - C - D - E - F
|----------------------------------|
|----------------------------------|
|----------------------------------|
|--------------------------14--15--|
|--------------13--15--17----------|
|--13--15--17----------------------|

G Major = G - A - B - C - D - E - F# - G

|----------------------------------|
|----------------------------------|
|----------------------------------|
|--------------------------16--17--|
|--------------15--17--19----------|
|--15--17--19----------------------|

As you can see from the scales listed above, there is a definite pattern not only with the notes, but with the frets on the fretboard as well. Once you learn the pattern, you can pretty much play any Major scale anywhere on the fretboard...as long as you know the notes of course.

Legato Technique

As stated previously, Legato, as it relates to the guitar, is basically hammer-ons and pull-offs. That being said, all of the following examples use the hammer-on and pull-off technique. Notice that in each of the following samples in sections 1 and 2, the intervals between each note are whole-steps.

Section 1) Ascending Legato

"H" = Hammer-On "P" = Pull-off

In Ascending Legato, the first note is picked, and all subsequent notes on the same string are "hammerd". Consider the following example:

Pattern 1:

      H  H     H  H     H  H     H  H     H  H     H  H
|-----------------------------------------------3--5--7--|
|--------------------------------------3--5--7-----------|
|-----------------------------3--5--7--------------------|
|--------------------3--5--7-----------------------------|
|-----------3--5--7--------------------------------------|
|--3--5--7-----------------------------------------------|

In the above example, the first note (the thrid fret) is picked, and the following notes at 5 and 7 are hammered on. This exercise is also one of the most important in developing good Legato technique and building dexterity in your fretting hand.

Practice the following pattern until it is flowing and smooth. If it is a little hard for you in this position, move up the fretboard to a position that is eaiser; for example: 5 - 7 - 9 or 7 - 9 - 11

Pattern 2:

      H  H     H  H     H  H     H  H     H  H     H  H     H  H     H  H     H  H     H  H     H  H
|-----------------------------------------------3--5--7-----------------------------------------------|
|--------------------------------------3--5--7-----------3--5--7--------------------------------------|
|-----------------------------3--5--7-----------------------------3--5--7-----------------------------|
|--------------------3--5--7-----------------------------------------------3--5--7--------------------|
|-----------3--5--7-----------------------------------------------------------------3--5--7-----------|
|--3--5--7-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------3--5--7--|

Print Version Descending Legato

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