#1
All of the following Tom has posted in various threads and to make his life easier I have stuck it all together here along with a few of his edits for clarity or consistency.

I have a very limited command of this technique and am very happy to have some comprehensive explanation at last - to Tom and once he's happy with this text, it's going straight to the archives.

Thread is open so that people can ask relevant questions which may not have been answered yet.

Please do not ask a question before reading thoroughly and trying this out yourself - the basic execution assumes fairly developed left hand technique, this is not an easy thing to get into.

Quote by Prophet of Page
As has been mentioned, Petrucci has a very harsh hammer-on/pull-off technique which disjoints almost every note. Essentially, it sounds somewhat like picking, but with a lesser attack. The benefit is that the technique is easier to develop, and with sufficient finger strength, will work regardless of your level of gain and the height of your action. The downside is of course, that you aren't playing "legato" in the true sense of the word.

The alternative, the style preferred by Holdsworth minimises use of pull-offs and the pull-off motion itself. Contrary to what people believe, descending notes aren't really "hammered-on" when descending, though many lines will begin with a hammered note. It's quite difficult to explain, but when descending, it's more a case that that higher note is "lifted-off" while a finger rests over the lower note almost fretting it, with the necessary force to fret exerted during the "lift-off" motion.

(I'd like to rephrase this. Yes, a descending hammer is different to a "hammer-on" in the conventional sense, but I don't think I worded this well.

Here I really wanted to express that the idea of straight descending hammers is incorrect. Instead, there is a more intricate motion that I've previously referred to as the "lift-off," which involves something like a "reverse hammer" This motion is a combination of the finger fretting the higher note being lifted directly off the string, while a finger is slightly above the string at a lower note, with the necessary force to fret being exerted as we lift-off, which is a gentle hammer-on. So yes, the lower note is "hammered" in some sense, but the lifting motion and the hammering motion really need to be concerted and coordinated together, rather than being thought of as distinct movements.)

Pull-offs are not entirely removed, and are indeed necessary in some lines. The pull-off motion should, in most cases, just be sufficiently strong to keep the note you pull-off to is at the same leval as the note you pulled-off from. The benefit of this approach is a sound much more inline with "legato" in the true sense of the word. The style would be complemented by learning to pick with a picking style that minimises pick attack. This is really a question of pick angle and picking motion, rather than whether you favour alternate or economy picking.

The downsides are that the style requires lower action (low action isn't really required, it's just very helpful.) and a more compressed lead sound where everything is "on a level," and is helped significantly by using lighter strings and a lower action, both for developing the technique (as less force is required), and sonically, as a lighter string won't have such a percussive attack. The style requires much more finger independence and is much more difficult to learn, as really it's necessary to be able to play using the other style of legato techniques also.

Something that worked for me and was also mentioned in the video you posted was to get used to hammering notes from nowhere. Practice it with every finger, on every fret on every string. Then, try to make the hammers of consistent volume. Only then will the "hammer-offs" really work. The final stage is simply to string the hammers together, and to learn the correct way to lift a finger and hammer behind it.

Really, it just takes a long time. Another thing that's absolutely vital is getting your fingers used to how fast they have to strike the string to get the correct hammer.

Also, you're probably not going to remove every pull-off from your legato playing. Holdsworth, Garsed and Lane never managed it. So, don't be too upset if you still find phrases you need to through pull-offs into.

It's hugely worthwhile, but very difficult. It won't come quickly.


Quote by Prophet of Page
About the Holdsworth/Garsed style legato, which there seems to be quite alot of confusion about...

1. Low action and light strings will be helpful, but they won't be necessary, contrary to what some people will tell you. Sure, Holdsworth uses .008s/.009s with low action, but Garsed uses .010s (and has used .011s) on guitars with fairly average action (he keeps the action higher for his slide playing).

2. The idea of straight descending hammer-ons is incorrect. Rather, where one would usually pull-off, we now lift-off and hammer lightly with the next finger we are to fret with. Pull-offs are not entirely removed, though they are almost always minimised as much as possible. Not every lick most guitarists would refer to as "legato" can be played like this.

3. Further, Holdsworth and Garsed both pick quite alot, contrary to what many believe. This is in order to maintain full control of the accents. Specifically, when lifting-off from the pinky to the ring. This very frequently picked. Allan economy picks (and he's amazing at it) and Brett hybrid picks nearly everything (and he's amazing at it), but similar smooth sounding picking can be achieve with alternate picking, provided you have control over your pick attack.

4. You'll need enough gain and compression to bring this relatively gentle style of playing out tonally. String dampening technique is hugely important, here as in general.

5. The stretches are quite big, but the melodic lines they play aren't entirely based on playing 4 note on each string (even though 4 notes on some particular string is common). Rather they play lines which incorporate the 4 note per string idea with lesser numbers of notes per string (and indeed higher, when they use slides or less frequently, right hand taps taps). Some of the stretches are impossible to play standing with a straight wrist. I can manage -5-7-9-11- on my low E, -3-5-7-9- on a good day.

6. Chromatic "passing tones" are used frequently. Think of this as just "filling is a gap" in a usual 3 note per string pattern. You'll quickly find which ones make sense and which don't.

7. Use a hair band to mute the strings a la Guthrie Govan/Greg Howe and this legato technique is very naturally extended into the multifinger tapping technique (T.J. Helmerich style, though T.J.'s left hand legato isn't as amazing as Allan's or Brett's). I don't do this myself, but the idea is a very natural extension. As many notes as possible, one string. When playing multiple right hand tapped notes on a single string, any necessary pull-offs should be upward, so the motion is ensure to be coming from the fingers. Joel Hoekstra is another phenomenal 8-finger tapper.

8. Even though this is the type of "legato technique" most similar to "legato" in a musical context, it's still not "true" legato. In "true" legato, there is a slight overlapbetween notes, that is difficult to replicate on a guitar. Sweep picking arpeggios are too my knowledge one of the few things that would be considered "true" legato.

Regarding "legato" in a classical sense - I'd like to add that the overlapping of notes wouldn't actually be desirable on a distorted lead guitar, as when two notes are played together, the distortion introduces two new pitches, being the sum and the difference of the pitches of the notes played. Thus even though you could play a swept pattern with overlapping note (making it "true" legato), it would sound better in almost all cases two play every note with the same separation we would get if they were all played on the smae string with the Holdsworth/Garsed legato style.

EDIT: As for where "normal" legato is more useful, any bluesy hammer-on/pull-off based pentatonic lick. Anything 2 notes per string, really.



Could you give some examples of when normal legato would be more useful than Holdsworth legato? -

Quote by Prophet of Page
Firstly, if you aren't playing with quite a compressed lead tone, the Holdsworth/Garsed style of legato isn't feasible, it's nearly impossible to maintain the level without pull-offs.

Secondly, when playing with a suitable tone, there are still some licks that are very difficult to play without a single pull-off. A very slight pull-off or picked note is almost necessary when playing a stretchy 4-note per string linewhen descending from the pinky to the ring finger. The ring finger just won't have the strength in that position to hammer the note firmly enough to maintain the level.

Funnily enough, one of the hardest licks to play without pull-offs is among the easiest to play with them. A repeating 3 finger roll like -3-5-7-5-, or the even tougher -3-5-6-5- where the ring finger would be used is quite difficult to play without pull-offs. These "rolling" lick don't appear frequently in either Holdsworth's or Garsed's playing, but a well controlled pickstroke or pull-off is often placed in there to maintain the level.

As for players with phenomenal "legato" technique that use pull-offs much more regularly, Richie Kotzen is certainly worth a look, though his left hand isn't hugely economical, and his line are predominately 3 note per string.
#3
Interesting... Since it gives a different sound that "regular" legato, I guess it'd be best to learn both and play for the desired sound instead of just economic motions-

I wonder, could something this hard be played that way? Dream Theater - In The Name Of God unison (starts around 1.00)

It's really fast and features some really hard pull-off shapes.

And what about Satch's technique, that's regular legato, right? It sounds great, like a line of notes.
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Last edited by Kurai X at Jun 9, 2010,
#4
Man, I've been trying to figure this out for a long time, but haven't. Except that second paragraph made so much sense. Now I just need to practice a lot... :p

Thanks FP and Tom!
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#6
I wonder, could something this hard be played that way?


Go check out Allan Holdsworth, Shawn Lane and Brett Garsed.

Or, in short, the guys who generally use this technique are able to pull off the most difficult legato lines known to man.

(mind you, Lane doesn't use it anywhere near as much, but just for your own good )

Interesting... Since it gives a different sound that "regular" legato, I guess it'd be best to learn both and play for the desired sound instead of just economic motions-


Learning normal legato as well is pretty much required, you can't use this in every situation.

And what about Satch's technique, that's regular legato, right? It sounds great, like a line of notes.


Yeah, I like that sound very much myself, my technique would be much more down that line as well.
#7
I've heard Holdsworth, and was already aware of this legato technique, and I'm deeply familiar with Shawn Lane, though I didn't know he used that technique as well!
I'll have to check out Garsed

I mentioned that unison becouse.. well, I was listening to it xD and it's really different to what they do, so I wondered.


And yeah I read that one had to learn regular to learn the Alian one, the Holdsworthy one. Hey, nice term there! "YOU are Holdsworthy!"
*cough cough*, anyway, I meant that both should be used, to vary sound... I always think like Guthrie, learn everything, choose your technique according to the sound you're looking for.

I'll try to learn this one... I'll some day be Holdsworthy!
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You wither, and die. I am eternal, the pinnacle of evolution and existence. I am beyond your comprehension. I am Kurai.
#8
Garsed is godly, really need to get my hybrid picking up to scratch before i delve deeper into this tech.
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#9
I heard there was a video where Garsed demonstrates this legato approach. Any links/info?
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#10
Quote by Alter-Bridge
I heard there was a video where Garsed demonstrates this legato approach. Any links/info?


You're most likely referring to Rock Fusion, his now out of print instructional video. He doesn't quite give as much detail as you might hope for, but it's much more informative than most lessons, here is a link

http://video.mail.ru/bk/garuss/24054/24162.html

You'll need to be a little creative to download it...
My name is Tom, feel free to use it.
#11
Quote by Prophet of Page
You're most likely referring to Rock Fusion, his now out of print instructional video. He doesn't quite give as much detail as you might hope for, but it's much more informative than most lessons, here is a link

http://video.mail.ru/bk/garuss/24054/24162.html

You'll need to be a little creative to download it...



LOL how the hell do you download that? I can use the firefox addon to download vid, which is quite awesome, but I still wonder lol, is that russian?

Anyway, I don't know if I can post direct links, but here's Rock Fusion.

*LINKS REMOVED*

I also found another instructional DVD called "Rock Guitar Improvisation"... and his whole discography XD

Thanks for the vid!
Rudimentary creatures of blood and flesh. You touch my mind, fumbling in ignorance, incapable of understanding.
You wither, and die. I am eternal, the pinnacle of evolution and existence. I am beyond your comprehension. I am Kurai.
#12
Quote by Kurai X
I also found another instructional DVD called "Rock Guitar Improvisation"... and his whole discography XD


I've little problem with you downloading Rock Fusion (it's not going to be re-released), or the out of print albums he's played on (Quid Pro Quo, Exempt), but downloading his entire discography and his current DVD is a little low IMO.

Brett can barely afford to release albums as it is...
My name is Tom, feel free to use it.
#13
I'm not downloading those.
It'd not be easy in uruguay owning every original copy of the music I listen too... it's too much and too expensive. Plus they're not sold here.
I did buy Jason Becker's discography through amazon, that guy deserves it more than anyone. And I wanna buy Erotic Cakes and some Shawn Lane stuff.

But everything would be hard D:
Rudimentary creatures of blood and flesh. You touch my mind, fumbling in ignorance, incapable of understanding.
You wither, and die. I am eternal, the pinnacle of evolution and existence. I am beyond your comprehension. I am Kurai.
#14
Quote by Prophet of Page
I've little problem with you downloading Rock Fusion (it's not going to be re-released), or the out of print albums he's played on (Quid Pro Quo, Exempt), but downloading his entire discography and his current DVD is a little low IMO.

Brett can barely afford to release albums as it is
...

I know this is a bit off topic, but, wouldn't he of made quite a bit with John Farnham?
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#15
Quote by Alter-Bridge
I know this is a bit off topic, but, wouldn't he of made quite a bit with John Farnham?


Brett has said that he can't afford to get attached to his amps because he can't afford to bring them with him on tour. I know of musicians who can afford to do that and still can't afford to release albums.

By the way, Brett is totally fine with Rock Fusion being shared.
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#16
^ to be honest, that's cool if he owns it. But, unless I'm very much mistaken, he doesn't.

Please do not distribute copyrighted files through UG.

That said, good licks and stuff on brett's own site, well worth looking at.