Building Speed 02. Legato and Tapping

author: JacobReedShred date: 07/23/2013 category: guitar techniques
rating: 6.1
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Building Speed 02. Legato and Tapping
Hey guys. I'm back for another speed building lesson. In this lesson we will take a look at many obstacles that I, and you, might not be able to get over. I will give you ways to get around those obstacles in order to gain speed using legato and an extension of legato: tapping. The exercises in this lesson will be geared towards strength building and dexterity. So, if you're warmed up let's jump right in. Everybody knows that the pinky is the runt of the litter. I get many e-mails about how to strengthen the pinky so I've decided to incorporate a strength building exercise, but not just for your pinky. It's for all fingers, but first let's look at the first obstacle: strength. When playing legato many people (myself included) have found that when they try to play fast that certain notes being played by certain fingers don't sound out properly. This is because that finger may not be strong enough to make the sound. This can create a speed block because if the finger is not producing a sound it means that the finger is not coming down hard enough and thus, throws the fingers after it off. It sounds odd, but I've seen many people have this problem. It is due to finger strength which can also tie into finger dexterity. So, what this first exercise is designed to do is build up finger independence and strength. It'll also get you used to using your pinky if you're are not already. Here is the first exercise: Think of it in note groups of four. Ex. 1
There it is. Make sure that when you're hammering and pulling off that all the notes are sounding out clean, clear, and the dynamics are all even. When you finish that exercise on the high-e string move it to the B string and so on. It will really build finger independence and strength, which will contribute towards speed building. Now, this next obstacle/exercise will use the legato approach of picking once per string change. We will cover the strict version later in the lesson. This next obstacle is something I call "movement as a whole." What I mean by this is your fretboard fingers moving during legato in the same way. For example: the pinky again. You may be able to play legato using your first three fingers just fine, but when you get to the pinky it's lagging behind. This obstacle is similar to the first one, but the difference is trying to correct the strength problem, but on a greater scale. In this exercise pick once per string change. What we're going to do is utilize the three finger patterns within the major scale and it's modes. I will show you all three finger patterns in the exercise(s) below. I will give them in the order they appear in the Ionian mode (Major) 3-note-per-string pattern. I'll use A major. Here are the 3 individual finger patterns: Ex. 2a
  PATTERN 1    PATTERN 2    PATTERN 3      
There are the 3 patterns. For Pattern 1 use your Index, Middle, and Pinky fingers. For Pattern 2 use your Index, Middle, and Pinky fingers. For Pattern 3 use your Index, Ring, and Pinky fingers. The bar lines are only meant to separate the 3 patterns to make it easier to read. You will come across those 3 patterns in the major scale in any key. Now that we have our 3 patterns we can drill them. What I'm going to do is simply put a pattern on the low-E string and move the same pattern up the strings and back down to really get the pattern beneath your fingers and build up dexterity in that pattern. Here is the exercise using finger pattern 1: Ex. 2b
Here's the exercise using finger pattern 2: Ex. 2c
Now, the exercise using finger pattern 3: Ex. 2d

There are the 3 exercises based the 3 finger patterns we looked at. I know they may be boring to play (and trust me. It was boring to type up), but it will really build up "movement as a whole", which will also build strength and speed in the long run. Remember to keep the notes very clean and even. The obvious next step would be to combine the different finger patterns together into the scale. Go back up and look at Ex.2a. Go ahead. I'll wait... welcome back. Ok. Play that exercise, but don't stop between finger patterns. There is your first scale pattern used to combine the finger patterns. Only 6 more to go. I will not type the rest here, because my fingers will fall off, but you can reference all the patterns in my "Shred Guitar Lesson" series. Those patterns are in E minor though. Doing that will increase "movement as a whole" even more. On to our next subject: strict legato. Strict legato is where you do not pick any strings at all except for maybe the first note. Some people have a hard time making the note sound out when changing strings. I'm still even working on getting my legato up to par, but I will give you an exercise I use to get more strength when using strict legato. All I do is take my first finger and slam it down on a random fret on a random string. It sounds really stupid, but it will increase the strength needed to perform strict legato. I change strings and frets with every hammer on I use. Why? Because it will get me used to hammering on wherever I want on the fretboard. Of course, whenever I come across a fret that sounds a bit buzzy I will repeat that hammer-on over and over again until I get it to sound clear. Then I repeat the process with all my other fretting fingers. This method may be a bit weird, but it is the best way I have found to build strength when changing strings. When actually playing a strict legato run, after you get the first note down, when the string change comes the rest should be no problem. For example: Ex. 3
If you have trouble with changing from the low-E to the A string just work on hammering on the first note on the A string until it's clear. After you get that note down then the rest should be no problem. If you still have trouble getting the note to sound and you have a huge legato run coming up you can take your picking hand and bring it over near the nut/first fret of your guitar and mute all the strings. It looks flashy and can make your legato cleaner. What does all of this have to do with speed? It is the same principle as our 2nd/3rd obstacle. Also, I firmly believe that if you know you have a problem with your legato or any other technique that you will create a type of mental block against speed because you know your technique will be wrong. This is why it is so important to sit down and actually listen to your own guitar playing and figure out where your problem is and figure out how to fix it. That's why I am trying to give you guys some possible obstacles and ways to get around them to help you. Now, let's look at an extension of legato: tapping. If you have a problem with tapping all the above obstacles/exercises can help you with building strength and dexterity and help you gain speed, but I will give you a couple tips on the actual technique that can also help you improve. When you have a tapping lick like this: Ex. 4
And you have trouble getting your fret hand over in time to tap the note all you have to do is this: When you play the first note in the exercise your hand should go directly to the 19th fret right after you hit the first note to give you more time to get there. I mean why would you wait until you hit the 16th to start bringing your fret hand over? It's not economical and is guaranteed to slow you down. The same thing could be applied to when you switch strings after the tap. As soon as you finish the tap on the D string your hand should move over to the G string and have it ready to hit that tap on the 19th fret. It's all about economy of motion and it will help you gain speed and tighten up your technique as well. Well, that wraps it up for this lesson. Remember, it's not just about the exercises. It's about the obstacles and how to get around them using the exercises. Use the metronome technique I discussed in "Building Speed 01. Alternate Picking" while keeping in mind these obstacles and I guarantee you will gain speed and break bad habits. Also I would like to point out what fellow UG user "pncoutts" said about how slow you should go when first starting and learning to relax your muscles and speed building will come naturally. He is absolutely right. Start out slow and increase in tempo. Relax your muscles because extra tension can also hold you back and people tend to have a lot of extra tension in their hands when playing legato, especially strict legato. I believe the guitarist Dan Mumm said "perfect practice makes perfect" so remember to practice and relax and it will come naturally. With that information and these obstacles and how to conquer them you are definitely going to gain speed. Don't forget to rate and comment on this lesson and check out the demo of "Red Skies" on my profile. Until the next lesson, see ya. :D
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