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  1. #1

    Anyone using legato techniques for clean jazz playing?

    Been working on this for over 2 years and still struggling to integrate it into my playing but it's finally starting to find it's way in there. One issue is the decision about using hybrid vs. economy picking on this. I like the sound of economy picking but I'm more adept at the hybrid picking...


  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by jzucker View Post
    Been working on this for over 2 years and still struggling to integrate it into my playing but it's finally starting to find it's way in there. One issue is the decision about using hybrid vs. economy picking on this. I like the sound of economy picking but I'm more adept at the hybrid picking...

    I don't do this (or anything else ...) as systematically as you, but I do a lot hammer-ons and pull-offs on chromatic passages, and I tend to sweep arpeggios. Is that the sort of thing you mean by "legato techniques"? I tend not to do it for extended passages, more as a contrast to picked staccato phrases.

    Anyway, here's a representative example, once you get past the head (warning, clams ahead)



    John

  3. #3
    that sounds good john but I wouldn't call that "legato" technique only because legato technique has come to represent a very specific way of playing lines and arpeggios utilizing the 2-1-2-1 technique popularized by Tim Miller.

    Your tone sounds good on that axe.

  4. #4
    Jack, when you say 2-1-2-1, that's notes per string?
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
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  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
    Jack, when you say 2-1-2-1, that's notes per string?
    Yes, basically the idea is that you pick a note and then hammer and then move on to the next string where you pick a note and then move onto the next string where you pick and hammer.

    The interesting part is that the picking pattern lends itself to economy picking but I've found a hybrid picking ascending and economy descending works the best for me in terms of raw speed. I like the sound better using economy picking but only because my nails are weak and don't match the tone of the pick.

    In my books, I have variations of the patterns that utilize different numeric combinations other than strictly 2-1-2-1 but the 2-1-2-1 is the basic pattern.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by jzucker View Post
    that sounds good john but I wouldn't call that "legato" technique only because legato technique has come to represent a very specific way of playing lines and arpeggios utilizing the 2-1-2-1 technique popularized by Tim Miller.

    Your tone sounds good on that axe.
    Thanks. That new 77 of yours sounds good too, quite archtop-like for semi. I await your expansion on the meaning of 2-1-2-1 ...

    John

  7. #7
    I do a lot of 2nps 7th arpeggios, 3 octaves. But I'll tend to add chromatics and permutate them a bit so their different in each octave as I ascend or descend.

  8. #8
    This is something I’ve been trying to cultivate in my own playing for the past couple years – I’ve been a bit of a musical hermit the last couple years so I haven’t been able to discuss this with like minded guitarists so here are a few thoughts.


    Legato playing is not just hammer/pull – almost all guitarists do that but they don’t play legato. The goal is to have articulative and dynamic control, in order to play similar to the way a saxophonist like Coltrane for example can play a passage of very smoothly articulated notes. It seems to me Playing legato is not just have the least amount of space between notes but also having even articulations and timbre between notes, especially in the attack of the note.


    In order to do this, I feel its necessary to be able play first from a point of no accenting, and then practice adding in accents later when needed. This contrasts with my old way of playing where accents were kind of built into the way I played. You can still play the “old” way, but use legato technique for passages that aren’t primarily 8th notes where arcticulation needs to be more specific to sound good.


    To anyone who’s tried this knows its very difficult. I think the main thing is developing a very light right-hand in order to match the amplitude of picked vs hammered notes. Much lighter than most “normal” playing and lighter than what feels comfortable to most guitarists. The way most good jazz guitarists play is much different than this – a lot of attack gives a kind of punchiness to the notes that sounds good and cuts through but its not legato. You also have to learn to deal with narrowed parameters dynamically. One great benefit is you can play much more relaxed in both hands when you do this.

    Part of the lore surrounding Holdsworth is that he would always hammer, even descending. I haven’t studied enough to know for sure, but I finding hammering extremely hard with the left hand doesn’t seem to add much to legato playing – you still have to hammer cleanly and fairly strongly but not to the “max” – its more about the feel of the left hand than power.


    Incidentally I think having dynamic and articulative control is one of the most under appreciated aspects of playing guitar and one of the main reasons Holdsworth is so great – even if he never played a 32nd note, his phrasing is so varied and controlled and of course unguitaristic.


    The compression you get from overdrive/distortion obviously helps with this – I’ve never been too comfortable playing with that though, so I try to achieve it with a clean sound. Things that help me include a flat fingerboard (no radius below 12”), large frets, low action and as little relief as possible. A very wimpy setup basically.


    I also use a bit of hard compression blended into the clean sound to compress upward, just to get a little extra help. A darker sounder seems to help too for my preference.

    I have a break in my work today, so here’s clip. Most of the double timing is what I think of as “semi-legato” playing. I’m far from having mastery over this so anyone feels necessary to correct me or extrapolate on these thoughts please let me know, since I’d like the thoughts of guitarists approach to this.


  9. #9
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    As mentioned elsewhere, Kurt has got a lot more legato in recent years.

    I find all that discussion of nps etc a bit alien to the way I approach music, but there's no doubt it can be used to create some very cool sounding stuff.

    Personally, I did go through a period of doing legato drills, but any legato I use I like to be an organic part of my general technique rather than a thing I do - I probably slur about 33% of my notes at present. It's also very handy for helping my picking hand out lol. I actually think this is the case for the real legato players, they have one way of doing things - it's just their natural mix is much more hammer on/pull offy than, say, Mike Moreno or obviously even more Pat Martino.

    And I'm a fan of Allan, of course, but I'd say he's a very limited direct influence on my playing. I did learn a couple of AH stretch legato things (so much of his approach is 3nps string skipping) but the danger is if you get into that you become 'the guy who can do the AH stretch legato thing.' (If you can lol!)

    Tim Miller has been quite adroit in having his own style and avoiding sounding too much like Allan while obviously having his influence quite clear. As has Kurt, of course.

    Of course another master of the art who doesn't really sound like AH licks is Tom Quayle, who is another one of the increasing number of people worldwide who can use this approach to play jazz lines. However, for various reasons he is not a live performer with bands etc. His left hand is similar to Miller's in that it is hybrid (also Brett Garsed?)

    Interestingly, many of these heavy legato players refer to a finding it hard to get their picking together, so the approach seems often to develop out of necessity.

    However, I'm also reminded of John Abercrombie? He seemed a legato player to me.
    Last edited by christianm77; 01-22-2019 at 05:04 PM.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by EDS View Post
    This is something I’ve been trying to cultivate in my own playing for the past couple years – I’ve been a bit of a musical hermit the last couple years so I haven’t been able to discuss this with like minded guitarists so here are a few thoughts.


    Legato playing is not just hammer/pull – almost all guitarists do that but they don’t play legato. The goal is to have articulative and dynamic control, in order to play similar to the way a saxophonist like Coltrane for example can play a passage of very smoothly articulated notes. It seems to me Playing legato is not just have the least amount of space between notes but also having even articulations and timbre between notes, especially in the attack of the note.


    In order to do this, I feel its necessary to be able play first from a point of no accenting, and then practice adding in accents later when needed. This contrasts with my old way of playing where accents were kind of built into the way I played. You can still play the “old” way, but use legato technique for passages that aren’t primarily 8th notes where arcticulation needs to be more specific to sound good.


    To anyone who’s tried this knows its very difficult. I think the main thing is developing a very light right-hand in order to match the amplitude of picked vs hammered notes. Much lighter than most “normal” playing and lighter than what feels comfortable to most guitarists. The way most good jazz guitarists play is much different than this – a lot of attack gives a kind of punchiness to the notes that sounds good and cuts through but its not legato. You also have to learn to deal with narrowed parameters dynamically. One great benefit is you can play much more relaxed in both hands when you do this.

    Part of the lore surrounding Holdsworth is that he would always hammer, even descending. I haven’t studied enough to know for sure, but I finding hammering extremely hard with the left hand doesn’t seem to add much to legato playing – you still have to hammer cleanly and fairly strongly but not to the “max” – its more about the feel of the left hand than power.

    Incidentally I think having dynamic and articulative control is one of the most under appreciated aspects of playing guitar and one of the main reasons Holdsworth is so great – even if he never played a 32nd note, his phrasing is so varied and controlled and of course unguitaristic.


    The compression you get from overdrive/distortion obviously helps with this – I’ve never been too comfortable playing with that though, so I try to achieve it with a clean sound. Things that help me include a flat fingerboard (no radius below 12”), large frets, low action and as little relief as possible. A very wimpy setup basically.


    I also use a bit of hard compression blended into the clean sound to compress upward, just to get a little extra help. A darker sounder seems to help too for my preference.

    I have a break in my work today, so here’s clip. Most of the double timing is what I think of as “semi-legato” playing. I’m far from having mastery over this so anyone feels necessary to correct me or extrapolate on these thoughts please let me know, since I’d like the thoughts of guitarists approach to this.

    100% agree... I like the sound you are getting in the clip a lot.

    I think it's widely thought by people who play his stuff that AH did in fact pull off. He may have done this very lightly however. One important thing that Tom Quayle brings up in his teaching (his material is good btw) is that the impetus for the pull off should always come from the finger joint not from moving the hand in anyway.

    I'm not very good at this TBH, but I found that while the hand technique works fine for Jimmy Page licks etc, the finger technique allows you to equalise the function of all the fingers and achieve a much more precise pull off technique. But I found that do this I needed to have perfect left hand technique, using the finger pads very exactly etc. A very good exercise for that is the chromatic 4-3-2-1 exercise esp. on the lower strings of course. TQ has some further finger busters for this once that basic exercise is mastered.

    Anyway, in the end I kinda lost interest, got distracted by other things. Also I tend to play quite a bit of stuff where too legato an approach would be unidiomatic. So I remain mostly a picker. But I think working on legato technique can actually help with other aspects of playing. My left hand is not as precise as I would like.

    Also I play a guitar with teeny tiny leetle frets...

    And as you say another aspect of legato that I think is often overlooked - and I am more interested in as a player - is the sound aspect - the connection of the notes. Synchronising the pick hand and fretting hand and making string changes without a gap is a great way to practice your sound, technique and timing all together.

  11. #11
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    BTW - I feel in light of your remarks EDS I should post some acoustic Holdsworth just in case you haven't heard it. It makes for an interesting contrast to his electric playing:


  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    BTW - I feel in light of your remarks EDS I should post some acoustic Holdsworth just in case you haven't heard it. It makes for an interesting contrast to his electric playing:

    Thanks for posting this! I'm not really a holdsworth fanatic so I've never heard this before. I mostly listen to 16 Men of Tain.

  13. #13
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    Coincidentally* and without any prodding by anyone, I started bringing it into the practice room about a month ago, but these days I do not really have many opportunities to play with others so I have no idea what would come out of this practicing if I was jamming. In general it seems to me that some legato playing would help with jazz phrasing. I'm going to keep working on it - along with a bunch of Barry Harris materials (Kingstone / Ben-Hur) that I've been working on for a few months - and it will be interesting to see what starts coming out later this month when I sit in with a friend's band. Luckily I have two weeks of ski holidays coming up and I expect to woodshed for 3 hours/day during that period.

    *actually it may have been from working on Barry Harris scale ideas as well as listening to BH's Live in Tokyo album.

  14. #14
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    I prefer legato to be legato... I mean when I use technical legato (hammer-on/pull-off) I try to use it for the purpose to make musical effect... (not just for speed efficiency).

    I can hear the difference very much... (and much more on acoustics).

    And by the way in jazz it seems to me that I more often use it for the specific attack on the following note rather than true legato (in a sense horn or bow player would think of it).
    It seems like it is just often used for playing next note 'mute'.

    I think predominant legato technique in electric guitar is associated for me with heavily processed sound that makes a fretboard more liek a keyboard played with left hand
    after all 'keyboard style' tapping technique is the ultimate legato application... and it is very modern conception connected strongly with electric guitars - their open fretboards, almost no bodies, and of course electronics..

    Maybe I am wrong of course... just thoughts

  15. #15
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    Anyone using legato techniques for clean jazz playing?

    Quote Originally Posted by EDS View Post
    Thanks for posting this! I'm not really a holdsworth fanatic so I've never heard this before. I mostly listen to 16 Men of Tain.
    The album this track is from is not an one Allan was proud of (and you can hear why on the electric tracks, out of tune bass, fluffs etc, AH sounds amazing as usual) but the acoustic takes are lovely imho. He also plays acoustic on his duo albums with pianist Gordon Beck

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by coolvinny View Post
    Coincidentally* and without any prodding by anyone, I started bringing it into the practice room about a month ago, but these days I do not really have many opportunities to play with others so I have no idea what would come out of this practicing if I was jamming. In general it seems to me that some legato playing would help with jazz phrasing. I'm going to keep working on it - along with a bunch of Barry Harris materials (Kingstone / Ben-Hur) that I've been working on for a few months - and it will be interesting to see what starts coming out later this month when I sit in with a friend's band. Luckily I have two weeks of ski holidays coming up and I expect to woodshed for 3 hours/day during that period.

    *actually it may have been from working on Barry Harris scale ideas as well as listening to BH's Live in Tokyo album.
    One of the challenges in using legato in bop phrasing is making it swing. The guideline Mike Moreno uses that I find useful is if you are going to slur, pick the note on the upbeat and slur the note into the downbeat. I think he got this from horn players?

    He doesn’t apply it 100%

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    One of the challenges in using legato in bop phrasing is making it swing. The guideline Mike Moreno uses that I find useful is if you are going to slur, pick the note on the upbeat and slur the note into the downbeat. I think he got this from horn players?

    He doesn’t apply it 100%
    Randy Vincent uses this principle as well in the cellular approach. I was actually surprised at how quickly you can work this into playing , on-the-fly. I guess everything is always basically ear training anyway... Once you learn to hear it and practice a little, you can pretty easily work it into other situations.

    It's a unexpectedly fun and refreshing way to approach phrasing, and it gets at the very REAL issue of how to approach swing feel on guitar.
    Last edited by matt.guitarteacher; 01-23-2019 at 10:39 AM.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    One of the challenges in using legato in bop phrasing is making it swing. The guideline Mike Moreno uses that I find useful is if you are going to slur, pick the note on the upbeat and slur the note into the downbeat. I think he got this from horn players?

    He doesn’t apply it 100%
    Thanks, and yes, this is generally how I've been approaching it. I forgot to mention that I had a bit of perspective on bop phrasing from the 1 year I spent playing trumpet/flugel during my guitar RSI issues (thankfully now fully resolved for over 6 years).

    I will mention, however, that a guy like Billy Bean seems to pick almost everything and still sounds ridiculously good.

  19. #19
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    Here a practice vlog wot I done.

    Tabz will be forthcoming at some point.


  20. #20
    I absolutely do but for me this just means I am picking at an extremely shallow depth.

    I noticed Hekselman does almost the same thing except perhaps not as extreme as I do .It's just very soft feather picking -

    Kriesberg does it also.



    Delay and reverb smooths it out but you have to pick as softly as most people hammer.

    I control the depth of the pick into the string .


    I don't do hammer ons and pull offs - the pick hits each string but does not go below the plane of the strings and the top of the Guitar....or very barely if at all .
    Last edited by Robertkoa; 01-25-2019 at 04:15 PM.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robertkoa View Post
    I absolutely do but for me this just means I am picking at an extremely shallow depth.

    I noticed Hekselman does almost the same thing except perhaps not as extreme as I do .It's just very soft feather picking -
    Kriesberg does it also.

    ## some text deleted##
    Same here. I wouldn't call it "shallow depth" , I just play way softer, sounds great.

    My "new" playing style came to me by accident. Was kind of injured by playing and practicing too much. Had to rethink my technique.

    Biggest problem in the beginning was the accidental way-too-loud note because you have to turn up the guitar much louder if you play much softer. But practicing is your friend. Wouldn't want to go back. Now my hammer-ons and pull-offs have the same volume level as my picked notes.

    Hybrid (pick and finger style) did I always, so that wasn't new to me.

    BTW I noticed that about Gilad H. too. Lots of legato there.

    --- The ultimate answer to almost all guitar questions: "Practice more!" ---

  22. #22
    The reason you wouldn't call it' shallow depth picking' is because you are approaching it another way.

    We are talking about 2 different things, just to be clear.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robertkoa View Post
    The reason you wouldn't call it' shallow depth picking' is because you are approaching it another way.

    We are talking about 2 different things, just to be clear.
    I'm interested Could you explain further?

    --- The ultimate answer to almost all guitar questions: "Practice more!" ---

  24. #24



    No hammer ons or pull offs .

    Just really soft picking with rhythm but almost or no attack. I started doing it long ago.
    Only during the last 5 years after widening my fret hand ( and moreso during the last 2 years ) was I able to do it consistently and on demand and vertically .

    I actually can't do it the way most people do ( hammering ,pull offs )- I suck at that because my left hand does not want to smash into the fretboard- but I have more rhythmic control this way than most tappers.









    I was listening to Hekselman's new Victor Baker Guitar and was surprised to hear him doing something similar , though not cross strings ...which is more unique.

    But - IF you are happy or what you are doing now sounds good ...great.
    Don't change that ...take a look at Kriesberg Hekselman and others ( me in a while lol ) and possibly add to what you do...or maybe not...

    Off topic - man his Baker Semi Hollow sounds really good.
    Last edited by Robertkoa; 02-05-2019 at 07:35 PM.

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