What exactly is legato?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Suckbird, Aug 5, 2005.

  1. Suckbird

    Suckbird Banned

    May 4, 2004
    Is it when you use your left hand to do hammer-pull offs?

    I saw a guy on guitar playing "one-hand legato" he was shredding through all the string with his left hand it sounded full and clean, amazing..

    Tapping legato? If so all tapping would be legato?
  2. Peter is right, but, think of it more like a series of smoothly connected notes that seem to flow like a river, it just seems to move slowly and overlap somewhat...
  3. Techmonkey


    Sep 4, 2004
    Wales, UK
    It's the opposite of staccato (Short, quick and unjoined notes)
    I think legato translates from Italian as tied
  4. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    It's not really a technique so much as a form of phrasing, i.e. tied or no spaces between the notes.

    You don't necessarily have to play it exclusively with pull-offs and hammer-ons, though in the world of guitars/bass guitars, that's often how it's done. Allan Holdsworth and Eric Johnson are examples of two guitar guys that employ a lot of legato phrasing. I can't think of a bassist off the top of my head who does it a lot, maybe because bassists need more note articulation in order to define rhythms.
  5. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Half-right. It's playing several notes, but smoooooth -- no articulation. Playing legato is best done on brass/woodwinds or with a bow, as that's how you usually get that really smooth sound, but it's most commonly done on BG with, yes, hammer-ons and pull-offs.
  6. djcruse


    Jun 3, 2002
    Norwood, MA
    Best done with the trombone or string instruments without frets.
  7. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Don't confuse legato - smoothly connected notes - with portamento, which is the slide in pitch between two notes. You can play a series of the same pitch legato. It doesn't have anything to do with the lack of frets.
  8. Dan1099

    Dan1099 Dumbing My Process Down

    Aug 7, 2004
    Yeah, it doesnt have anything to do with sliding between notes, it has to do with how "smooth" they sound. For example, when playing trumper, the standard articulation of three notes in a row would be like going "ta ta ta" providing seperation between notes, and strong attacks at the beginning of each note. Legato, however, is articulated "laa laa laa" with less space between notes, and less of an attack.

    Hope that makes sense.
  9. +1
  10. ryco


    Apr 24, 2005
    ...and don't confuse legato whith glissando. Glissando is sliding between notes (muwahhh). Legato can be seperate notes holding the note value as long as possible until the next note played (plucked). Giving written notes their full value. Think long and smooth ...... ahhhhh.
  11. PunkerTrav


    Jul 18, 2001
    Canada & USA

    +1. It has much more to do with the smooth, soft attack to the note.
  12. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Not at all, because once again, that's referring to a chance in pitch, which isn't what we're talking about.
  13. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    Hmm... When someone is writing a piece for any stringed instrument and really knows how to write music and that piece will be played by a person who really knows how to read music, both will agree that a legato phrasing slur is meant to be played with a hammer-on or pull-off, depending on the direction of the melody. If you, as a composer of arranger, want to tell the player that you want the notes played with no gaps but articulating each one with your right hand, it should be written as a portato: Same slur plus a short horizontal line over the heads of the notes involved in that phrasing. This also works for bowed strings: Unconnected notes are supposed to be played one note per bow. A legato slur implies that the notes should be played on the same arco movement without stopping it. In this context, portato is supposed to be played same as legato, but stopping the bow movement between the notes in the less noticeable way.
  14. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    I was always taught that legato is simply giving a note it's full value, where, doing that with every note, the effect becomes a smooth connected line, but that's a byproduct of giving every note it's full value.

  15. djcruse


    Jun 3, 2002
    Norwood, MA
    I'm not confused at all.

    However, due to fretless stringed instruments and slide trombones (and the human voice, for that matter) ability to make the smoothest connection between notes, legato-style phrasing can be created masterfully.
  16. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Sounds to me like you are confused. Any wind, brass or string instrument (including those with frets) can perform perfect legato phrasing. There's no advantage to fretless instruments or trombones, whose difference lies in their pitch selection.
  17. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Yep. It's all to do with the attack of the note, not the pitch. It's entirely possible to have perfect legato phrasing, it's just that there are certain advantages for brass, woodwind, and stringed instruments played with the bow (or eBow.) A fretted viol de gamba is going to be easier to pull off a perfect legato phrase than a fretless bass or a piano, though. Actually, that might not be true, as viol de gambas look like a pain in the tuckus to play in general.
  18. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    There's actually a different symbol on notation for that, actually. Very slightly different, because you still have a full *attack* on that note, whereas on a legato, you try and have the smoothest stopping and starting of notes as you possibly can.
  19. Thanks for pointing that out, I never really stopped to think about that. That exactly describes how legato on the piano was explained to me.