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Using Legato Slides to Add Feeling To Your Guitar Solos

Legato slides (sliding with your fingers as opposed to using a slide tool) are one of the easiest ways to inject life into your guitar licks. This lesson will show you several ways in which you can use slides to both accent, ornament and fluidly link up notes on the fretboard.

First, make sure you know how to execute the basic guitar sliding technique. It's just another way of moving from one note to another on the fretboard. Sliding creates what is know as a "slurred" effect, giving the movement between notes a fluid texture. It's one way of mimicking vocal dynamics in your lead playing.

Watch the video below for an introduction and then scroll down for a more detailed break down of the technique...

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Legato Slide Exercises

To help us become physically confident with sliding between notes amidst regular picked sequences, we're going to use scale patterns as our roadmap.

Our predominant sliding fingers will be our index (1) and ring (3) fingers. The below pentatonic pattern gives us a good basis for practicing slides using these fingers. Starting with our ring finger...

pentatonic pattern slide using 3rd finger

As demonstrated in the video, start by moving up the sequence, sliding your 3rd finger where indicated. Then, move back down the sequence using exactly the same sliding positions.

Now get your index finger sliding in a similar way using the below sequence...

pentatonic legato slide using 1st finger

You can also alternate your 1st/3rd finger slides, as demonstrated in the video, and create your own exercises. The aim is to get comfortable with sliding between regular picked sequences so you can use slides when the feeling takes you.

Below I've picked out some simple phrases that will get all our fingers involved in the sliding technique (fingering in blue beneath the tab). You can of course come up with your own based on any scale patterns or licks you know...

Index Finger Slide

Click the tabs to hear examples.

index finger legato sliding exercise

Middle Finger Slide

middle finger legato slide exercise

Ring Finger Slide

ring finger slide exercise

Pinky Finger Slide

Yes, even our weakest finger can be used to slide, especially on single string runs...

pinky finger slide exercise

Of course, you can also try creating your own slide exercises.

Slide Dynamics

Now let's look at some different ways in which we can physically apply the slide. There are many dynamics that can change the effect the slide has on your music, including variations in speed, delays and repetition.

Sliding To Accent Note

Use slides to emphasise accent notes. Here, I slide to the root of the scale...

You can also lengthen the slide to add more emphasis...

Don't forget you can also slide DOWN to your target notes...

And sometimes the note you want to target will be on another string...

Accent Repeat Slide

Here, we repeat a picked accent note with a slide, usually on a different string to the picked note...

Sequential Slides

Slide between two or more notes in succession for a smooth run of notes...

Delayed Slide

You don't always have to slide immediately after picking the note. Try waiting a beat or two and then slide...

Quick Slide

Here we're sliding to the target note as immediately and quickly as possible. This means we can start from any note, even notes outside the scale (known as chromatic tones), because the slide is so quick the ear doesn't articulate its starting point...

"Knee Jerk" Slide

A combination of the sequential and quick slide. Here we pick our accent note as usual, followed by a quick slide to another fret and immediately back. This creates a very subtle ornamentation effect that mimics vocal characteristic...

Long Slide

A good way of getting from one end of the neck to the other. Practice sliding up and down larger distances...

Slide/Fixed Note Alternation

Here we alternate between slides and fixed notes across two strings to move up or down the neck, for example...

Slide Outs

Once you've picked your accent note, slide up or down the fretboard without ending on another note. This means you have to mute the string to end the slide...

How to Practice

This lesson has shown you many ways you can apply slides in your solos. Now it's down to you to work them into your practice regime, applying them to scales and licks you know.

Practice the different slide techniques individually and in combination.

Start with simple two or three note phrases, and gradually build them up, experimenting with playing slides in different places.

Also, practice slides in combination with other lead techniques such as bends, hammer-ons and pull-offs.

With a little time devoted to slides every day, you'll soon hear and FEEL the benefits! I hope they help you to "say" more on guitar and express yourself in new ways.

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