Legato Pentatonics

Legato means smoothly, and in practice, it means you'll use hammer-ons and flick-offs instead of picking every note. Learn it here!

View the full lesson at Legato Pentatonics | JustinGuitar

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I’m doing this exercise on an acoustic and I’m finding the flick offs are difficult to get a loud tone with the thicker strings. Is this just easier with an electric guitar?

Yep. Much easier.

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I’ve been doing this exercise for the past couple months, and it’s been kicking my butt relentlessly despite having done the finger gym regularly for a couple months. Practicing it slowly doesn’t seem to work well, and my pinky is just not cooperating with me on the top two strings. Am I supposed to angle my fingers once I get there? Are there any other tips you could offer?

Or should I just skip this one for now and attempt it again later after practicing the legato techniques in Grade 4/5 Intermediate course?

@megamantto How is it kicking your butt? What bpm are you using on the metronome? Maybe post a video.

The text of this lesson notes

“You might encounter guitarists using the third finger on the thinnest two strings of the Minor Pentatonic instead of the pinky. Still, I don’t recommend you do that for now. I’d encourage you to start this kind of exercise using your pinky because your little fingers are weak, so this little workout will do you some good!”,

but in this lesson https://www.justinguitar.com/guitar-lessons/the-a-minor-pentatonic-bg-1202 it says

“When it comes to playing blues solos - you are likely to find that you use Finger 3 on those strings. You might want to start exploring that fingering, too - some even find it easier! :)”

Why the inconsistency and which is correct?

At a guess, I’d say Justin wants you to use your pinky for the exercise to build its strength. The lesson uses the Am pentatonic scale.

But for blues soloing you’re going to be string-bending which uses the index, middle and ring fingers.


I can see that but why in a more advanced lesson change to not using the pinky?

To prepare you for string bending I guess.

That should have said “but why in a more advanced lesson change to not using the third finger?”

Hey Stuart,

Its all about context really Stuart, regardless of the lesson order.
Legato involves all four fingers, so when learning the mechanics, you wanna be practicising with all of them. The pinky in particular will be the most difficult one, as it usually is with other areas of guitar. Eventually, you’ll practice legato over things like the major scale, which is a whole different beast, so that pinky needs to be ready to go.
In blues, where bending is pretty prevalent on the higher strings, this will not really involve the pinky, so its very common to use alternate fingers. The mechanics of bending pretty much require this, plus it just feels more natural over time.
You’re still gonna need that pinky in any form of music though, limbered up and ready to go at any time. So I suppose Justins just reinforcing its use and development. The little fella ( the finger, not Justin :rofl:), needs it.

Cheers, Shane


For someone working through Grade 3 (having completed Grades 1&2), what kind of metronome speed would be reasonable to work towards for the hammer-on / pull off lick exercise, before moving on from here?

I’m playing an acoustic guitar and don’t get a lot of sound when I use the hammer on on the highest two strings, especially on the high E string the sound is significantly softer than on the other strings. Any tips for this?

Hi Esther and welcome to the Community

You are doing well to be at Grade 3 after joining in January

I think the higher strings are generally quieter and softer than the lower heavier strings. Having said that I think the legato volume will improve with practice on all strings. Try hammering on without plucking first and see if that makes a difference. You should eventually be able to play a full scale without any plucking of the strings just using hammer ons. Like all these things, it takes time and practice.


When doing the pull offs does my index finger stay down or do i do the pull of then quickly put my index finger down?

Your index finger should be down already when you pull off (flick off).

I’m having trouble with the technique for pull-off/flick offs. I understand the finger gym lesson helped get us ready for hammers ons. Was there a lesson I missed? Any body got a good source for a pull/flick off lesson? Thanks!

This section in the earlier grades is more of a taster to get you going with in depth studies later. You’ll find more in the Legato Primer course and the some of the Intermediate Blues lessons.


Thanks Toby. That second video clearly shows the technique in details. Indeed, Justin shows the difference between the good way of doing it (flicking) and the bad way (lifting).

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