Guitar lesson 2: Staccato

The word 'staccato' refers to the length and sustain of  a note. The origin of the word is Italian and it means literally ‘detached’. When playing staccato, each sound or note is sharply detached or separated from the next. Staccato is a type of articulation that guitarists use all the time, including when playing African music or many other kinds of funky grooves. Staccato, when it is well used, can add a lot of excitement and tension to the groove, which also helps the dancers too. It is important to develop this articulation from the beginning. It will help you control your sound.

Girum Mezmur.
Girum Mezmur.

In written notation, it is customary put a dot above or below a note when it is to be played staccato, like this:

The following three exercises will help you develop the technique.


Exercise 1: Single finger going up and down the fret board

The first exercise starts with a single finger moving up an down the freftboard. Make sure you keep the notes short and detached in all the exercises.


Exercise 2: Four fingers playing up and down the fingerboard

In the second exercise you apply the technique using four fingers.


Exercise 3: Four fingers playing in one fret in 6/4 meter

The last exercise allows you to practice the technique using four fingers on one fret.


By practicing these simple exercises regularly, you will develop the control you need to play good staccato. Start slowly and as you master the exercise, you may increase the tempo slightly. Remember these exercises are not about speed; they are about control. Once you have good control, you will be able to play at the tempo you want to. Exercises that are limited to one or two strings are worth doing at all stages of your development as a player.

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