How To Practice Scales
By Matteo Miller-Nicolato
Most guitar players practice scales in the wrong way. Maybe they play it up and down a few times, memorize it, not actually being able to use it.. Perhaps learn more scales, or memorize the notes or music theory, but never learn how to apply it to guitar playing.
How To Master Guitar Scales
Today I will show you 6 Steps to mastering scales...
1. Visualize The SHAPE 5-10min
You must be able to SEE the scale on the guitar, so pull out a diagram and burn it into your imagination. Make sure that you play it up and down a few times just to visualize it with your fingers and see the shape on the guitar.
2. Practice Scale PATTERNS 15-20min
Now you must find many different patterns that zig zag around the scale, which will challenge your fingers and visualization of the scale. This is a critical step that most guitar players never even practice! Check out this cool scale pattern (there are tons of these):
3. IMPROVISE with the Scale (Techniques, Bends, Dynamics, Rhythm) 30-60min
After you've practiced the scale for about 10-15 minutes, you need to start IMPROVISING as soon as possible! Don't skip this step - it's critical. Just put on a backing track and begin to solo. Here's a cool backing track you can use in A minor:
4. PHRASING (Riffs) 20-30min
At this point you should be used to being able to solo and improvise with the scale. The next step is to be able to create COOL RIFFS with the scale notes. This is where your true mastery of guitar playing will start to shine, because making a catchy riff is hard!
5. Start Learning the Rest of the POSITIONS (Modes) 3-6months
Each scale can be played in many different parts of the fretboard. This is like the 7-modes that are within the Cmajor/Aminor scale. They are ALL THE SAME SCALE, simply played in different positions on the guitar neck. Unfortunately that means they are all different shapes as well, so you have to go through the entire process 1-4 for each of those shapes as well.
6. Practice Combining and Integrating Every Position Together Smoothly 20-30min
In order to master all the shapes and fluidly play through all of them, you must practice HORIZONTALLY as well as vertically. Just pick ONE or TWO adjacent strings, and play on those strings from fret 0 to 24 across the ENTIRE FRETBOARD.
Bonus Exercise: Pick any TWO strings (2 and 5 for example) and solo with those two strings only.
With these 6 steps you should be able to start learning the scales and make a lot of progress. However, if you are still struggling to master scales, you should schedule a FREE Introductory Guitar Lesson in San Diego so that we can start working together to reach your guitar playing goals!
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