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Old 03-26-2013, 05:27 PM   #1
cjgallagher1
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How to Learn Scales

I've been wrestling with learning scales for a while and I have a question: Do you think it's better to learn the scales through learning all of the notes and applying them, or by learning the shapes?

What I'm doing now is learning all of the notes on the neck as anyone should do, and then using my knowledge of the neck to think "Bb goes here and play a C next." It's quicker than that but you know what I mean. That is opposed to playing just the shapes which i know a lot of people do. For me, that was always more difficult because of how many different shapes there were for different positions and starting notes and modes and it got too crazy.

So what do you think? Is there a better way than I've mentioned? Is one better than the other? Anything else you can add to help me (and others) out.
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Old 03-26-2013, 05:58 PM   #2
Dreamdancer11
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Learn the shapes but replace the dots with scale degrees....so you must know where the root or the flat third or the fifth etc etc etc is at all times.Looking at just dots doesnt say much.So you must know the intervals well and how they appear on the fretboard.

Just think of one simple thing:The shapes are always the same.Either is a dorian or a mixolydian mode or even a major scale,same 7 (or 5 depending on the system) shapes.What sets them apart is the positioning of their scale degrees.So there is what you are aiming for....learn those scale degrees and where they appear in each shape .
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Old 03-27-2013, 03:51 PM   #3
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I had the same problem... Best thing to do is learn some music theory, then you understand the logic of how the guitar is tuned in fourths and a major third - how it is made for the human hand. The CAGED system helps you visualize the fretboard. The nature of the guitar is that there are many permutations of playing the same scale, but you want to play what is natural for your hands.

1. Learn the sound of the scale you want to play.
2. I think starting with the minor pentatonic is best if you want to play rock. It's simple and the first position fits under the fingers nicely.
3. Always start on the root note and listen (keyword here) for that sound. I'd stick with one key so it sounds familiar to you. Start with note A.
4. Play the scale down the neck in the half-step/whole-step pattern on any string.
5. Now you have heard it, play the scale vertically up and down as a boxed pattern. There will be two root notes. First rely on the patterns you print out, then learn to use your ear.
6. Always start and stop at the root note. It's like learning the ABCs, you don't learn them in a random order, you remember them as a sequence from A-Z. Once you get a feel for that scale, then you can mix things around to ingrain it.

Learning it this way, you are using your ear while making the visual connection. You can eventually learn all patterns and then integrate them as one. Knowing them backwards, forwards, sideways, etc

** don't even think about modal stuff until you have a firm understanding of pentatonic, diatonic scales, scale degrees, harmonization. It's like trying to understand advanced math before you know your multiplication tables

7 shapes, 5 shapes...just different perspectives on how to understand the full concept.
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Old 03-27-2013, 03:57 PM   #4
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actually just go to justinguitar and he walks you through the process. The note names are important, but thinking in terms of scale degrees is easier on the brain. You are playing the sound through multiple shapes that flow with your hand.

Last edited by sweetdude3000 : 03-27-2013 at 04:01 PM.
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Old 03-27-2013, 04:13 PM   #5
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learn the notes, learn the intervals, and write them all down. Practice them in every position continuously (up one position, down the next, all the way up the fretboard).

Running through all 12 major scales (diatonic scales, if you want to get technical) is one of the most useful exercises you can learn as a musician. It keeps your fingers in shape with fundamentally music pattern and helps you learn the fretboard by feel so you always know what you're playing.
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Old 03-27-2013, 09:43 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cjgallagher1
I've been wrestling with learning scales for a while and I have a question: Do you think it's better to learn the scales through learning all of the notes and applying them, or by learning the shapes?

The long and short of it is: both. I've been told that it's easiest to learn shapes first, then use that knowledge to learn how to construct scales, and then memorize scales as you use them. Personally, I just memorized the fret board and learned shapes, but that isn't necessarily the best way, just my way.
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Old 03-28-2013, 02:45 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cjgallagher1
I've been wrestling with learning scales for a while and I have a question: Do you think it's better to learn the scales through learning all of the notes and applying them, or by learning the shapes?

What I'm doing now is learning all of the notes on the neck as anyone should do, and then using my knowledge of the neck to think "Bb goes here and play a C next." It's quicker than that but you know what I mean. That is opposed to playing just the shapes which i know a lot of people do. For me, that was always more difficult because of how many different shapes there were for different positions and starting notes and modes and it got too crazy.

So what do you think? Is there a better way than I've mentioned? Is one better than the other? Anything else you can add to help me (and others) out.

Sounds like your doing pretty good. I'm a beginner myself. Checkout some of the creative guitar studio youtube videos.
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Old 03-28-2013, 12:14 PM   #8
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I've always thought it's important to learn the sound of the scale along with the shape and pattern. It sounds to me like you're on the right track, as long as you have a method in place to apply those scales musically.

Being able to recognize the sounds will help you do that.
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Old 04-01-2013, 08:16 PM   #9
cjgallagher1
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Okay, I've moved much past basic music theory. All I want to know right now is whether its even heard of to think about the scales as you play them. Again, thats opposed to memorizing shapes of major scales, minor scales, pentatonics, blues scales, bebop scales, modes, and all of the other types of scales you would care to learn. Isn't it easier to know what makes each one? Dorian scales are flat 3 and 7 rather than a shape?

I shouldve given some background: I've been playing guitar for about 8 years now, I'm fairly knowledgeable in music theory and guitar techniques. As for the question I asked, I'm learning to improv for jazz guitar, so fluency and flexibility are key. It's a long process but I think that applying knowledge instead of shapes is so much more flexible and useful once you get passed a certain point.
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Old 04-02-2013, 05:20 AM   #10
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The ideal has to be to be so familiar with the shapes and progression you're playing over that you are barely intellectually engaged. It's hard to be creative and improvise well whilst having to think technically as you are playing. There is only so much CPU to go around after all.
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Old 04-03-2013, 04:47 PM   #11
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Think of knowing the scale you are playing and how to move around it with freedom as the alphabet. You don't want to say musical phrases with ABCDEFG linearly over and over. Once you know the scale alphabet very well, then start thinking musically within the parameters of the scale. The next step is knowing how chords (and how to embellish those chords for the particular style) and progressions are derived from that scale and how to use the scale over those. The best thing to do is to transcribe people who use the scale you want to apply, then listen and learn and see if you can use those techniques to do something musically creative. Learn the scales next as sequences and thirds so you can put fragments of those in a musical situation.

I think the last thing you want to do is learn all these scales and modes and get a large music theory vocabulary before you have been able to apply and integrate the basics like phrasing and chord tone soloing. It's boring and you'll burnout. Maybe someone correct me if I am wrong, but learning new scales and modes is like learning new languages before you get a chance to really concentrate and get good at one language. You'll have dabble into a lot of languages but you'll never fully be able to speak one fluently.
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Old 04-03-2013, 08:21 PM   #12
CowboyKilling
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Seriously i don't know how i learned scales i never practiced them.I just knew the pentatonics and blues shapes i added few more notes and discovered other scales well I'm playing blues and rock stuff if you want to play like Paul Gilbert of course you should practice scales but my idols are Page and Perry so I'm sticking with blues stuff
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Old 04-03-2013, 09:40 PM   #13
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Learning the shapes is useless, i dont mean that to be an affront to people who do, but i have learned all the major scale shapes, and all the melodic minor ones, theres 7 of each... for the 7 notes in the scales. Im not sure if this is your question really though, but i can quickly go through all those 3 note on a string scales, from the first scale note on the low e string, till the last note in the scale on the low e string, for major scales, melodic minor, ive memorized blues and pentatonic shapes as well, but its useless to me except for excersizing my hands and my memory, it gives me no real bearing when i play, even after ive worked out where to put the shapes to coincide with the proper key, its likely id get confused or not use it well anyway. It seems that its much more important to learn the notes well, and the interval positions, and then construct these silly shapes as you go, otherwise all the finger memory in the world be useless
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Old 04-04-2013, 05:57 AM   #14
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Old 04-04-2013, 06:14 AM   #15
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Should I learn notes, shapes, sounds or intervals?

All of them!
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