mjpb
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#1
Or should you just learn the notes of the both the major and minor pentatonic scale in every key and not bother with practising it using the pentatonic shapes? Whenever I've heard people talking about the pentatonic scales I've always heard them referring to 'positions' and 'shapes', however I understand this isn't the best way to learn a scale. Thanks
PSimonR
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#2
I don't know where you heard that this isn't the best way! For most people learning the shapes is real easy and since the shapes are moveable, once you have learned them in one key (suggest you start with A min or G min) then you just move the whole set of shapes up and down the fret board to get all the other keys!
In fact, just learn the usual 2 octave shape and then move that about some.
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#3
For pentatonic scale there is only one "shape", you just move it around for the desired key.. So A minor pentatonic would start on A, and so on..
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#4
Quote by AmirT
For pentatonic scale there is only one "shape", you just move it around for the desired key.. So A minor pentatonic would start on A, and so on..

No. Minor pentatonic scale has 5 notes (1-b3-4-5-b7) and it's all over the fretboard. It's not just one shape like this basic shape:

e|---------------------0-3-
B|-----------------0-3-----
G|-------------0-2---------
D|---------0-2-------------
A|-----0-2-----------------
E|-0-3---------------------


All scales are all over the fretboard, they aren't just one position!

Yes, learn the notes in the scales. That way you won't be locked in the positions. For some people the shapes work better, for some they don't. If you decide to learn the positions, also learn how individual notes inside the position sound like! You want to be able to think in sound because music is all about sound!

But yeah, choose what would work best for you. Even if you learn the positions, it's still good to learn the notes in the scale.

Positions may limit you if you don't understand them. It's easy to go on autopilot mode with them (ie, stop thinking in sound and just play random notes). Good solos don't have any randomness in them. You don't want your solos to be random, you want to be able to know what you are doing.
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crazysam23_Atax
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#5
Quote by mjpb
Or should you just learn the notes of the both the major and minor pentatonic scale in every key and not bother with practising it using the pentatonic shapes?

I would say it's better to learn both the intervals of the scales and the notes of the fretboard. So, the intervals of the pentatonic scale are 1, b3, 4, 5, & b7 -- which are the notes A, C, D, E, & G in the key of A minor. So, that's the A minor pentatonic scale.

Now, by knowing the intervals, you can then adjust to any minor key. So, the notes of the G minor pentatonic are G, Bb, E, & A. See if you can figure out the notes of B minor pentatonic and the rest of the minor pentatonic scales using the above intervals.

The intervals of the major pentatonic scale are 1, 2, 3, 5, & 6 in any major key -- so A B C# E F# constitutes the notes of the A major pentatonic scale. Now, see if you can figure out the notes of the rest of the major pentatonic scales.

Note: If you don't know what intervals are, then here's your homework; study this lesson from musictheory.net and learn about intervals. Intervals are one of the key concepts of music, so you'd better know what they are.

Next, obviously, you'd have to know where the notes are on the fretboard. So, for A minor pentatonic, you'd have to figure out where A, C, D, E, & G are. This article, which was featured on the UG front page, may actually give you some tips on that. It also touches a bit on how to figure out where the notes of a scale are on the fretboard. Read the whole article; it should help you out a lot.

Whenever I've heard people talking about the pentatonic scales I've always heard them referring to 'positions' and 'shapes', however I understand this isn't the best way to learn a scale. Thanks

What they mean by a shape (often called a "box" or "box shapes", as well) is this:

It's in 3rd position (meaning your index finger hovers on the 3rd fret). 1 indicates where your index finger goes, 3 where your ring finger goes, etc. The idea is to play the 3 fret on low E, then the 6th fret on low E, and so on...until you get to the "end of the scale" on high E. Then, many people recommend you go from the 6th fret on high E back through the scale shape in reverse order. (Note: I'm deliberately using "6th fret" or "3rd fret", so you can understand how people simply get used to the "frets" of the shape, rather than learning either the names of the notes or the intervals.)
The general idea is that you learn all 5 positions of the G minor pentatonic, of course.




However, this really isn't the best way to understand a scale, as you said. A scale is a set of intervals, not a position on any particular instrument.
Many people argue that learning scales as box shapes allows you to learn all the notes of a particular scale anywhere on the fretboard. However, what really happens to most people is that they spend a ton of time drilling shapes and memorizing the shapes without actually learning the intervals of the scale or the names of the notes in the scale. You can easily cut out the middle man, so to speak, by merely knowing the notes of the fretboard and the intervals of your scale.
Last edited by crazysam23_Atax at Aug 9, 2013,
vIsIbleNoIsE
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#6
learning positions/shapes is only "not the best way" if you approach it like a limitation. the ultimate goal of learning positions/shapes is still to be able to visualize all the notes in a scale on the entire fretboard.
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#7
If you know the scale degrees, you can actually form chords of them. In A minor, you have 7 notes. (A, B, C, D, E, F, G) You can form a basic triad by stacking 1 (A), 3 (C), 5 (E). ACE. That's an A minor chord. So actually learning the scale degrees is beneficial not only for shredding the **** out of your guitar, but to also to form and understand chords!

If you only know shapes of chords/scales and not the intervals and which note is which, then you're limiting yourself and your playing ability. I know it is a pain the *** to learn all the notes on the fretboard and the scale degrees etc, but trust me, it IS rewarding.
Last edited by Elintasokas at Aug 9, 2013,
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#8
Quote by vIsIbleNoIsE
learning positions/shapes is only "not the best way" if you approach it like a limitation. the ultimate goal of learning positions/shapes is still to be able to visualize all the notes in a scale on the entire fretboard.

Which really isn't needed, if you realize what the intervals of a scale are and where to find the notes of said intervals on the fretboard. (Memorizing the fretboard is key.) Once you done that you can: just pick a key, set the intervals of your scale to satisfy your key, and play away. You can even add in accidentals to spice things up.
Last edited by crazysam23_Atax at Aug 9, 2013,
J-Dawg158
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#9
If you learn the notes of the scale then when you apply it to the guitar you will form the shapes anyway. If you learn the shapes then the notes are still going to be there so it's basically six & a half dozen. My question is why not learn both? It's not like you have to learn just one method. I've seen people that can play the most intricate jazz progressions & solo over them all day long & they don't know the first note on the fretboard. Why? Because they have the most awesome ears for melody & know the SOUNDS instead of the notes.

Point is, you can skate by with just knowing the shapes & having the ear to find the sounds you want (which believe me is not everyone when they start out.) Or you can learn the notes & develop the shapes on your own terms & won't be stumped when I say, "That's cool use of the 11th in that chord you just played."
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sweetdude3000
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#10
Mick Goodrick explains it best. You should learn on one string, then two strings, open positiom , vertically and combination.. in that order. Thing is, all the free sites and traditional methods never explain this.
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#11
Quote by J-Dawg158
If you learn the notes of the scale then when you apply it to the guitar you will form the shapes anyway.

Joe Satriani and Steve Vai and the rest would like a word with you...

Most of the "top guitarists" don't naturally use shapes. Rather they use whatever notes & techniques fit the song.
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#12
Quote by crazysam23_Atax
Most of the "top guitarists" don't naturally use shapes. Rather they use whatever notes & techniques fit the song.


they've played so much guitar that it's instinct to them, which is essentially the same as knowing all the shapes. it's not so much those shapes that beginners learn on, but that the entire fretboard lights up in their mind with the notes of the key (so i've gleaned from random jazz videos on youtube).

what you're saying sounds great in theory, and would be the "right" way to learn, but it'd be tedious and i doubt anybody would be able to learn quickly that way. besides, it's just natural to eventually see the shapes (which again, is the whole point of learning shapes), even if you're not strictly locking your hands in those positions.
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#13
Quote by vIsIbleNoIsE
they've played so much guitar that it's instinct to them, which is essentially the same as knowing all the shapes. it's not so much those shapes that beginners learn on, but that the entire fretboard lights up in their mind with the notes of the key (so i've gleaned from random jazz videos on youtube).

I'm not sure your source is the best, in this case...

Quote by vIsIbleNoIsE
what you're saying sounds great in theory, and would be the "right" way to learn, but it'd be tedious and i doubt anybody would be able to learn quickly that way.

It'd be no more tedious than drilling tons of shapes for quite a long while. Furthermore, learning shapes just reinforces to many early students that it's all a bunch of shapes. Scales are not a bunch of shapes or even the pattern those shapes resolve to when applied to the entire fretboard. Scales are various intervals, each of which has specific sounds when moving from one to another.

According to the shapes method, every single scale has its own set of shapes. If I want to learn the hungarian minor, I learn the 5 shapes of it. Major scale, 5 shapes. Minor, 5 shapes. Blues scale, 5 shapes. At least, that's what it reinforces to new guitar players. It took me about 3 guitar teachers before I finally had one who told me about intervals or the notes of scales. Standard practice with the shapes method is just to have students drills the various shapes until they get them down, without revealing the reason why (until the student realizes that it's all connected, that is, and starts seeing it in the way you say). What a lot of work for very little benefit!
Conversely, by learning the notes of the fretboard and the intervals of the scale, you learn where each note on the fretboard is (yes, it isn't an easy or fast process to learn the notes on the fretboard, but you'll need to know them all at some point anyway) and then can take the intervals for any scale, choose a key, and play that scale. I don't really know the hungarian minor, but I guarantee you that I could look up the intervals and do exactly what I say without having to do anything else; I've learned the notes of the fretboard and can apply the method I'm advocating quite easily to just about any scale. Since you already would know the notes of the fretboard, you naturally would know the patterns within the fretboard in the first place -- without the need for pointless drilling. You'd also know the names of the notes and the sound each note makes.

besides, it's just natural to eventually see the shapes (which again, is the whole point of learning shapes), even if you're not strictly locking your hands in those positions.

Also, why are placing so much emphasis on seeing? Screw seeing; this is music. We're dealing with sound here. Who cares what you can see?! The only shape you need to "see" is the fretboard itself; the rest is just extraneous. Now, start emphasizing hearing.

The point of learning all the notes of the fretboard isn't to see them; it's to hear them. It's to get your ear and your hands to be able to work together and therefore play the sounds (notes/chords/etc.) you want to play.
Last edited by crazysam23_Atax at Aug 9, 2013,
Elintasokas
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#14
Quote by vIsIbleNoIsE
they've played so much guitar that it's instinct to them, which is essentially the same as knowing all the shapes. it's not so much those shapes that beginners learn on, but that the entire fretboard lights up in their mind with the notes of the key (so i've gleaned from random jazz videos on youtube).

what you're saying sounds great in theory, and would be the "right" way to learn, but it'd be tedious and i doubt anybody would be able to learn quickly that way. besides, it's just natural to eventually see the shapes (which again, is the whole point of learning shapes), even if you're not strictly locking your hands in those positions.


Well yeah, it might be more tedious and demanding, but as usually, the more effort you put into something, the greater the reward will be. That very much applies here.

You can go the easy way and just learn shapes and be average or you can learn the intervals/note names, etc and be ABOVE average.
Last edited by Elintasokas at Aug 9, 2013,
vIsIbleNoIsE
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#15
i agree with learning the sound of intervals and note names/degrees, that is a given. but to champion that as something you should do instead of shapes implies a system where you're relying on no muscle memory whatsoever. that won't work unless you never ever want to play fast (and we all want to play fast at some point, if just for a second or two). shapes are not evil.
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#16
Quote by vIsIbleNoIsE
i agree with learning the sound of intervals and note names/degrees, that is a given. but to champion that as something you should do instead of shapes implies a system where you're relying on no muscle memory whatsoever. that won't work unless you never ever want to play fast (and we all want to play fast at some point, if just for a second or two). shapes are not evil.


So why not learn both? The key thing is to understand why those shapes are what they are and that they are not just simply shapes. I personally know the shapes, but I also know the intervals/note names. But yeah, you've got a point there. You have to be very skilled to utilize all the knowledge about the intervals etc quickly. I mean given the time anything is possible, but to utilize it WELL during improvisation is another story.
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#17
Quote by vIsIbleNoIsE
i agree with learning the sound of intervals and note names/degrees, that is a given. but to champion that as something you should do instead of shapes implies a system where you're relying on no muscle memory whatsoever. that won't work unless you never ever want to play fast (and we all want to play fast at some point, if just for a second or two).

You're assuming shapes are the only way to do muscle memory. You could easily take riffs/licks/whatever from various bands you like (and some you don't, lol) and build up your muscle memory without having to use shapes. For example, I learned a lot of muscle memory by learning licks that Randy Rhoads wrote and played. I also learned a lot from Van Halen.

shapes are not evil.

No, just inefficient, imho.
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#18
Quote by crazysam23_Atax
You're assuming shapes are the only way to do muscle memory. You could easily take riffs/licks/whatever from various bands you like (and some you don't, lol) and build up your muscle memory without having to use shapes. For example, I learned a lot of muscle memory by learning licks that Randy Rhoads wrote and played. I also learned a lot from Van Halen.


No, just inefficient, imho.


And how exactly does that differ from learning shapes? By learning licks and songs, you're essentially learning shapes, just not scale shapes. Even if you learn them from sheet music, in the end its all the same. (except that you of course learn where the notes are on the fretboard)
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#19
Quote by Elintasokas
And how exactly does that differ from learning shapes? By learning licks and songs, you're essentially learning shapes, just not scale shapes. Even if you learn them from sheet music, in the end its all the same. (except that you of course learn where the notes are on the fretboard)

Because you break out of the standard box shapes, generally. That's the whole point. In terms of muscle memory, the result is probably the same. But I think most people would find learning riffs/licks from songs to be more fulfilling than drilling scales all day.
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#20
Quote by crazysam23_Atax
Because you break out of the standard box shapes, generally. That's the whole point. In terms of muscle memory, the result is probably the same. But I think most people would find learning riffs/licks from songs to be more fulfilling than drilling scales all day.


Well yes, I fully agree drilling scales all day does get boring and that it is a good idea to learn other bands' songs, but learning licks/songs has little to do with actually learning scales imo :P

But one thing I consider almost as important as learning scales is learning the harmonic functions of chords. Dominant sevenths, diminished triads, secondary dominants etc etc. Really useful if one wants to compose music instead of just playing leads and stuff.
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#21
Quote by Elintasokas
Well yes, I fully agree drilling scales all day does get boring and that it is a good idea to learn other bands' songs, but learning licks/songs has little to do with actually learning scales imo :P

No, it doesn't, but the point brought up was muscle memory. I'm saying drilling scale shapes is hardly the only way to build up muscle memory.

But one thing I consider almost as important as learning scales is learning the harmonic functions of chords. Dominant sevenths, diminished triads, secondary dominants etc etc. Really useful if one wants to compose music instead of just playing leads and stuff.

Of course! But's unrelated to the question TS was asking.


We've sort of gotten off topic here. lol.
Last edited by crazysam23_Atax at Aug 10, 2013,
Elintasokas
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#22
Quote by crazysam23_Atax
No, it doesn't, but the point brought up was muscle memory. I'm saying drilling scale shapes is hardly the only way to build up muscle memory.



Then again, is muscle memory really something you can build? I don't think it's a "skill" you can develop. lol.

And yes, we are getting offtopic XD
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#23
Quote by crazysam23_Atax
Joe Satriani and Steve Vai and the rest would like a word with you...

Most of the "top guitarists" don't naturally use shapes. Rather they use whatever notes & techniques fit the song.


Why would they? Do you disagree that when playing a major scale on the guitar it forms a distinct pattern that is completely moveable between all keys? I do agree that it can be an inefficient method if you let your fingers do all the playing instead of letting your ears guide you, but nonetheless the relationship does exist, that's what my point was. If it's not used as a crutch then I don't see what the big deal is about how people choose to internalize it.
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#24
Quote by MaggaraMarine
No. Minor pentatonic scale has 5 notes (1-b3-4-5-b7) and it's all over the fretboard. It's not just one shape like this basic shape:


Yeah, but what I meant (again, because ''I know it'', but it's hard to explain) is that you have this one pentatonic scale that you can move around AND also find the necesary shapes for it IF you know what "you're doing".

To put it in a better perspective, it's more relevant for a person to know the INTERVALS rather than the notes themselfs.

And after all, it's MUCH easier to learn the notes when you know the intervals and the shapes (which are 100% linked to each other)..


I hope you'll get my point
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#25
Learning a pattern on it's own is learning where to play "something"...

...but until you properly understand what that "something" actually is, knowing where to find it on your guitar is of limited value to you.
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#26
Quote by crazysam23_Atax
Because you break out of the standard box shapes, generally. That's the whole point. In terms of muscle memory, the result is probably the same. But I think most people would find learning riffs/licks from songs to be more fulfilling than drilling scales all day.

Sure it is. But who said you have to drill scales all day in order to learn the standard box shapes? Who said the exercises cant be musical?

Further in order to learn the notes all over the fretboard it can be helpful to break down the fretboard into smaller shapes and learn certain notes first. You could start with learning the natural notes over the first four frets then add two to three frets and then another couple frets etc etc. It's a lot harder to learn them over the entire fretboard all at the same time. You have to start small and work your way up.

There are different systems for doing this one string at a time, one note over the entire fretboard at a time etc. Learning them by way of learning shapes is just a legitimate and has other advantages as well, learning chords and scales at the same time.

The end result is you know the full fretboard completely intervals, note names, sounds, chords. One very effective way of learning the fretboard is to break it down into smaller chunks. Trying to learn the entire fretboard all in one go can be overwhelming. Seriously, it's not rocket science.

In answer to the question: Do I need to learn the shapes...?? No you don't. You don't need to learn the shapes, you don't need to learn the notes and intervals. The only thing you really need to learn is the sounds your instrument makes, the sounds of music, and how to put the two together.
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#27
This is a great thread!!

Iv been stuck in the Box positions of scales for ages and have never been able to move around the fretboard as I wanted without needing to think of the next "shape" to move into.

I have a question though - I was thinking of playing the Major/minor scales and the pentatonics too up and down a single string from each fret. I know the half steps and whole steps that make the scales up and know the names of all my intervals too.
I was thinking that all I need to learn then to learn all other scales is just the intervals really and not worry about the "box shapes".

Is it worth me learning all the notes when Im playing each scale on each string or just the intervals?

Also, how do interval shapes change when going across the strings? That confuses me.
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#28
Quote by LTaces
This is a great thread!!

Iv been stuck in the Box positions of scales for ages and have never been able to move around the fretboard as I wanted without needing to think of the next "shape" to move into.

I have a question though - I was thinking of playing the Major/minor scales and the pentatonics too up and down a single string from each fret. I know the half steps and whole steps that make the scales up and know the names of all my intervals too.
I was thinking that all I need to learn then to learn all other scales is just the intervals really and not worry about the "box shapes".

Is it worth me learning all the notes when Im playing each scale on each string or just the intervals?

Also, how do interval shapes change when going across the strings? That confuses me.

Well if you don't know the note names and intervals then you don't really know the shapes. They are all a apart of the same thing - learning the fretboard.
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#29
Quote by mjpb
Or should you just learn the notes of the both the major and minor pentatonic scale in every key and not bother with practising it using the pentatonic shapes? Whenever I've heard people talking about the pentatonic scales I've always heard them referring to 'positions' and 'shapes', however I understand this isn't the best way to learn a scale. Thanks


Both!

Position really only refers to where your hand is (specifically, index finger), and "position playing" is an easy way to play without excessive motion.

But it's also critical to learn the guitar horizontally and be able to move effortlessly between positions.

Whenever you learn scales, practice them up and down all the positions non-stop so you have to move from one position to the next easily. Also work out horizontal scale patterns - practice a scale on the E and A strings only, or A and D, etc.

I like to practice my major scales as 4-note-per string patterns, which means changing position every string. It's a really good way to link your melodic phrases up and down the fretboard.
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#31
"Shapes" are just a learning tool. They're only called "shapes" because they look like little geometrical shapes if you imagine lines drawn on the fretboard. They don't convey much information if you never learn the notes they're made of.

Like geometry, there's a lot more to learn than what the shape looks like. It's quite different to say that a triangle "looks like ∆", than to say "a triangle has three sides and three angles that sum to 180º" (that symbol may show up as a square on some computers). Which one do you think will help you make your own triangles and recognize other triangles better?
Last edited by cdgraves at Aug 10, 2013,
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#32
Quote by mjpb
Or should you just learn the notes of the both the major and minor pentatonic scale in every key and not bother with practising it using the pentatonic shapes? Whenever I've heard people talking about the pentatonic scales I've always heard them referring to 'positions' and 'shapes', however I understand this isn't the best way to learn a scale. Thanks


There is no universally correct answer to your question. It depends on what your preferred way of learning is. The concept of boxes is easy to comprehend. It allows you to learn things by making small and easy to understand steps. It provides you with something solid you can relate to when learning theoretical principles. Do you prefer this way of learning? Or would you prefer to go straight to scale formulas and attempt to see the fretboard as a whole right from the start? It's your call. Whatever your decision will be, it will NOT determine whether you will end up being a good or bad guitarist/musician. I'm only mentioning this because crazysam23_Atax has a tendency to categorically label boxes as fundamentally harmful. Personally, I think he already lost the argument regarding this topic to evolucian and Blind In 1 Ear in this thread. The actual argument starts on 2nd page.
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#33
well since this thread seems to be super friggin helpful (I learned a lot haha almost got overloaded XD). So how would one practice a scale correctly? Is there any exercise that promotes scale practice w/o using shapes?
Theory is just...wow. I'm getting a bit over my head by trying to learn so much w/o formal educators

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#34
Quote by eric_wearing
well since this thread seems to be super friggin helpful (I learned a lot haha almost got overloaded XD). So how would one practice a scale correctly? Is there any exercise that promotes scale practice w/o using shapes?

Honestly, not specifically. However, you can do several exercises to help you learn the notes of the fretboard (which is what I and a few others advocate). This article should be fairly helpful with that.