I'm getting back into scales after a few years of giving up on them and just learning songs. I just have a few questions about the best ways to practice them. I used to practice the standard 4 fret box shapes and link them together fluidly i.e g major starting on the 3rd fret and running up that shape and then down the next all the way up to the 15th and then back again. I was just wandering if that's what people would recommend as the best ways of practising them, i find it alot easier to play a single shape over and over, i can play the scales like that alot faster and its mostly shifting the position where i make mistakes. how do you guys practise your scales and why ?
I don't run scales just as a physical exercise because it's almost completely pointless. Almost no one wants to hear a whole piece of just running scales.

What you really need to focus on is how they sound; a scale is no use to you if you don't know the sound of it along with the physical motions. Play scales over backings in a certain key, maybe even just a single chord, and really get to know how it sounds while you're playing. You need to familiarise yourself with the link between what you do physically and the sounds you make. If you can do that then you can think of a sound and know how to get to that sound on the guitar, which is really what you should be aiming for.

Really, that's what a scale is: a roadmap to a set of sounds. The positions are basically incidental to the mechanics of the music itself.

If you really want physical exercises involving them then I suggest playing scales in a way that isn't simply up and down; sequences and intervallic playing are good places to start, then you can start stringing things like this together to create runs that sound fluid and non-sequenced when they are in fact a whole bunch of little sequence fragments stuck together. Of course this isn't much use unless you know how these are going to sound before you play them so make sure you're always being mindful of the sounds you're making while practicing so you can recall them later if you want.
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Scales as a physical exercise is pointless save to practice fast alternate picking and/or other techniques, and it doesn't help with improvisation if you don't have a good idea of what each note sounds like in conjunction to chords/basslines.

Do this- pick a scale. Lets assume you chose a Diatonic, lets say E Major.

Now, open guitar pro, and try composing leadlines over chord progressions with it.

Try writing a different phrase every day. Don't try to improvise on guitar and write, that defeats the purpose of this.

After a while, you'll notice that each note of the E Major scale has a very distinct effect, and you'll be able to figure out just what will happen if you play so and so note over so and so chord.

Once you get used to Major, try Minor. Then try using different modes.

After a (longer) while, you'll be able to predict the effect a scale degree has on your licks, even if you're not very familiar with the scale, so long as you know what the basic scale itself sounds like, ie so and so degree will add this much more tension, so and so degree will pull back the tension, so and so degree will sound dissonant etc

Now, apply this to guitar. Pick a scale you're familiar with, try converting what you hear in your head into licks. With some practice, you'll find you can literally write from head to guitar/guitar pro.

Right now, I can pretty much imagine a melody in my head in Lydian or Minor, and directly drop it into guitar pro with accuracy. Other scales/modes, still not quite there.
Last edited by GS LEAD 5 at Aug 23, 2013,
best way to practice scales is to get a teacher to teach you music theory.
Theory. Its all about the theory. (understanding scales I mean.) Start with the major and minor. Then chord formations. Then go into modes. I mean actual lessons and not posts like this.
Running up and diwn scale does little for your ear and actually knowong the scale
Whatlt i do is i try to write things with that scale
Figure out all thechords that can be played uaing tgat scale
I also hum along to what im playing so i could get the sound of it stuck in my head playing the scale in intervals also helps and sequences
These are Ll more helpful than just going up and dowb the scale
Scales are easy. Play them daily as a warm up (15min) and you'll not only know your fretboard a lot better in every key, but your basic melodic technique will build up.

-3 note per string
-4 note per string
-in 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, etc
-with different rhythms
-with different right hand techniques
-entirely legato (hammer/pull)
-up and down one string at a time

Scales are extremely useful for keeping your chops in shape. They're easy to learn and you can just use them to practice whatever technique you want.

But you still have to learn real music.
Last edited by cdgraves at Aug 23, 2013,
Another good approach is to divide those boxes into half-boxes. Instead of one big box, see those notes on the strings 1, 2 and 3, all up and down the neck. Play 3 or 4 notes in each box then skip to another one somewhere else on the neck, jumping from one box to another at random.

Then do the same thing with 4, 5 and 6.

Then mix the two.

Then add 2, 3 and 4 and 3, 4 and 5 the same way.

This will keep you busy for a while. Do it until you can jump all over that scale pattern without thinking about it. Apply theory as appropriate.
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Hey thanks for the advice, normally I've just been going up and down but these exercises make a lot more sence!