Creative Scale Practice - Building Up Speed and Technique

Hey, you! Don't get stuck in a way of thought about practicing scales!

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Here I present you a popular way of speeding up your guitar playing by practicing scales with various types of sequences. If you got stuck in a rut of playing the scales up and down, that's surely a lesson for you. It will boost your creativity and technique.

The method is really easy:

Pick any scale, in any fingering. I will use E phrygian scale for this lesson. Three notes per string, 12th position.
`E |-----------------------------------------------13-15-17---||B |--------------------------------------13-15-17------------||G |-----------------------------12-14-16---------------------||D |--------------------12-14-15------------------------------||A |-----------12-14-15---------------------------------------||E |--12-13-15------------------------------------------------||`
Using sequences is easy. You just need to establish a pattern that you will use, and then apply it to the actual scale shape. It's good for your technique, and every time you establish a pattern you can come up with a lick that finds holes in your playing which you can fill, or provide a source for a new face-melting lick. There is almost infinite amount of patterns that you can come up with, some sound good, some awful, some are easy to play and some will be... yeah, a pain in the ass. But surely, all of them that you haven't played yet will be some kind of a little revolution for your guitar playing. So, grab your axe and warm up the amp! Here are the ideas of coming up with these patterns.

Simple numeric patterns - nothing more to say. Just pick a pattern and repeat it up and down the scale. 1-2-3 in this example would mean that you start on the first note of a scale (E), play the second (F) and then the third (G). Then you continue, but you start from the second note in the scale (F), but you treat it as a first note of your pattern, so you play F, G, A. Then G, A, B and so on. Words are not the best way to explain this method, so check out the tabs. Don't forget to reverse the pattern after you reach the last note in the scale. The same goes for 1-2-3-4 pattern. Be slow and clean.

1-2-3
`|----------------------------------------------------||----------------------------------------------------||----------------------------------------------------||--------------------------------------------12------||-----------------12----12-14-12-14-15-14-15----15---||--12-13-15-13-15----15------------------------------|`
etc&reverse

1-2-3-4
`|----------------------------------------------------||----------------------------------------------------||----------------------------------------------------||-----------------------------------------------12---||-----------12-------12-14----12-14-15-12-14-15------||--12-13-15----13-15-------15------------------------|`
etc&reverse

Complex numeric patterns - this one is really tricky. Method is the same as in the examples above, but the pattern is more complex. So, using this 3-1-2-4 pattern you would play 3(G) 1(E) 2(F) 4(A), then go up a note and continue. As before, its easier to check out the tab. Also, when you finish the pattern, use it in reverse. This is really hard to do fast, so be patient and enjoy the amount of thinking that you need to put your fingers in the correct places.

3-1-2-4
`|----------------------------------------------------||----------------------------------------------------||----------------------------------------------------||-----------------------------------------------12---||-----------12-12-------14-14----12-15-15-12-14------||--15-12-13-------13-15-------15---------------------|`
etc&reverse

Intervalic patterns - It's probably the most musical and ear-cultivating approach. You just pick any interval, and use it as a leap in your playing. In the example I used sixths. Remember to stay diatonic! A sixth from E in E phrygian is a minor sixth, so I play it minor. The sixth from F is major, so... you get the idea. There is a lot of this single interval based runs in Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and John Petrucci solos.
`|----------------------------------------------------||-----------------------------------------------13---||-----------------------------12----14----16---------||-----------12----14----15-------------12----14------||-----15-------------12----14----15------------------||--12----13----15------------------------------------|`
etc&reverse

Shape patterns - This is the least musical exercise here, but deals with some other things involving stretching and weird finger positions. Pick a shape within a scale that you play and use it in your practice. Your imagination is the limit. I used "the outer notes" shape, which means that I play only the outer notes on every string from three-per-string shape.

"the outer notes"
`|--------------------------------------------13-17---||--------------------------------------13-17---------||--------------------------------12-16---------------||--------------------------12-15---------------------||--------------12----15------------------------------||--12----15------------------------------------------|`
etc&reverse

String skipping - the name says all about that method. Don't play notes on adjacent strings. Again, you can complicate the pattern if it becomes too easy for you. Be creative.
`|--------------------------------------------------------------------------------|--------------------------------------13----15----17----------------------------|--------------------------------------------------------------------------12----|--------------------12----14----15----------------------------------------------|--------------------------------------------------------12----14----15----------|--12----13----15----------------------------------------------------------------`
`---------13-15-17---|--------------------|14----16------------|--------------------|--------------------|--------------------|`
etc&reverse

Tremolo patterns - last method, surely the easiest one to emply. Just play the scale notes up and down tremolo picking every note. Its possible to use various rhythms, so try to play one, two, three, four, five or six notes per beat.
`|----------------------------------------------------|||----------------------------------------------------|||----------------------------------------------------|||----------------------------------------------------|||--------------------------------------12-12-12-12---|||--12-12-12-12-13-13-13-13-15-15-15-15---------------||`
etc&reverse

And that is just a top of the iceberg of ideas that you can come up with. Options are limitless, and surely they will keep you busy for a lifetime or two. Remember to always seek for musical values in these kind of exercises, you never know what licks you can find in there! Watch for the tone, and every time you hear something that sounds good in these exercises, be sure to write it down or record it immediately. Some of the best riffs in the world started as exercises. Think "Sweet Child O' Mine" intro riff. Yes, it was a picking exercise.