Mixed Note-Groupings in Scale Practice

Modern metal relies heavily on quick scale patterns in not only playing leads and solos, but in rhythm as well. It's far too easy to get stuck in a rut playing the same tired scale patterns day in, day out. By mixing various note groupings into your scale work, you can not only improve your technical ability, but your timing, syncopation, and versatility as well.

Mixed Note-Groupings in Scale Practice
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In my first lesson, I offered a method on utilizing the metronome to improve speed. If you're anything like me, you probably have spent a considerable amount of time beating the same, tired, overused scale patterns to death.

With that out of the way, let's discuss the specifics.

I'm sure most of you are familiar with the basic triplet, and sixteenth note patterns; that's not what I'm here to write about. While those are good to improve your technique, they are limited in what they accomplish as they don't really represent the array of rhythmic patterns you'll encounter in different songs. How might you overcome this? By mixing note groupings! Not only can you expand your technique, but your flexibility in timing as well.

Here are two examples:

1. 2 eighth notes, 4 sixteenths

|----------------------------------------------------5----5-7875-------------|
|-------------------------------------------575-5-7-8-878--------------------|
|----------------------------4----4-57545-7----7-----------------------------|
|-------------------454-4-5-7-757--------------------------------------------|
|-----5----3-57535-7---7-----------------------------------------------------|
|3-5-7-757-------------------------------------------------------------------|

2. 4 sixteenths, 3 triplets, 2 eighths

|--------------------------------------------------------------------------|
|-----------------------------------------------------57--8--7--5----------|
|------------------------------------45--7--5--4---457------------7--------|
|-------------------45--7--5--4---457------------7-------------------------|
|---35--7--5-3---357------------7------------------------------------------|
|357-----------7-----------------------------------------------------------|

Practice along with these two examples and try to get a feel for the idea. I'd recommend using strict alternate picking at first, and adding in hammer-on's, pull-off's, and economy picking as necessary. Feel free to mix and match rhythmic patterns and create scale patterns to your own needs. Don't just limit yourself to the groupings presented here- implement gallops, tremolo picking, 5's, 7's, 10's, 11's; whatever sounds best to the ear, and pushes you to improve. 

By opening your mind up to new approaches to practicing, you pave the way for your own growth in the pursuit of your own unique sound and style.

For an example of how mixed note groupings can spice up your playing, Alex Skolnick's solos in Testament's "Over the Wall" utilizes a mix of note groupings over fairly common scale patterns to really give life to the section.

Best of luck!

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