Practising Scales for Guitar - Part 1

Master advanced right and left hand techniques for scale practice whilst incorporating music theory directly into your playing effortlessly. Play with precision, increase speed, stay in time, enhance your right hand technique, learn your chords, arpeggios and scales all at once.

Ultimate Guitar
This article is developed in line with my other post, "The Use of Scales." Read this article before proceeding with practising scales for guitar, this is a more advanced method to incorporate what you have already learned.

The Method

These are some of techniques I use to aid my students in scale implementation, ask anyone of my students that have been learning with me for a couple of years for their understanding of scales, you'll be pretty impressed.

Here's the information you need before you begin:
  • Learn your open chords; C, A, G, E, D (If you are reading this I'd hope you have your open chords sorted);
  • Learn your three note per string scales, most commonly demonstrating in G major/E minor;
  • Memorize the CAGED system scales.
Got those?

You are now ready.

Step 1: Right Hand

Practice your first position C major scale CAGED shape in the key of C, we will start just by ascending up the scale in 4/4 at 60bpm, 1 note per beat, once you have the click perfectly matched up, you can then practice this descending.


If so, increase the difficulty by varying your picking, start with all the notes down picked, then upstrokes, then we are going to alternate starting on a down-stroke, then alternate starting with an upstroke.

We will now incorporate an alternate sweeping method.

We will start our first position C major with a downstroke, so that the next note (open D) will be a downstroke, (a minor sweep) up on the E and down on the F to down on G etc.

Then the descending technique will be up, down, up, up, etc.

All good?

Now, do all of the same above, but in pairs, triplets and quadruplets, these are superb for refining the right hand with your new scales.
The next challenge is to speed up the metronome with these same techniques. Practice these ideas daily, one at a time, make sure you perfect one of these right hand methods before you extend into the more advanced methods, everything needs to be refined, clean, even and gradually fast.

Step 2: Left Hand

So, the right hand is developing great with these ideas, but what about the left hand?

A great challenge for the left hand is to work on intervals, start by going up in thirds.

C to E, back to C, D to F, back to D etc.

Then work on 4ths, C to F, back to C, D to G, back to D etc.

Then 5ths, 6ths and sevenths.

This is working on your string skipping, your arpeggios, intervals, notes and general musicianship.

Next you will work on finding your arpeggios in major, minor and diminished.

In the case of C major, this will be, Cmaj, Dm, Em, Fmaj, Gmaj, Am, Bdim.

Work on numbering each of these chords too, Cmaj - 1, Dm - 2, Em - 3, etc.

Memorize the notes of each arpeggio, Cmaj - C, E, G, etc.

Once you have these angles of your C major position one worked through, thoroughly work on position two, three, four and five.

This is it for the first step, this first section is going to take some work for musicians of all levels.


About the Author:
By Leigh Sullivan, director of Norwich Guitar Academy. I have a team of 5 guitar tutors making a difference in East Anglia, England. I studied on the Session musician course at the British Academy of New Music with Ed Sheeran and Marcus Mcneish (Craig David's bassist). Have sessioned in various plays, bands and studio recordings. I have been full time guitarist since the age of 18 (2007). We run masterclasses at the Norwich Guitar Academy with the likes of Guthrie Govan and Andy James. To learn more about reading music feel free to check out our blog.

7 comments sorted by best / new / date

    could you link to lessons with the three note per string stuff and caged scales? would be very helpful
    Hi sondrEFH, I will be writing the next few articles this week, I shall reply with a link as soon as they are complete
    What a crap article. "The Method" Learn your open chords, then learn the CAGED 3 note per string scales. Even though the tabs or scales are not're ready. For a beginner to have to look elsewhere to learn these things while you easily could have shown them isn't helpful at all.
    Hi briangibbs2k, a bit harsh, I don't like the term 'crap' as I have spent some of my time doing this for free. I have written down what to learn in preparation for the next article. I also did not show them as there are many resources online with these scales, however, I do take your valid point that I could have easily shown them. I shall take note for future articles.
    I do not wish to read another of Tom Hess's duplicated articles, I had taken correspondence lessons with Tom Hess a few years ago, I had used 3 note per string scales for 12 years with no avail, understanding how the CAGED system worked has helped myself and many of my students to master sight reading, chord and scale relationships as well as combining the melodic minor, harmonic minor and pentatonic scales.Show me a prime example of how far the three note per system method has gotten Tom Hess and any of his crew..Guthrie Govan, Jamie Humphreys, Adam Goldsmith, Joe Satriani, Petrucci all understand the CAGED method as well as the three note per string method.I whole heartedly disagree to dismissing a method because someone said so, learn it all is the answer.
    As I am a beginner I don't know whether it's complete or incomplete but I am so thankful that I have learnt some new things visiting this page.Well done Mr.