Scale Mastery 101 - Part 1

How to get the most out of your scales and make them work for YOU!

Scale Mastery 101 - Part 1
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How should I practice scales? What order should I learn my scales in? My playing sounds too scale-based, how do I get my improvisation to flow? Are these questions you find yourself asking yourself? Read on. I'm going to focus these lessons on answering those exact questions. A major problem many beginner, intermediate (and even advanced!) guitarists face is that they don't know how to practice scales correctly! I would bet my last guitar pick that thousands of hours a day across the guitar playing world are wasted practice hours on running scales up and down aimlessly. This topic has probably been covered in loads of different articles, but what I'm going to give you today is a complete method of how to learn, practice and master those tricky beasts!

1) How To Practice Scales?

Start simple - The Minor Pentatonic Position 1 (which 95% of you will know). If you don't know this scale, it's the first scale most guitarists learn, and is a relatively simple pattern to memorize. Now how to practice the scale - if you don't know this scale, spend a week on it and implement it into your practice schedule. Once the shape is memorized, implement this: Method (to be played to a metronome with alternate picking, up and down the scale. I recommend playing each pattern 10 times or for 2 minutes SLOWLY and CLEANLY).

1. Play the scale at a comfortable speed.

Up
------------------------------------------5---8------------
----------------------------------5---8--------------------
--------------------------5---7----------------------------
------------------5---7------------------------------------
----------5---7--------------------------------------------
--5---8----------------------------------------------------
Down
--8---5----------------------------------------------------
----------8---5--------------------------------------------
------------------7---5------------------------------------
--------------------------7---5----------------------------
----------------------------------7---5--------------------
------------------------------------------8---5------------
Stay relaxed and focus on playing everything clean and correct - NOT FAST. If anything remain slow (70bpm max!) as you'll take in the information a lot more thoroughly.

2. Add one note at a time

Up
----------------------------------------------------------------------      
----------------------------------------------------------------------      
----------------------------------------------------------------------   etc
----------------------------------------------------------5-----------      
----------------------5-----------5---7-----------5---7---------------      
--5---5---8---5---8-------5---8-----------5---8---------------5-------      
Down
--5---5-------5-----------5---------------5-------------------5-------      
----------8-------8---5-------8---5-----------8---5-------------------      
--------------------------------------7---------------7---5-----------   etc
----------------------------------------------------------------------      
----------------------------------------------------------------------      
----------------------------------------------------------------------      

3. Play the scale in a pattern of 3

Up
---------------------------------------------------------------     
---------------------------------------------------------------     
----------------------------------------------------------8----  etc
----------------------------------5-------5---7---5---7--------     
----------5-------5---7---5---7-------7------------------------     
--5---8-------8------------------------------------------------     
Down
--8---5-------5------------------------------------------------     
----------8-------8---5---8---5-------5------------------------     
----------------------------------7-------7---5---7---5--------  etc
----------------------------------------------------------7----     
---------------------------------------------------------------     
---------------------------------------------------------------     

4. Pattern of 4

Up
-------------------------------------------------------------------      
-------------------------------------------------------------------      
--------------------------------------------------------------5----   etc
------------------------------5-----------5---7-------5---7--------      
----------5---7-------5---7-------5---7-----------7----------------      
--5---8-----------8------------------------------------------------      
Down
--8---5-----------5------------------------------------------------      
----------8---5-------8---5-------8---5-----------5----------------      
------------------------------7-----------7---5-------7---5--------   etc
--------------------------------------------------------------7----      
-------------------------------------------------------------------      
-------------------------------------------------------------------      
You can continue this in patterns of 5, 6 etc if you want! Depends on how much time you have. Now on to intervals...

5. Intervals of 3

(not exactly as it's pentatonic, but you get the idea!) Up
----------------------------------------------------------------------5--    
------------------------------------------------------5-------8---5------    
--------------------------------------5-------7---5-------7-------------- etc
----------------------5-------7---5-------7------------------------------    
------5-------7---5-------7----------------------------------------------    
--5-------8--------------------------------------------------------------    
Down
--8-------5-------------------------------------------------------------     
------8-------5---8-------5---------------------------------------------     
----------------------7-------5---7-------5-----------------------------  etc
--------------------------------------7-------5---7-------5-------------     
------------------------------------------------------7-------5---7-----     
----------------------------------------------------------------------8-     

6. Intervals of 4

(again, not really but it works) Up
--------------------------------------------------------------5-------8--    
----------------------------------------------5-------8-----------5------    
------------------------------5-------7-----------5-------7-------------- etc
--------------5-------7-----------5-------7------------------------------    
------7-----------5-------7----------------------------------------------    
--5-------8--------------------------------------------------------------    
Down
--8-------5--------------------------------------------------------------    
------5-----------8-------5----------------------------------------------    
--------------7-------5-----------7-------5------------------------------ etc
------------------------------7-------5-----------7-------5--------------    
----------------------------------------------7-------5-----------7------    
--------------------------------------------------------------8-------5--    
If you do this - everyday - and focus on getting the sound clear, clean and even, then I guarantee these patterns will start to creep into your playing. The next scale you want to look at is Pattern 2 of the Minor Pentatonic (which coincidentally is also the 1st pattern of the Major Pentatonic). I hope you enjoyed part 1 and that this practice method will find its way into your practice regime. Part 2 up next week! Joey If you like this lesson, please visit my website www.walsall-guitar-lessons.co.uk and look for the free resources page, where you'll soon find more articles, lessons and exclusive content - all for free!

7 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    aahlstrom93
    Nice lesson, minor pent was the first scale I ever learned and once I did I found learning 99% of Black Sabbath's solos ridiculously easy and they all made sense!
    GaryBillington
    Not bad, my only issue with this is that it promotes learning the scale shapes, rather than the intervals that make up the scale. We're probably all guilty of learning the shapes first (especially this one), but if the intervals are taught as the foundation for why the shapes exist people will benefit more and faster.
    DragonAvenger7
    I use this pattern up and down the whole guitar. I practice the finger pattern everyday and create my own licks and riffs to practice. I think this was a good read also.
    chestermeedi
    When you're doing l intervels i Don't understand what you're reffering to when you say "not exactly but You get the idea" please explain. Other than That thanks for Tthe tips
    bossjrskator
    The pentatonic scale you referred to as position 1 is pattern 4 of the caged system if that's what you were talking about. You might want to tell people what subdivision at 70bpm you're suggesting for them other than that and the interval thing good lesson.