Scales - Think Outside the Box. Part 1

author: armaghk date: 08/23/2013 category: guitar scales and modes
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Scales - Think Outside the Box. Part 1
If you've read my free report on learning the fretboard, you know I have a no-nonsense approach to learning scales in every position possible. This differs greatly from the typical box pattern approach. I'm not a fan of box patterns because there's too much to memorize visually, and it doesn't give you a good sense of what's going on musically. For example, below is a typical box pattern for an A minor pentatonic scale.
Like many guitarists, I learned this pattern when I first started playing, and for a time I found it useful in certain circumstances. At the very least, it starts on the root, and you can move it up and down the neck for different keys. What it doesn't do is give you the ability to play the scale up and down the neck. To do that you need more patterns - several more than I care to memorize. The other thing it doesn't allow for is immediate accessibility. Say I'm strumming along on the following power chord.
If I want to play the above scale over it I have to slide up the neck to do so. It would be very helpful if I could access my scale in the position I'm already in and integrate it right into the chord I'm playing. To really learn the fret board in this way, you need to think outside of the box. And to do so, you need a good learning strategy. Whenever I'm working on a new scale, I utilize the following strategy:
  • Practice only one octave at a time, starting and ending on the root
  • Practice your scales starting on each string as far as its practical
  • Learn at least three fingerings for each starting point So for the A minor pentatonic scale, starting on the low e string, you have the following three fingerings to practice. I've written the fingerings under each note to help get you started. Also, notice how example 1 is immediately accessible over the power chord. Example 1
    Example 2
    Example 3
    The next three examples start on the A string. Example 4
    Example 5
    Example 6
    These next four start on the D string. Example 7
    Example 8
    Example 9
    Example 10
    These last few start on the G string. Example 11
    Example 12
    Example 13
    Notice how with all of these patterns, they look pretty similar when you start on the same finger. I.e. starting on the first finger looks almost the same whether your root is on the E, A, D, or G string. That's the beauty of this approach. You learn three patterns that are transferable to other strings, and they all sound the same. To me this is a much more efficient way of learning the fret board. Someone may ask about the other notes, the ones below the root that we don't practice. I always point out that once you learn the scale and get a good sense of how it sounds, grabbing some extra notes will be pretty easy since your brain will already be anticipating them.
    A strategy like the one I've illustrated in this article will help you to think outside of the box and learn your scales all over the fret board. There is actually much less to memorize, and it lets you immediately access your scales no matter where you find yourself on the fret board. Try this same approach with your other scales, and use it to bring your playing to a new level. About the Author: In my Six Months of Speed training course, I use this strategy, along with others to teach you your scales up, down, and across the fret board, all while building killer speed. Visit to purchase the course and take your guitar playing to the next level.
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