Less Boring Ways To Practice Scales

Learning Pentatonic scales and changing strings in a less boring way.

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I always find these exercises boring where you just play chromatic frets up and down the strings, move up one position and so on.

So I started thinking of more exciting ways to train fingering technique, string changing with alternate picking and learning scales.

I will make a few lessons with patterns that are great training for the above mentioned things.

And a note before beginning: Start SLOW! Your brain will memorize the motion way better if you play it slowly first. This will make your playing more satisfying as it will sound better, and that's what we all aim for, right?

Part 1: Learning Pentatonic scales and changing strings

Again and again you'll find this Tab to train the E minor pentatonic scale:
e|-12-15--------------------------------|
b|-------12-15--------------------------|
g|-------------12-14--------------------|
d|-------------------12-14--------------|
a|-------------------------12-14--------|
e|-------------------------------12-15--|
Theres nothing wrong with this tab. It's only boring to play all the time.
So, to spice things up a bit you could play this:
e|-15-12----12---------------------------------------------------------------------------|
b|-------15----15-12-15-12----12---------------------------------------------------------|
g|-------------------------14----14-12----12---------------------------------------------|
d|-------------------------------------14----14-12-14-12----12---------------------------|
a|-------------------------------------------------------14----14-12-14-12----12---------|
e|-------------------------------------------------------------------------15----15-12---|
It looks really long at first but once you get the hang of it, it sounds great! You'll find this pattern in many solos.

You can then do the same thing with alternate picking, so just alternate between downstroke and upstroke. You'll get a fluent movement in this pattern.

By sliding this Pattern up and down the Fretboard you will get the Minor Pentatonic scale in any key. For example "moving" the 12th fret to the 5th, you will get the A minor pentatonic

After accomplishing this one you can move up or down one step in the scale.

Moving down would look like this:

e|-12-10----10----------------------------------------------------------------------|
b|-------12----12-10-12-10----10----------------------------------------------------|
g|-------------------------12----12-9----9------------------------------------------|
d|------------------------------------12---12-9-12-9----9---------------------------|
a|---------------------------------------------------12---12-10-12-10----10---------|
e|--------------------------------------------------------------------12----12-10---|
(This scale can be played in a rather unusual fingerset by placing your pinky on the 12th fret. This is extra pinky training.)

Moving up would look like this: (It is a bit trickier though!)
e|-17-15----15---------------------------------------------------------------------------|
b|-------17----17-15-17-15----15---------------------------------------------------------|
g|-------------------------16----16-14----14---------------------------------------------|
d|-------------------------------------17----17-14-17-14----14---------------------------|
a|-------------------------------------------------------17----17-14-17-14----14---------|
e|-------------------------------------------------------------------------17----17-15---|
Use this pattern with any scale you want to learn. Makes it really enjoyable.

If you want to learn scales other than the minor pentatonic there is a great help to see where the notes are here.

46 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    kangaxxter
    This is actually how I already practice scales, but I wish someone had told me this technique back when I was learning them.
    link no1
    Duke von Rock wrote: sweeping... yeah... i just jumped heads first into it n sat for 15 hrs straight trying to nail the middle part of malmsteens "blitzkrieg"... worked out in the end
    but cant possibly be healthy to play guitar so long
    tarrei
    lefthandedkid wrote: looks like a good intro into sweeping as well
    hm, not really, i'd not recommend this for sweeps. I might do another lesson that introduces sweeping with easy 3 string and 5 string sweep exercises. this is way better for alternate picking
    Dumpster510
    a lot of people refer to this playing as using 'coils'. in this case, it's 3 notes. its applicable to 3 note per string scales too very easily, and its also important to practice them with 4 notes and not just 3. (3 and 4 are the most common in music, but you can go beyond that and do 5, 6, and 7 note coils if you feel like getting crazy)
    tarrei
    dopelope wrote: This is similair to a Paul Gilbert Lesson I saw on youtube. Very nice! Also check out Pauls lessons!
    thanks man, i will!
    TsarBomba wrote: Sequencing is important to learn early on, but the lesson should have talked about, or at least briefly explained, the intervals involved. It's sort of a 'give a man a fish' sort of thing; it's good to learn the patterns, but if you learn how to cycle through scales in 3rds, or 5ths, or whatever interval you want, you won't have to think about patterns.
    well, i'm not the greatest with sequencing, although i understand it. So i won't try to explain something i don't have "mastered" myself
    james o 3000
    this really helped with fingering and scales im gonna practice this way every day thanks
    ultraj
    TsarBomba wrote: Sequencing is important to learn early on, but the lesson should have talked about, or at least briefly explained, the intervals involved. It's sort of a 'give a man a fish' sort of thing; it's good to learn the patterns, but if you learn how to cycle through scales in 3rds, or 5ths, or whatever interval you want, you won't have to think about patterns.
    Please expand on this.
    airmech
    Everybody hates it to begin with but you should practice scales with a metronome. Helps turn you into a musician not just a guitar player.
    Gortorek
    You're absolutely right about starting slow. Over the last week, I've put in about 24 hours of practice with scales like these. Now, I'm playing them at a quick pace with no mistakes. Also, I find it helps to down some decent cardiovascular exercise before practicing on guitar, simply for the fact that it gets plenty of blood flowing to your extremities, such as your fingers. I use a rowing machine, but I'm sure anything that gets your heart rate up will do.
    JClaphan
    Is it bad to practice these with your pinkie anchored to your pickup?
    JClaphan
    Sorry to double post but another question I have is... should I take my finger off the fret once I'm done playing the note or can I keep my index down on the 12th fret to help muscle my ring on the 14th or pinkie on 15th? I have a bad habit of keeping my index held down until it needs to move up or down a string
    Sulfur183
    This reminds me of what John McCarthy said on a rockhouse dvd I have. It really does make pentatonics and other scales way more interesting. When you ascend with it, it sounds kinda Kirk Hammett like especially in his early stuff.
    TsarBomba
    Sequencing is important to learn early on, but the lesson should have talked about, or at least briefly explained, the intervals involved. It's sort of a 'give a man a fish' sort of thing; it's good to learn the patterns, but if you learn how to cycle through scales in 3rds, or 5ths, or whatever interval you want, you won't have to think about patterns.
    TheBrightBeast
    I'm a total beginner at guitar, and this is really great! Easy, clear and concise! Very good lesson (rated 10/10)
    tarrei
    airmech wrote: Everybody hates it to begin with but you should practice scales with a metronome. Helps turn you into a musician not just a guitar player.
    thanks for that, i will definitely mention it in the next lesson
    ProgJazzMath
    That's usually how I play mine once I have a scale down. There are endless sounds you can get out of them and every new guitarist should be taught this to expand their technique.
    thebjorno
    These patterns shall be incorporated into my teaching regimen. Very nice. I like how you suggest starting that lick with the pinky.
    tarrei
    thebjorno wrote: These patterns shall be incorporated into my teaching regimen. Very nice. I like how you suggest starting that lick with the pinky.
    thanks a lot. the pinky needs a lot of training to be really useful for a guitarist. I'll post another lesson focusing on pinky training some time soon
    alertninja1
    kangaxxter : This is actually how I already practice scales, but I wish someone had told me this technique back when I was learning them. --- me too
    krypticguitar87
    kangaxxter wrote: This is actually how I already practice scales, but I wish someone had told me this technique back when I was learning them.
    this
    aron444
    Yes. Any kind of sequencing makes scales alot more interesting. In my opinion, they help the memorization process as well. Very cool. Aaron
    aron444
    rattleurhead wrote: link no1 : Duke von Rock wrote: sweeping... yeah... i just jumped heads first into it n sat for 15 hrs straight trying to nail the middle part of malmsteens "blitzkrieg"... worked out in the end but cant possibly be healthy to play guitar so lon Oh but it is. Thats how Malmsteen, Chris Broderick, Marty Friedman, Zakk Wylde, etc. got so good
    I dig those guys. I think they are great. Personally, I dont practice like that. I'm around 2-4 hours. I like to break it up. If I practiced that long I think I might start to sound robotic and my stuff might lose its natural flow. Everyones different. ROCK OUT!!!
    diablo83
    Brian Setzer does this awesome lick in "Race with the Devil". Good thing to learn. Makes practicing scales more interesting.
    reldask
    lefthandedkid wrote: hm, not really, i'd not recommend this for sweeps. I might do another lesson that introduces sweeping with easy 3 string and 5 string sweep exercises. this is way better for alternate picking
    do it
    reldask
    [b] lefthandedkid wrote: hm, not really, i'd not recommend this for sweeps. I might do another lesson that introduces sweeping with easy 3 string and 5 string sweep exercises. this is way better for alternate picking
    rokkit
    ive been playing for nearly 3 years (self taught) and this is the first scale ive learned
    Duke von Rock
    sweeping... yeah... i just jumped heads first into it n sat for 15 hrs straight trying to nail the middle part of malmsteens "blitzkrieg"... worked out in the end
    rattleurhead
    link no1 : Duke von Rock wrote: sweeping... yeah... i just jumped heads first into it n sat for 15 hrs straight trying to nail the middle part of malmsteens "blitzkrieg"... worked out in the end but cant possibly be healthy to play guitar so lon
    Oh but it is. Thats how Malmsteen, Chris Broderick, Marty Friedman, Zakk Wylde, etc. got so good
    Romper Stomper
    This is similair to a Paul Gilbert Lesson I saw on youtube. Very nice! Also check out Pauls lessons!