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Article: How To Practice Scales

How to practices scales

All guitarists know, that we have to practice our scales. But what exactly does the mean? For a long time I practiced my scales mindlessly as places where my fingers were allowed to go on the fretboard. I struggled to find musical meaning in learning scales and because of that I had trouble to actually remember the scales. This article will give you some great pointers on how you should practice your scales to own them.

Scales are organised ways of talking about sound

It is important to note, that scales are not just patterns to learn or the guitar or places on your fretboard for you to place your fingers. Scales are first and foremost an attempt to talk about sound in an organised way. A particular set of notes produces a particular set of sounds and in order for musicians to be able to talk about these sounds we have organised them into specific groupings. These groupies are what we call scales.




Scales are for listening

Because scales are actually ways of talking about sound, you job is first and foremost to listen to scales when trying to learn them. Of cause you also need to learn the patterns, the target notes and what chords to use the scales over, but all of this will not bring you any joy, if you don’t combine it with learning the sound of the particular scales. But how do you actually do that?


Learn the sound and feel of the individual scale degrees in the scales

The easiest and fastest way to learn the sound of the scales is starting to learn the sound and the feel af the individual notes of the scale. I would recommend you start with the pentatonic scale, then move on to the major scale. You should begin with the pentatonic scale because most guitarist are very familier with this scale anyway, and owning this scale will give you the biggest leap forward in your playing. Secondly you wanna learn the major scale as this is one of the most widely listened to scales in existence. Therefor it will often be the easiest scale for you to learn quickly.


The benefits of doing this are many. First of all, you will feel like you own the scale and not like the scale is dictating where your fingers can go on the fretboard. Second of all, there are only 12 chromatic notes on the guitar. If we learn just one scale this way, we will know 7 of these 12 notes. Very often we will only have to change one note, to know the sound of a totally different scale. Think of the Ionian scale and the mixolydian or lydian scale for example. Knowing the ionian scale will make it very easy to be able to master the others very fast.


Learn the sound of the whole scale.

Once you have listened to the scales individual scale degrees, you have to learn the sound, patterns and fretboard placement of the entire scale. This is done with you guitar and I encourage you to practice them slow and sing all the notes as you play them.


Now its your turn to actually practice this. I make all my students do this and I promise you, you will be very surprised at how fast you are able to get this. Knowing and owning your scales will give you a much greater satisfaction with you overall guitar playing, so it is well worth it.


About the author: Janus Buch is a professionel guitar teacher in Vejle, Denmark. He has tons of experience helping students of all ages master the guitar. If you are frustrated with your current level of playing and you are serious about your progress, the Guitar Academy is the place to go for the best Guitarlektioner Vejle