Scale boredom can overtake a guitarist in the very early stage of their scale development. This is why having a solid scale practice plan is your key to killing that boredom before it ever sets in...
ORDER AND SEQUENCE:
Many guitar students will practice scales first, then arpeggios, and after that double-stops, (for which they often don’t allow enough time). A better system would be to work on double-stops immediately following the scales, and after that, the arpeggios.
This routine helps to remind students to play double-stops and to allow time for it. Playing double-stops is very important. The guitars octaves, 3rds and 6ths should be studied every day, from as young an age as possible.
They should all be practiced in a slow tempo, then medium, and it is also important to play them fast, (even though sometimes perfect tone suffers). As a rule, it is best to practice all scales, double-stops and arpeggios while using a metronome and without any vibrato.
NOTE: The Creative Guitar Studio "Advanced Guitar Program" (available in the members area), covers scales and arpeggios in depth. The scale exercises in the Advanced course cover; intervals, geometry and fingering. Plus, scale drills are introduced early on covering scale sequencing techniques.
ORGANIZE YOUR INTERVALS:
Before playing complete scales, organize your intervals through each note in the following order: Begin with the ‘skeleton’ of the scale, the notes of the perfect intervals: first, fourth, fifth and eighth; Then add the ‘leading’ notes: the third and seventh; Then add the second and sixth notes to organize the complete scale.
Always trace out the notes of these interval combinations in this order. Doing so will help in clarifying the perfect intervals, (1, 4, 5, 8), and color defining tones, (2, 6), in relationship to the quality defining tones, (3rd and 7th).
Example: (click image to enlarge)
WARM-UP 1st /SCALES 2nd:
Some musicians look at scales as warm-up material. This is a misjudgement. You should be properly warmed up even before starting to play scales. In order to execute the stretched positions and double stops with a balanced left hand, and to play string-crossings with accuracy that can respond to every type of contact with the string, study left and right hand co-ordination drills prior to scales.
The picking hand's arm, wrist and pick are very important when practicing scales, and they should never be underestimated. Commitment with the picking hand's co-ordination with the fretting hand will give the scale its direction, accuracy and pulse. Shift your attention to how each note sounds.
STRETCHING and REACH:
With the introduction of stretching, extension, and slow /perfect technique over your exercises, you will gradually create the "illusion in your mind" of a shorter fingerboard. Once the feel for reach technique and stretching control over the neck has been established, the guitarist will effectively make the instrument "seem" smaller.
New ideas along the neck will feel minimized, and in some instances you'll be able to eliminate the trouble that can occur with position shifts. Sounds from the string shifts (that are not part of an interpretation, in the form of articulation), must not be audible. This is especially apparent with scale runs. Practicing large shifts will help the guitar player overcome this issue.
Example: (click image to enlarge)
DEDICATION OF SCALE PRACTICE:
A guitarist who is convinced that scales practice is important will inspire others to study them properly. Guitar students who notice the obvious benefits of scale study, and the results that certain guitarists have had from working on scales, will be inspired to pursue scales early on.
Guitarists like Tony MacAlpine, John Petrucci, and Al Di Meola are excellent examples of players who have dedicated their early life of guitar practice to serious levels scale development. Their results need to be analyzed and revered, for the perfection that they've attained from the time and the dedication they've placed upon scale study.
Scales can be used at first to develop an idea of what it means to play single-notes ‘well’. This means that students should get some decent fingerings for Major and Minor scales and learn them thoroughly around the neck.
Learn the scales shapes through guitar neck patterns /diagrams. Anyone who needs to "read music" to practice scales will have problems playing the patterns by memory.
On guitar, scales are geometrical patterns, and they should be developed as fingerboard layouts, (not read off of a sheet of music notation).
Example: Minor Scale Layout (click image to enlarge)
The string vibrates between the bridge at one end and the nut or finger at the other end. An open string always sounds pure because it is stopped so well at both ends. But if it’s a finger, rather than the nut, that stops the string, the finger must have the stop ready before the pick starts to move to pluck that note. Otherwise there is a momentary sound of ‘fuzz’ before the note becomes pure.
Obvious examples of a finger that needs preparation are slurred descending notes on the same string, where the lower finger needs to be placed before lifting the upper finger, and any finger played on the new string, which must be in place before the pick gets there.
Often the notes that come out slightly ‘fuzzy’ in scales are the first finger on the new string ascending, and the fourth finger on the new string descending.
SCALES and TECHNIQUE:
Scales improve technique, but not just by paying them lip service. Simply playing through a couple of scales during a practice session will have very little impact on a student’s overall technical development. The guitar student needs more than just that type of exposure.
Scales will only affect technique if they are a part of a holistic approach to learning the entire guitar neck and mastering physical competence. Time and concern must simultaneously be put into playing posture, hand and arm positions, precision of finger movement and finger positioning. In addition, it is essential that the many connections with aural work are brought to the fore-front. This is why scale study must be combined with intervals, key signatures, chords and arpeggios.
- Play scales to the end of your life!
- Practice slowly and perfectly at all times.
- Use a metronome and study various duration's
- Don’t play loud and fast at the risk of being sloppy.
- Control your body /control your posture /control your thoughts
- Think like a singer and feel the "breath" from each note.
- Be patient and don’t give up on perfecting the neck and your technique.
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