Guitar Scale "Finisher" (4 STAGES TO KILL 'EM ALL)

One of the most common questions that I'll get asked (especially in the studio by my own private students) is, "How Long Should I Practice Scales?" And, while there's the obvious answers of "until you've reached memorization," and also, "when you've developed a feeling of competency," there are still a lot of students who just don't feel like they will ever want to quit practicing scales...

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On this episode of the Guitar Blog Insider we're going to discuss what it takes to actually "Finish" the study of scales, (or at least clarify what "finished" means to you)...


In getting started, we need to clarify that in order to complete your scale practice and reach a level of feeling like you're all wrapped up in learning the scales, it's going to take quite a long time. Probably a number of years.

There's a lot of scale patterns to memorize and you'll need to work all of your "scale skills" up to a point where you've developed competency with the shapes from a technical direction.

Let's analyze this process in respect to "stages of development." From stage one, which would be committing the shapes to memory - to the final stage of "maximum control."

STAGE (1): Your first goal with any new scale pattern should be committing the scale shape to memory. This is very similar to learning a songs verse, chorus or guitar riff. Once you no longer need to look at the TAB of song you're working on, (and you're playing the song from memory), you've committed the piece to your unconscious.

This is exactly what you'll want to do with any guitar scale pattern that you're learning. Commit it under your fingers and into your mind so that you can sit with your guitar, playing the scale just by staring at your fingerboard, (and eventually with your eyes closed). Once you've reached this initial stage, you're ready to move onto the next one.

STAGE (2): The next stage of finishing off your scales, involves what a lot of players simply call, "Wood-shedding." This is where the, (now committed to memory, scale shape) is worked on for hours and hours over months and months of practice. This is so that the scale is technically competent.

The main goal regarding this stage of scale study is being able to run the scale through all of the primary note durations. These include beginning from eighth-notes, moving onto sixteenth-notes. And, also developing triplet feel as well - with both eighth-note and sixteenth-note triplets.

All through this stage, you should be practicing all of these feels with a metronome set to a tempo that you can play the scales at perfectly.

STAGE (3): The third stage of scale development is application. Once you know the shape and you can play it without relying upon a chart or a TAB, and once you have some technical competency with it, it's time to begin applying the scale into some type of musical situation.

This could be something as simple as just messing with a 3 or 4-chord practice loop that relates to the key center of the scale. If you were studying major scales, and you decided upon the "A Major" scale for that day's study, you'll want to work out a simple loop of chord changes in "A Major" to apply the scale under.

The this style of work, the classic "I-IV-V" progressions will be great. For the key of "A Major," I could play a progression with "A" moving to "E" and then to the "D." Playing some lead over the changes would be what you'd want to spend your time working on.Developing the first "baby steps" of phrasing melody is the goal.

STAGE (4): The fourth stage of scale practice involves reaching a point at where mapping the whole neck with the scale you're studying is becomes well developed. I'll often refer to this with my own students as: getting the scale so well known on the neck, in every key signature that, no matter what key you're in, the whole neck feels like one big friendly place for that scale and in that key.

Whatever key, or scale that it might happen to be, you'll want to have a maximum control and a really high level of awareness and of course technical competency with the scale shapes. This is so that no matter where you are on the neck, it feels incredibly easy to perform phrases, melody lines or licks.

Now, this can be practiced in a lot of different ways, but you can lay down a good foundation for this by using a combination of; mapping the neck with fingerings of the scale, using fingerboard diagram paper to organize original layouts, learning other peoples guitar solos, and composing original melodic ideas of your own.

Every musician will tend to look off into the future when it comes to the development of skills. We're only human and part of human nature is understanding the conclusion regarding everything that we're involved with. Without being focused upon the conclusion, we're left with what psychologists call an "open-loop."

And, unfortunately, this "open-loop" theory is where we tend to be with learning scales over a very long time. The problem in one sense is how much initial physical and memory work is involved with learning scale patterns. There's actually so much work involved, that a lot of guitar players, start and stop learning the scale shapes over months until they finally commit to saying, "enough's - enough" and no matter what - they are going to learn all their scales.

The "enough's - enough" stage, is really the place that a guitarist needs to make it to in order to fully commit to the four stages I discussed here and eventually to reach the point of finishing their scale studies once - and for all.

I'd like to end the discussion by saying, thanks for joining me... If you want to learn more about what I do as an online guitar teacher, then head over to my website at and sign up your FREE lifetime membership.

When you want more, you can always upgrade to either a Basic, or a Premium lesson package and start studying the guitar courses I've organized for the members of my website.

Also, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on all of this in the comment section... if you enjoyed this video, give it a thumbs up and subscribe for more. Thanks again and we'll catch up next week for another episode of the, "Guitar Blog Insider."



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