The scapular practice is a fundamental part of a good guitarist’s training, and by extension, that of any musician. A scale is essentially the foundation of every musical piece across all musical styles and genres. Today we are writing about How To Play Guitar Scales.
When a guitarist learns the scale, they are not just learning the “guitar” per say, the knowledge of scales transcends just knowledge of the instrument, at that point, as a guitarist, you learn the “music” inside out.
The first stage of any understanding scales involves memorizing the scale patterns. When it comes to the guitar, there are quite a number of scale patterns and memorizing new patterns every day is every beginner’s nightmare.
Practically, guitar scales are quite easy to learn as you will see. The important tip is to ensure that you have fully memorized and understood one scale pattern before moving to the next one.
It could take several weeks to complete your scapular playing as a beginner but remember, it is not how fast, but how well. This article will provide guidelines on how to play scales, the different types of scale patterns and why it is crucial that as a beginner, you do not skip your scapular lessons.
What are the scales?
A scale is a movable pattern of selected notes between two fixed musical points called root notes. Root notes are essentially the same note, but in different octaves – the lower and higher root notes. The movement from the lower root note to the higher root note is what encompasses a scale.
To fully understand how to play guitar scales, it is pertinent to, first of all, understand the related elements in playing the guitar as this knowledge will be most useful in your scapular training.
- A note is played when you hold down a string on a fret and strum it over the guitar. The further you move on the fretboard, away from the neck and close to the body of the guitar, the higher the notes ring out.
- Every fret plays a note and there are 12 notes altogether between the lower root note and the higher root note. The 12 notes span between A and G, this is called a full octave. Each note has 3 variations – the natural note, denoted by just the later, the sharp note denoted by # and the low notes denotes by b. B and E do not have sharp notes while C and Flack a low note.
- The standard guitar has six strings and each string is named after the note played when the guitarist is just strumming on the guitar body without holding down any string on any fret. Starting from the thickest string which is the uppermost string on the fretboard; the strings are E, A, D, G, B and E. The second E is also the thinnest string and is often differentiated from its thicker counterpart called the low E, while the thinner is the high E.
- The movement from the lower root note to the higher root note is done in either of two steps; a whole step and a half step. A whole step is two frets up or down the fretboard while a half step is a one fret movement in either direction.
- Remember, a scale is a “pattern” of notes between two root notes. The individual notes in the pattern are numbered based on their sequence and this specific numbering is called the degrees of a scale.
- The notes are called degrees and are numbered from one to eight. The opening or starting note is called the tonic while the eighth note is called the octave. Once again, the first and eighth note being the root notes are the same note at different octaves – the eight is always higher than the first.
- If there are more than eight notes in the scale, the scale is reversed and repeated, starting with the second/ninth note. The first is skipped in the repetition because it is the same note with the eighth.
A scale is named after its root note and there are six commonly used types of scales;
- The Major Scale
- The Minor Scale (Natural, Harmonic and Melodic Minor Scales)
- The Major Pentatonic Scale
- The Minor Pentatonic Scale
- The Blues Scale
We also have detailed review on How to play guitar for beginners step by step in case if you want to check that out.
How to play guitar scales!
The Major Scale
Like the name implies, this scale is the yardstick by which every other scale and the musical chord is described. To play the major scale;
- First of all, you need to pick out the first note. Your root note should be one below the 12th fret on the low E or A string. When the first note is on a lower string, as a guitarist you have the flexibility to move up and down the scale while you play.
- Next, learn the step pattern for a major scale; from the root, move a whole step to another note, then another whole step, then a half step, move another whole step, another whole step, then the third whole step before moving a half step. The pattern would look like this root – whole step – whole step – half step – whole step – whole step – whole step – half step.
- Then try to transition between strings as you play, while you can play a full octave on one string, moving through different strings on the fretboard is recommended.
- You can go in either direction while playing, when you reach an octave (the eighth note), simply backtrack and play the notes in reverse.
The major scale is what is commonly used to form solos over chord progressions using the chords of the major scale.
The Minor Scale
The minor scale is quite similar to the major scale only that in this case, there are three flat degrees – the third, sixth and seventh degrees are all flat. Notes are flattened by moving a half step instead of a whole step. Thus, the fingering pattern of the minor scale is just alternating between a whole step and a half step until you get to the octave. Then reverse and repeat. There are 3 variations of the minor scale – the Natural, Harmonic and Melodic Minor Scales. The Natural Minor Scale is the main version of the minor scale. The minor scale is common in rock and popular musical styles. It is also used in solos over chords progressions from chords in the minor scale.
The Pentatonic Scale
A full octave on the pentatonic scale has 5 notes. The minor pentatonic scale is especially used to form solos in popular music genres like jazz, rock, and blues. A pentatonic is like a minor scale save for the missing second and sixth degrees leaving the first, third, fourth, fifth, seventh degrees and the octave. The third and seventh degrees are flat.
The Blues Scale
The blues scale like the name implies is used to form solos mainly for blues although it is also frequently used in jazz and rock music. The blue scale is just an additional flat fifth degree to the pentatonic scale to give a scale with six notes. Beyond the extra note which is called the blue note, there is no other difference between the two scales.
Let’s Watch a Video for How to Play Guitar Scales!
Guidelines for practicing the scales
- Try to cycle your scales while playing. In other words, play the full octave up, down and from the middle, at a speed, you are comfortable with. Rehearse it as many times as you need to grasp the pattern, once you have mastered it, you can try playing it at an increased tempo.
- If you can, practice your guitar scales with a metronome. A metronome is a device used to mark time using ticks or flashes. The device will help you improve on your rhythmic accuracy and timing. Do not try to rush your learning process, practice single notes until it is good enough before proceeding to two notes.
- Once you are comfortable, you can try to explore random notes and make random directional changes while playing. However, you should only try this when you have completely mastered the correct sequence of the notes. The key is not to play until you get it right, it is to play until you can not get it wrong.
- Finally, practice your scales along with real music tracks, not only is it more fun this way, it will inspire you to keep practicing until you can compose your own melodies and solos.
Scapular playing may seem somewhat difficult but consistent and regular practicing will have you’re playing your scales without effort in no time. Remember to take your time with your learning and make sure you are getting the notes and techniques right. No matter how consistently and frequently you practice, if you are practicing the wrong thing – then you are learning the wrong thing. Practice your fluidity and speed, only play as fast as you can accurately go. Most importantly, be patient with yourself, the learning process may be boring and overwhelming but it will all be worth it when at the end of the day. You can effortlessly jam along to any track you want to.