Saturday, August 16, 2014

Scale Identification Practice


Some of my students right now are working on some really important skills that will help them better play music with others, write songs, or just plain understand the guitar as a whole. Being able to identify, locate, and play scales all over the neck is an essential part of playing guitar.

When it comes to honing this skill, nothing does the job better than randomly calling out fret/position numbers, keys, forms, or finger roots. It's difficult to make sure you cover it all (all forms in all keys), and it might not even be necessary; but the important things are being able to proficiently "use your dots" as a tool to quickly locate root notes, then, identify form root fingers, and recall the forms themselves. If you were to practice your way through every variable in this exercise, you'd play a over 300 scale patterns, total!

To help you practice, I've created a nice little worksheet which you can download. It's pretty straight forward. All you do is fill in the blanks. Once you get the hang of this sort of thing, you should be able to fly. And, you can easily create your own worksheet to get through all 12 keys in all 5 forms, both major and minor, for pentatonics, 7-tone scales, and harmonic minor scales, varying all five of the blanks on this worksheet!

I'll soon post the answer key.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pentatonic Scale Exercises: 3's

At a recent lesson, my student and I ran out of time and I promised her that I'd write a post here, providing some guidance for her next step. Here's what we're working on...

Major and minor pentatonic scales are fundamental to any guitar player. They're one of the first things a player will learn, and they are the gateway into the world of blues and rock guitar solos. If you're serious about guitar, you know these well.

So you've got all five box patterns memorized. Now what?

There are a number of scale exercises that can be applied to any scale we learn, and the first step is to learn the three, most basic ones. A scale exercise is simply a pattern of notes within the scale designed to improve a player's skill. Today, we'll cover what I call "3's".

In the examples below, we're playing Form 1 in second position, in the key of A minor. (Form 1 is the 2-4, 2-4, 1-4, 1-4, 2-4, 2-4 fingering pattern.) This exercise is quite simple, really.

3's can be described as follows: Play three ascending notes, go back one note. Using the note you went back to as "1", play three more ascending notes, etc. (The pattern is reversed when descending.)

Here are a few rules:

1. Every finger gets a fret.
2. Alternate picking (down-up-down-up)
3. Use a metronome
4. Each note receives the same duration (eighth notes, to start)
5. Always start and end on the root note

Take a listen...

And here's the sheet music that corresponds to the audio above...

Notice this pattern is ascending. We also have to remember to practice our 3's descending as well. You'll see that you naturally have to turn around once you get to the highest note of the pattern. Stop on the highest note after completing the last ascending pattern grouping possible. Once you're there, start a new group of three notes and descend away, all the way to the lowest note within the form. Then, turn around again (and ascend with 3's back to the root). Always start and end the exercise on the root note.

Here's an audio example of the entire exercise...

So why do we use and learn scale exercises? Because they allow players to improve their muscle memory, tonal memory, and increase speed and accuracy when playing single notes. In addition, these exercise patterns are also commonly found in popular song guitar solos.

Cheers! Keep on playing.