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January 14, 2010

Scale Practice Tip

Practicing scales while practicing finger stretches

Sometimes I get asked about how to practice scales and exercises. In fact, one of my guitar students asked me yesterday about finger exercises and whether they are worth doing.

That is a good question! What do I think? Well, if we are talking about playing random notes on the fretboard in a myriad of ways, I highly question the value of this. Think about it this way. If you have the option between these two:

  1. playing something that makes musical sense while still giving you finger stretching practice.
  2. playing random notes with random fingering and sounding completely pointless at the same time.

Which do you pick?

Subtle Hint - the answer is Option 1 ! Always try to make music as you practice. Music is, to most of us at least, not about random notes - it's about playing something melodic and musically interesting. So how do you do this then?

Well, it's simple, really. What you do is to practice a scale, arpeggio or perhaps even a short lick. Something musical, that you don't already know inside out. Learn this in several position on the neck, using different sets of strings.

It's important to not try to learn everything in one sitting. Only take on a little bit at a time, something you can handle without getting frustrated. Focus on memorizing the fingering, visualize the notes on fretboard before you play them, as well as after. It just takes time, and patience. Over time, you'll find yourself being able to play useful scales and lines effortlessly. Naturally, your fingers have been practicing these stretches in a way that makes sense - by playing music, which means the question about working on finger exercises can be thrown out the window. Finger exercises is exactly what you get when you practice scales and lines as I described.

For a practical example, try this. Go to Chordbook scales and decide on a key. Let's go with C for now. Next, pick a scale. Let's try C major scale. You immediately see how the black dots appear on the fretboard? Below the fretboard on the left is a play button. Click it. That is how the C major scale sounds like for that position on the neck.

Next, click on one of the scale variation buttons, numbered from 1 to 8, located to the right of the fretboard. Now, the C major scale is displayed somewhere else on the neck, probably using different sets of strings too. Practice that position for a while.

See the point with all this? You are practicing the C major scale, and you do get to practice stretches as well, while at the same time you learn where to find the scale in several places on the guitar. Very useful! You can continue this process now by picking different scales and keys in the dropdown list on that web page.

Last thing - don't try to do several positions/scale variations in one sitting. Take your time, because you can't rush memorization. Work on one position until you think you know it. Work on the next one, and when you think you know that one, go back and combine the first one with the second one. Do you still know them both well?

Hope you find this useful. Remember, we are learning for life, and there are no shortcuts or secrets to getting good at this stuff. Put in the time and the effort, and you will be rewarded by being able to play better and better, for the rest of your life.

If you are wanting to learn more about scale patterns, this scale patterns course will help you learn it all.

By Robert Renman - www.dolphinstreet.com

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Posted by Robert Renman on January 14, 2010

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