Tag Archives: scale practice guitar

Get Scale Practice Right And It Will Boost Your Playing

Scale practice sounds, dry and boring and more than anything else about moving your fingers on the instrument in a way that is anything but music, but when you practice exercises like scale exercises then the purpose is to make it easier for you to play the things you want to play in your solos. It is really that simple, and keeping that in mind will help you come up with a lot of exercises that are much more efficient in making you play better.

Let’s take a look at what exercises you should be working on, but also how you should play them and think about them which is probably different from what you expect.

The Basics

With any scale you want to practice then you of course want to start with the most basic exercise of playing the scale. You can practice scales in many ways, in a position:

on a single string:

or across the entire neck.

To begin with, it makes a lot of sense to stick with positions, especially if you want to play songs with chord progressions that require different scales.

Just learning to play the scale, what notes are in there, and how it looks on the fretboard in that position. The important thing is just to not just stop there, because that is not enough and you can come up with more exercises that you want to get into your playing.

How To Play It What notes Seeing It On The Fretboard

What Are You Trying To Learn?

But when you solo then you are not just running up and down the scale, that sounds boring. You want to be able to create lines like this excerpt from Wes Montgomerys solo on Satin Doll:

And in this solo, there are a lot of 7th chord arpeggios and triads.

So it only makes sense that if you want to use those in your solos then you should also practice them in your scales. That is also why I made a video on “The Most Important Scale Exercise in Jazz” which is on practicing diatonic 7th chords arpeggios.

The reason that this is so important is that the basic chords you improvise over are 7th chords and this exercise is how you connect the scale to the harmony of the song.

First, you want to learn the basic arpeggios, and later in the video, I will show you some ways that you can expand the exercises so that it becomes almost small licks you can use in your solos.

This exercise can be a little tricky to play if you never tried it before, but there is a really useful hack to help you into it.

Each 7th chord is a stack of 3rds in the scale:

The C major scale is : C D E F G A B C

If you stack 3rds from C you get: C E G B

but instead of playing the entire 7th chord arpeggio then you can ease into it by first practicing the 3rds:

The 3rds are a good exercise for flexibility in your playing, and for the rest very much a technical exercise. The Diatonic triads are useful in solos and something that you anyway want to explore.

And then continue to the triads:

This also shows you why the 3rd interval is so incredibly important as a scale exercise, it helps you connect the scale to harmony.

 

How is it used: The Next Level!

As you saw both in the first Wes solo and can see in most bop-solos then the arpeggios and triads are played in specific ways in the solo, and you might as well incorporate that into how you practice the arpeggios through the scale.

In that way, you are just turning a scale exercise into a flexible lick that you can insert directly into your solo.

The most important version of this is probably using the 8th note triplet with a leading note:

This exercise is helping you vary the rhythm in your solo and teaches you how to use chromatic passing notes in your solos, and it is all over Bebop solos!

Another great way to use triplets is to use them to resolve the top note in the arpeggio like this:

This way of using the arpeggio lends itself really well to help resolve the top note for example in a II V like this:

A triad version of this exercise is also great and a shortcut to some Wes licks.

You start with this basic exercise

Taking this through the scale also becomes a great phrasing exercise

and this is also what you might recognize from this lick that Wes uses in his 4 on 6 solo from The Incredible Jazz Guitar Album:

Making Exercises From Licks

In general, it can be very useful to experiment with using fragments of licks that you transcribe as scale exercises, and in that way, both play them better and hear them move through the scale.

This can become this exercise:

You may be thinking that this is very complicated to keep track of what notes and arpeggios you have to take through the scale, but that is probably not how you want to approach it.

What Is Practicing The Right Way?

When you are practicing exercises like this then you can’t rely on analyzing everything, that is a separate skill and something you need to build in other ways. Instead, you should look at the exercise as a short predictable melody that you take through the scale and try to hear your way through it.

Again starting with this may seem difficult, but if you start with 3rd intervals and triads then you can get used to how it works and you will find that it is not as difficult as you might think.

With exercises like these then it really pays off to worry more about precision and clean execution than speed. This is simply because if you can easily play them cleanly at a slower tempo then speeding them up will become easier. You will probably also realize that if you speed it up before having control then you are going to have to go back and fix things later, and at that time you may also have developed some bad habits.

The Source Of Your Exercises

As I mentioned earlier then it is useful to take fragments from the solos of the people you transcribe and listen to. An amazing resource for this that you can get a lot of inspiration from is this Joe Pass book which has some rock-solid bebop lines that you want to have in your vocabulary and that can give you thousands of ideas for new exercises and lines to work on.

Is This Jazz Guitar Method Fantastic and Terrible At The Same Time

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Practicing Scales – This Is Something Not To Miss

The way most of us were taught scales and practice scales is centered around positions. That is a good approach and you should work on knowing all the positions, but it is certainly not the only thing to check out.

In this lesson, I am going to show you some examples of things that sound great, are easy to play and are not in positions, and then also talk about how you practice towards playing like that.

Triads on a String Set

This is an example of something that clearly is pretty easy to play when you stick to the same string set. This type of melody is also something that is very repetitive and a specific sound, but later in the lesson, I will show you some other more open examples of this.

If you look at the advantages you can see that:

  • The Right Hand is consistent
  • Phrasing and the Polyrhythm is easy to bring out
  • It is using the same type of melody: Triads

Fake Metal version

Let’s first look at how this doesn’t work in a position and then I will also talk a little bit about how this should combine with positions and isn’t really instead of.

You can play this in a position as well, that would be something like this:

But here it is a lot less natural to get the consistent phrasing and just difficult to play. And this is a really clear example of something that works a lot better along the neck.

Positions – The Final Frontier

If you play a phrase like this then there is one thing that you do need to be aware of is that you have to be able to keep playing where you end up.

Even though it is cool for Star Trek (0:46) B-Roll To boldly go where no-one has gone before it is not practical for guitar solos if you end up in a place where you don’t know what to play.

So you do want to know your positions and have that overview of the neck as well.

Practicing Efficient Things

So what do you practice to play something like the first example (B-roll of Example 1a maybe slow mo?)

It is not enough to just work on the scale on one string like this:

But as you can see the example is made from diatonic triads from 2 scales: G major and D altered.

So you can practice those like this:

and the altered scale is also really useful, like this:

For these exercises, I am really consistent with my right hand, and as you will see that is one of the big benefits of playing like this: It gets easy and consistent for the right hand.

Besides playing the arpeggios you also get to dive into the diatonic harmony of the scales which is really useful for having more things you can use in solos

And once you know the exercises then it becomes a lot easier to work on other similar licks like this one:

Besides the triads, there is another similar type of melody which is 10 times as easy to play if you give the right-hand priority I will get to that later but first let’s look at another way where moving around the neck gives you more options when it comes to creating strong melodies.

Motivic Shifting

This phrase is on a Dm7 Bb7 Cmaj7, so Subdominant, minor subdominant, tonic in C major.


 

The melody is a motif on the Dm7 and the motif is repeated and developed on the Bb7 to then resolve to C. Using that you can have a Dm melody and an Fm melody on the Bb7.

Because the phrase is shifting the motif up the neck then it is easy to keep the phrasing and in that way make the motivic development clearer while still changing things and adding to it. If you played it in one position then you would lose some of the phrasings and also make it much more complicated to move the motif.

 

Strict Arpeggio Tricks

Another place where you can benefit from having using a specific way to play arpeggios and move around the neck is to stick with a pattern similar to what I am doing in this example:

Here the Cmaj7 and Am7 arpeggios are played as 1-1-2 arpeggios which makes it easy to put them after each other.

1-1-2 Arpeggios are arpeggios with the four notes spread out so that the first two strings have 1 note and the last string has 2 notes.

To explore stuff like this it can be really useful to practice your arpeggios in diatonic 3rd distance like this

 

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When Do You Know A Scale?

If you play Jazz Guitar then you will often be confronted with learning and practicing scales. The major scale, pentatonic scale or a jazz scale like melodic minor.

A big part of the vocabulary and the material that you use when you are improvising is linked to scales in some form or other and it is common to practice scales on a daily basis.
But of course, you want to also make sure that you can actually make music with it and think a little bit about how and what you practice

Content:

0:00 Intro

0:23 Jazz and Scales – What you Need and How to Learn It

1:00 #1 Learn To Play The Scale

1:07 Start with a Scale Position

1:47 How To Play The Scale – what is important

2:26 Connecting Positions

2:52 Next Level After Positions

3:26 #2 Music Theory

3:40 Learn The Notes(!)

4:14 The Basic Things You Need To Know

4:50 Finding the material available with Music Theory

6:08 #3 Making Music With The Scale

6:11 It’s not all exercises

7:23 Cmaj7 in G major example

8:14 Cmaj7(#11) identifying triads that are good upper-structures9:00 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page

How To Learn and Practice Scales for Jazz Guitar

How do you practice and learn scales for Jazz Guitar? These videos go over different approaches and practice strategies with exercises for scale practice.

When you learn a scale on guitar because you want to use it to play jazz guitar and improvise then there are many things you need to know and some things that can make your practice more efficient. These videos will give you ideas on how to work on this and build a scale practice routine or strategy that fits your way of working.

You can check out more information over this topic in this playlist:

How To Learn and Practice Scales for Jazz Guitar

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If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

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