Tag Archives: scale practice

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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3 Things You Want To Know In All Keys And Positions

When you play jazz you are improvising over chord progressions that move through different scales. And you need scale positions that you can connect and have an overview off in a way that makes it easy to improvise solos.

In this video, I am going to go over a basic way to practice and test your fretboard knowledge by taking progressions and use them to work on scale positions on the guitar neck. This will help you memorize the right information in the right context for when you want to improvise solos and will help you become freer when you play.

The 3 Levels

I am going to go over the exercises in 3 levels getting more and more difficult, but the exercises are essentially quite basic. This is about knowing essential chord progressions, scales, and arpeggios in a position and being able to improvise with them.

Working on this is not really something that belongs to every day practice for hours and hours, just go check this and find ways to work on this that also involve the repertoire you play.

2 Approaches

When you work on this type of exercise you can do this 2 ways: Staying in one position and going through all keys or choosing one key and going through all positions. Both are useful and you should try what works better for you.

Level 1 – 1 Position, Basic Scale and Chords

The idea is to work on knowing essential material for a position. If you improvise in G major, then the G major scale and the arpeggios for the basic cadence are essential to know. The same goes for the arpeggio from the 3rd of these chords.

For G major we have this scale position:

And the basic cadence is Am7 D7 Gmaj7.

These arpeggios are shown below:

And the arepggios from the 3rds of these chords would be

Am7: Cmaj7, D7: F#ø, Gmaj7 Bm7.

Once you know these arpeggios you should work on being able to make lines with them in this position on a II V I.

Two examples of this, one with the basic arps and one with the arpeggio from the 3rd are shown below:

Level 2 – Altered Dominant

A logical next step would be to alter the dominant, in this case D7.

Let’s first take a new position for G major:

And for the D7alt I am using an Ab7 and a Cø arpeggio.

Both are found in the D7 altered scale and contain the C and the F# really spelling out the D7 sound.

And the arpeggios from the 3rd (with Cø being the arpeggio from the 3rd of Ab7)

Improvising with these arpeggio sets could yield lines like these two:

Level 3 – Making it a complete Turnaround

The next thing to do is to add a secondary dominant for the II chord. This is one of the most common dominants to come across so it makes perfect sense to add this to the exercse.

First a new scale position:

For the E7alt I am doing the same thing as the D7alt which gives us a Bb7 and a Dø arpeggio.

And then the basic arpeggio positions:

The Arpeggio from the 3rd:

Get Your Changes Playing from Turnarounds to Giant Steps.

If you want to check out some more material on how to really nail changes and still play great lines then check out this lesson on using Target notes on Rhythm Changes:

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From SCALE practice to JAZZ LICKS – Work towards Music!

If you don’t want to waste your time you want to make sure to turn everything you practice into material that you can use when you improvise.

We all practice scales and work on our technique by doing Scale Exercises, arpeggios, diatonic triads and patterns. In this video I want to show you how you can take your exercises and start turning them into jazz licks. 

The Diatonic Triads in a Scale Position

Let’s just start with an exercise that I am sure you already practice: Diatonic Triads. Here below I have written it out in the key of C major:

Turning this exercise into a II V I is shown here below where it is used on a II V I in C: Dm7, G7, Cmaj7:

I am using the descending version of the exercise above on the Dm7. It is then used with the triads of Dm, C and finally B dim. From here it continues with a G7 altered lick before resolving to C.

Diatonic Triads in Patterns

A great way to practice diatonic triads is to play them in a pattern so that you break up the order of the notes. In the example below I have written out the diatonic triads in a 3 1 5 pattern:

Using this type of exercise in a jazz lick is a great way to add some larger intervals to your lines.

The lick here below is using the F,G and Am triads over the Dm7. It then continues with a G7 altered line that is based on a Bmaj7(#5) arpeggio before it resolves to Cmaj7.

Triads along the neck

Another way to practice the triads is to play them on a string set along the neck. This is shown in a 2-1 fingering here below.

Turning this into a lick is easy. I am using the F,Em and Dm triads descending and then continue the triad idea on the G altered with Eb and F dim triads to resolve to the 3rd(E) of Cmaj7. 

A good variation on this is to use Db and Eb triads on the G7. This idea is shown here below:

Changing the way we practice scales

In the previous examples I had to rely on scale exercises that are stepwise in nature, so the triads are played in stepwise order: C, Dm, Em etc. 

The problem with this is that If you use triads on a Dm7 chord then Dm, F and Am are fine, but Em and G are less strong and therefore difficult to use in a lick.

One way of getting around that is to look at how the Dm, F and Am are a 3rd apart in the scale. This means that we have can start working on practicing the triads in 3rds in the scale to get them together in the sets that work together. An example of how you can do this is shown here:

The lick below is using the triads like this, and they are played in a 5 1 3 patttern. The triads used then are Dm, F and Am which are all closely related to a Dm7.

Beyond the triads: Shell voicings

Of course you can apply this to any type of structure. In the example here below I am doing hte same type of exercise as example 7, but now using Shell Voicings.

Turning this into a lick is shown in example 10 where I use Fmaj7 and Am7 shell voicings on the Dm7. On the G7 I am also using a Db7 shell voicing and combining that with an AbmMaj7 arpeggio before resolving to C.

Putting it all together

As you can see in these example it is not only important to try to use the exercises you do, but it can also be a great idea to try to shape your exercises so that they are immediately easier to use when improvising or composing lines.

It makes a lot of sense to try to work a lot with 3rds because it reflects how we build chords and keep the triads closely related to the chord you want to use them on.

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From Scale exercises to Jazz Licks – Practice Music

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better 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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