Throughout the years, the same thing happens over and over again. Teachers advise their students to practice scales. They give important and useful tips. Students nod in agreement. Then, the students come home and perhaps, if they are really dedicated, they spend 5 minutes practicing scales, going up and down the neck and that’s it.
Let’s face it… Practicing scales is boring and many students do not see the point.
My approach to scales is completely different: you need to have FUN while practicing the scales. Imagine they are your little “etudes.”
DISCLAIMER: In this article I will not discuss scale fingerings. That is a huge topic to cover and perhaps can be discussed in a future article. Use whatever fingering you want for the following exercises.
Let’s take C Major to keep it simple. Usually the students will play something like this:
If you check any guitar book or method, the story usually ends here. Play gradually faster with metronome, that’s it. And then, the teacher complains the student did not practice his scales.
Here are three simple variants on the above C major scale that demonstrate a small sampling of ways you can make practicing scales both fun and actually more beneficial for your development!
By just applying a simple pattern to the scale, we can easily make a beautiful melody out of it, like this:
This example is just one melodic possibility of the endless that exist, but it is already so much more pleasing to the ear and enjoyable to play.
For the technique of shifting positions, the dotted rhythm is super important to practice. One of my guitar teachers, Dejan Ivanovic introduced me to this way of practicing scales for perfect mastery of switching positions:
If you master this dotted exercise, you will see tremendous improvement in your scales. However, I should ask, “Why not make it more fun??” Here is my “fun version” of the same thing:
And for the grand finale… Are you having trouble with irregular bars and weird accents? Here is my “Balkan version” of C Major, inspired by the music of Serbian composer Dusan Bogdanovic.
Most important of all — have fun while doing this! After you master these examples and find them boring, just come up with new ones yourself that excite you. Why not play a different scale exercise every day instead of repeating ad nauseam the same thing over and over again? Maybe one of those exercises could be your next “etude!”
We hope you enjoyed this post from Francisco! Try using a few of his ideas in your scale practice to spice up your routine and get more out of the hours you put into it. For more on scales, check out the lessons by Ali Arango, Vladimir Gorbach, Anton Baranov, and Matt Palmer.