May 12, 2019 by Klaus Crow
Most beginner and even some intermediate guitar players try to avoid scales. They don’t see the use of it. A scale doesn’t sound cool. It can be tough and boring to practice.
But once you know the truth and potential behind scales a whole new world of possibilities will open up for you. The truth is “Scales is Everything!” If you practice and study the scales regularly, you will soon reap the benefits of this immense musical working tool that has the answer to all your musical questions and controls everything you play, whether you like it or not. ;)
So let’s take a look at the 10 reasons to learn scales Now and How.
LEARN NEW SCALES TO:
1 – Analyse chords.
Knowing scales means you have the ability to analyse and figure out chords and chord structure. You will understand from what notes a chord is made up, why it is played and named a certain way, and why it sounds the way it does. The chord theory gives you the knowledge to calculate and analyse every single chord that is put in front of you. Knowing and understanding scales and chord theory will make everything easier to grasp. You will learn to see the bigger picture.
2 – Create chord progressions
In the same way, scales give you the notes and formulas to build your own chord progressions. You will find the chords that match and sound good together and create beautiful sounding chord progressions. You will learn the relationship between chords and scales and how they interact. So, if a lead guitar player asks you to play a chord progression in the key of G to provide a jam track for him/her to solo over, you can feel confident to do that.
3 – Write your own song
Once you can create your own chord progressions through the scales, you can also write your own songs. Put the chords in any order you like and write your own lyrics and lyric melody to them. You can use the notes from the scale to create the melody that goes with the lyrics to sing on top of your chord progression. For the chords, you can use commonly used progressions (you are free to use them for your own songs) or make up one yourself.
4 – Figure out chord songs
When you understand how chords and progressions relate to each other you will find it a lot easier to transcribe songs. For example, when a song is in the key of C, you will know what chords and chord types are most likely to fit the rest of the song. Using your ears and your knowledge of scales is a very effective combination to figure out the chords to a song.
5 – Be able to understand and transcribe solos (faster)
Just like transcribing chord songs, you can also transcribe solos. And while it is possible to transcribe solos just by ear, knowing your scales makes transcribing go ten times faster. Solos are built from scales. If you know the scale that applies to the solo, all the pieces of the puzzle will fall in place, and everything makes much more sense.
6 – Create your own solos.
When you know how to transcribe a solo you can also learn how to create a solo. Knowing the scale(s) means you have a color palette from which you can draw. The scale is the foundation for your solo and the map from which you navigate and set out. Once you know the scale inside out you can let your creativity shine in any direction.
7 – Acquire soloing and improvisation skills
If you can create your own solo you can move on the next step “Improvisation”. Improvisation is creating a solo on the spot. By learning a scale inside out you have the ability to solo and improvise over songs and chord progressions. With each new scale you learn and master, you expand your solo vocabulary and improvisation capacity to new and different styles of music. Improvisation is the ultimate freedom to soloing your way around the fretboard.
8 – Develop your dexterity and increase your speed
Two for the price of one. Practicing scales will give you the tools to learn to solo and improvise but also develops your dexterity. A regular practice of scales will develop dexterity and increase your speed.
9 – Train your aural skills
Scales give you the tools to train your aural skill. Practice your scale and sing the notes of the scale along while you play. This will develop your hearing. There are numerous exercises using scales to develop your aural skills which is one of the most invaluable tools for learning to play guitar.
10 – Increase fun
Learning and mastering scales will definitely improve your playing and increase the fun factor. Once you understand what you are playing and develop the right skills and dexterity you will enjoy guitar playing so much more than you already do. So what are you waiting for?
HOW TO DO IT
– Choose a scale
Depending on your skill level and musical preference, choose a scale to practice. The most important scales for western music are the Pentatonic scale, Major scale and the Natural Minor scale. If you’re just beginning, start with either the pentatonic / blues or major scale. You can pretty much build a career out of these two scales, so take your time and stick with these two powerful scales. You will have your hands full.
If you are a more advanced guitar player you can study the Dorian scale, Mixolydian scale and Harmonic Minor scale. If you want more scales check out the Top 10 Most Important Scales for Guitar. Practice each day for 15 minutes to build dexterity and develop your ability to use to scale as a tool to improvise and figure out how music works. If you know the basics of the pentatonic scale but you feel like you’re stuck in a rut and you really want to know the Pentatonic / Blues scale inside out and learn to solo and improvise with it, check out the The 50 Cool Blues Licks Improvisation Course.
– Practice patterns and sequences
Practice melodic patterns and sequences to really get the scales under your belt. The patterns will develop your muscle memory, dexterity and make your scales sound more like music and less like scales. You can use the patterns to incorporate into your soloing, and at the same time it’s an effective exercise to learn to play with the scale in many different ways and fuel your inspiration for melodic phrases and ideas.
– Learn in different keys
Learn to play each scale in different keys. As a guitar player you want to learn to solo and improvise in every key. Playing a scale is as easy as moving the scale up and down the fretboard. The fret on where you start playing the scale determines in what key your are playing. For example, if you play an A pentatonic scale starting on the 5th fret and you move the entire scale up a half step (1 fret) you have an A# pentatonic scale. Move the scale up another half step and you’re playing B pentatonic and so on. Practice your scale in as many keys possible, so you become comfortable with playing across the neck.
– Create melody
Try to create small melodies with just the notes of the scale. Play with timing and rhythm. Use inflections, dynamics and pauses. Extend or shorten the duration/length of some of the notes. Use hammer-ons, pulls offs, slides, bend-ups to make your melody really come alive. Learning to create melody and improvise takes time so just play, practice and experiment each and every day and you’ll get better at it.
– Practice regularly with a goal
Practice scales regularly. But don’t practice a scale without thinking about it. Use it to your advantage. Play the scale, clean, clear and thoroughly, woodshed the patterns, analyse chord structure and derive chord progressions from the scales. Build, understand and learn the notes of the scales with scale formulas and the whole/half step approach. Learn to create melody, solo and improvise with the scales. It’s all part of your scale practice and will improve your playing profoundly.
Go and get ‘m!
Glen Parry says
Speaking as someone who was stuck with the minor pentatonic for years, I can fully support learning the Dorian and Mixolydian. It really helps prevent you from sounding like every other guitar player. I started to feel self-conscience when I was still just using the minor pentatonic during solo jam sessions with my band so I finally decided to learn a few other tricks! Great advice!
Great website and great articles. as someone who played scales mindlessly for years I could add scales are only a fraction of lead playing. Starting on the right note and playing the scale with a purpose is very important. People should slow it all down for a long time before hey start trying to play at normal speeds.