5 Tips To Practice Scales Effectively

It is common for beginners to intermediate guitar players to make tons of mistakes, when it comes to practicing scales on guitar. While I completely understand that you are bound to make mistakes as a beginner, I’m not at all talking about the technique issues that most beginners face while practicing a scale.

In fact, it’s got nothing to do with your guitar technique or physical playing skills on the instrument. These are proven and easy to implement tips you can use right away to improve the speed at which you learn scales, while avoiding the common mistakes that stop you from learning scales faster, and being able to use it in a musical context

Treat these tips as Scale practice guidelines and stick to them to get maximum results out of your scale practice sessions.


Slice The Scale


I myself have been prey to this one many times during the initial days of my playing. Don’t look at the scale shape as a big project, instead try and break it down into smaller parts. This is particularly important if you are just beginning to play scales. Most of the times the physical guitar technique is not there yet for you to take on massive scale shapes.

E.g. If the scale consists of notes starting on the 6th string and going all the way up to the 1st string, and you are not comfortable playing the lower 6th, 5th and 4th guitar strings. Play only a fragment of the scale on the Top 3 strings. This will ensure that you can play the scale at your own playing level and still be able to use it for improvisation training.

If you are unsure of what’s mentioned here, you definitely need to take a step forward and find yourself a teacher who can help you bring out the best in yourself with whatever you play.


Start Playing Them


There’s a lot of myth floating around learning to play lead guitar. Most people shy away from it, as they feel that rhythm guitar is what interests them. You are lucky, if you are not one of these people, because I’m going to tell you that there's a massive importance of learning to play scales on any instrument. And I’m not talking about the obvious benefits it would bring to your lead playing, but it goes deeper than that with the profound impact it can have on your overall development as a guitarist.

So step away from the boring methods of learning one thing at a time, and start including some scale practice into your routine to see quick gains.


Don’t Wait Till You Understand Them


This is another mistake that not just students make, but even guitar teachers are mostly guilty of this one. In some cases, there are things that need a prior understanding before you play on the instrument, but scales are definitely not one of them. I’m not saying that you should never try to understand what the scale is, what the notes are, what is the interval structure and all that stuff which you need to know in due course, but WHY WAIT till then? You need to start practicing the shapes to improve your guitar technique in a musical way, and to start using them. You will learn all the theory behind the scale later if you want to.


The Scale Speaks


I think this is the most common mistake amongst players of all levels, that they practice the scale physically on guitar, but don’t bother to listen to what the scale is trying to say. If you listen carefully, every scale has a story to say, has an emotion to express and this could mean different things to different people. It’s important to not just fly through the notes, but to understand what the scale sounds like. This will help you hugely when you start using your knowledge and aural skills to create music


Application Of Scales


And finally the best part about learning scales is to put them to use. Playing the scale up and down is not why you learnt it, you want to use the scale in a broader context, and start creating music with it. For this, you need to learn how to apply scales over different chord progressions, find different ways of making the scale sound like melodies, creating melodic phrases that carry meaning, using creative rhythm applications and improvisation using the scale. This is what will prepare you for real time playing situations.

So there you have it. 5 simple and easy to apply steps that’s guaranteed to help you learn scales faster and better on guitar and apply them to make your music.

So if you find it difficult to implement any of the above steps, then find the right guitar teacher who can help you easily achieve these and many more correct scale practice habits. Book a trial lesson and find out how you can progress faster with your lead playing in a short period of time.

Try these 5 tips and let me know through comments here or on facebook about your observations.