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Scales Scales Scales (Part 1)

Step By Step

Anyway, when I started getting into scales I learned ONE pattern. My teacher back then taught it to me. Only that one pattern. And for months I didn't use any other pattern but that one. Whenever I improvised, whenever I tried to figure out a melody I had heard somewhere etc… I only used that one pattern.

As a result of this, I really UNDERSTOOD and explored it. I knew which notes of that pattern worked well over what chord of the underlying progression. I knew where certain notes (root, third etc.) were. I made up a bunch of licks, sequences and repeating patterns from that pattern.

THEN I started learning another one. And fortunately (well, I think it was a fortunate thing) I continued learning scales n'patterns that way.

You could say I went step by step. And this method seems to be working for some of my students as well. I recently jammed with one of them... she is really interested in improvisation, and so I wanted to see what kind of scales and patterns she uses, what approach she'd take.

Well, she basically stuck to, like, two or three patterns, and spent her time coming up with melodies and themes instead of paying too much attention to playing through as many patterns as possible.

If you do it that way, you'll actually "improvise" without getting stuck too often. I mean, you don't have to limit yourself. If you wanna learn more patterns and scales, go ahead. But keep the music in mind, and each time you learn a new scale or pattern, use it in your playing.

Another thing that comes to mind is that a lot of younger players seem to think that you need to know as many scales as possible in order to play well. I thought so too. I listened to my favorite players, read interviews with them, and read that they were talking about scales like "the enigmatic scale", lydian dominant, symmetrical scales etc.

And I sat there and thought "Oh great, that's why my playing sucks. I only know major and minor, plus the pentatonics. If I knew these scales, I could play better for sure". Well, of course I was wrong. Cuz the reason why my playing sucked or at least didn't sound as good as those guys I listened to was a lack of tone, a lack of experience when it comes to improvisation etc. And later I noticed how many of those guys actually use "simple" scales like the pentatonic and make them sound amazing.

So, most likely you need more time using those "basic scales" instead of memorizing all kinds of oriental ones.

So... let's get to the music. This article is supposed to be some kind of a scale workout. I want to show you how to memorize some scales, understand them, apply them to your playing, and come up with some different ideas.

Playing on one string

A lot of people seem to think that playing along one string is something that only beginners do. Like "Oh, that's only for people who don't know patterns and can only play on one string".

Wrong. Playing along one string is a tool just like playing through a pattern, staying in one position. Listen to guys like Steve Morse, Steve Vai or Joe Satriani… they do it a lot. (Check out Morse's solo in "The Oz", or Satch's runs in "Summer Song")

And there actually is no better way to "see" a scale on the fretboard than playing it along one string. Let's start with the E-major scale (WWHWWWH). Here it is , played on the high e-string, starting on E.

As you can see, you can see the intervals as a physical distance. It's almost like a one string-pattern.

If you'd play the same "pattern", the same intervals on the B-string, you'd get the B major scale...

..and of course, you can, and should do this on all strings. Play the B major scale on each string, starting on the lowest note possible (open string, if possible).

Workout Exercise 1:
Play all modes on the high e-string, always starting on E. So you start with the E maj scale, then you play E Dorian, E Phrygian, E Lydian, E Mixolydian, E Aeolian and E Locrian.

Workout Exercise 2:
To keep some variety and try different scale, I recommend the "Cycle Of Fifths method"... Remember the "Cycle of 4ths / 5ths"?
So, play the C major scale on the high e-string, then move along that cycle… the next one would be G Major. So, play the G Major scale on that string now… next, D major, A maj, E maj, B maj, F# maj
Then, move back to C, and "play through" the cycle of fourths: F major, Bb major etc.

Workout Exercise 3:
Same thing but with minor scales. Of course you have actually played those in the previous exercises, since a minor scale is a major scale starting at the 6th degree.
But the point here is to get used to scales, seeing them along the string.

More one string-exercises >>