When it comes to learning guitar scales, many guitar players are obsessed with speed and technique. So a common approach is to run patterns up and down the fretboard, until the fingers develop a certain level of agility and dexterity.
But there's a more important aspect often neglected: the ear! Practicing scales (as well as any other thing on guitar) should always involve aural training.
For example, are you able to perceive the the subtle difference between a major scale and a mixolydian scale? That b7 degree dramatically changes the feeling of the scale.
And what's the best way to exercise the ear while practicing scale? Introducing a musical context!
Putting Your Ear At Work: Use Context
To train your ear while playing scales, you should always have a reference point somewhere: it could be a backing track or a bass player, but the important thing is that each note of your scales will be played against a root note.
Only in this way you can really listen to intervals and internalize the unique nuance of a scale.
For example, the common way in which modes are explained is faulty; usually they say: take the C major scale, play D to D to have a Dorian scale, E to E for Phrygian, F to F for Lydian, and so forth.
Actually, without a musical context, you are simply playing the major scale starting from different notes.
A Simple Way To Practice Scales In Context
We can exploit the genius layout of the guitar fretboard to introduce a musical context in our practice: we'll play the E low string as a root note while playing one-octave scales with the same root (E) on the G string.
Let's have a look at the tabs below:
E Guitar Scales
E Major Scale
E, F♯, G♯, A, B, C♯, D♯
E Lydian Scale
E F# G# A# B C# D#
E Mixolydian Scale
E F# G# A B C# D
E Minor Scale
E, F♯, G, A, B, C, D
E Dorian Scale
E F# G A B C# D
E Phrygian Scale
E F G A B C D
E Locrian Scale
E F G A Bb C D
Practicing Guitar Scales In Context: Conclusions
I hope that now you are convinced of the importance of using scales in a musical context.
Of course, you can elaborate on the concepts exposed in this article and use backing tracks or a chord progression generator, even if the most fun and rewarding thing will be joining a band!
For a complete ebook on guitar scales and which scales play over a chord, check my Scales Over Chords | Learn How To Play The Right Scales Over Any Chord.
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