The Best Way To Practice Guitar Scale

Context Is More Important Than Speed

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.

Of course, mechanics is important: you need to right technique so you can express yourself on the instruments without limits (here are some picking scales and guitar scales exercises).

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 major scale

E Lydian Scale

E F# G# A# B C# D#

E major scale

E Mixolydian Scale

E F# G# A B C# D

E major scale

E Minor Scale

E, F♯, G, A, B, C, D

E major scale

E Dorian Scale

E F# G A B C# D

E major scale

E Phrygian Scale


E major scale

E Locrian Scale

E F G A Bb C D

E major scale

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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