How to Practice Guitar Scales

richardsguitarstudio on November 6, 2015

In this video, I show you how to practice guitar scales with methods and techniques that will help you memorize scales, develop scale speed, and work on articulations such as hammer-ons and pull-offs. Here is a list of instructions covered in the video, and a bit of advice on each element of the practice routine:

  1. Practice the scale ascending and descending using alternate (down-up) picking. This is a crucial first step, and is an essential technique to develop for rock guitar scales and solos. To make it more fun, go to YouTube and search for “a minor backing track,” choose a style that you like, and play the scale ascending and descending along with the beat. This approach is similar to using a metronome, but is more fun because it sounds like actual music.
  2. Next, play the scale ascending using hammer-ons, and descending using pull-offs.  I go over each technique in the video. The most important point for hammer-ons: aiming and hitting the sweet spot. The sweet spot is the nook between the wood of the fretboard and just behind the fret wire. You don’t even need a pick – hit that spot with good aim (and loosen up on the tension) and the string will sound on its own. The most important points for pull-offs: plucking and leading. It will be best to watch the video for this, as pull-offs are much more complex than hammer-ons. Go to 3:10 in the video.
  3. The next step is extremely important – scale sequences. If you are not familiar with sequences, check out the PART 2 video in THIS POST. I would say that if I only had time for one warm-up exercise, scale sequences would be it. They help not only with technique, and provide a large volume of notes and therefore more muscle memory, but they help you visualize larger chunks of notes and patterns across the fretboard. In a nutshell, this is the mental game of guitar soloing! Being able to visualize and perform a large batch of notes, rather than thinking one at a time, is the key mental component in being able to shred guitar solos.
  4. Use a metronome and practice 2, 3, and 4 notes per beat. You can use different speeds for each subdivision – the goal isn’t to do each subdivision at the same tempo. The idea is the feel of each subdivision. You want to get an idea of how it feels to play a scale 2, 3, or 4 notes within a beat. The groove is much different on each one.

Good luck and I hope this post on how to practice guitar scales was helpful in your playing!

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