Oftentimes guitarists will find themselves stuck in a rut; playing the same licks over and over again and unsure of what to practise in order to develop new ideas on the instrument. It can be tiresome to run scales up and down the neck, as frequently it can sound uninspiring and lacking somewhat in musicality. Fortunately, there is a better, more interesting way you can practise your scales, and that is to play them using intervals instead of in a linear fashion. Therefore, in today’s online guitar lesson, I will be showing you eight different exercises to work on in order to help you break out of your old habits and become more creative on the guitar.
Making Your Scales More Interesting
We will be using the C Major scale as our framework for these exercises in today’s guitar lesson. Each exercise is based on a different diatonic interval within the scale, and we will be covering every interval from seconds to octaves. The exercises all follow the same pattern; starting on the root note, ascending to the predetermined diatonic interval, ascending to the next note in the scale before descending to the predetermined diatonic interval. This pattern is repeated throughout the scale until the fingerings become impractical, at which point the pattern descends until it arrives back at its starting point. I have tried to stick to the closed position 1 fingering of C Major Scale as best as I could, occasionally drifting into the next position where I have deemed it appropriate. If you are unfamiliar with this scale fingering, here is a diagram of it below:
Let’s now take a look at just some of the many ways you can practise this scale intervalically, starting with an exercise based on seconds.
C Major Scale 2nds Exercise
Using a combination of major and minor 2nds, this is a great idea for fast sequencing, particularly when descending.
C Major Scale 3rds Exercise
This is a very musical pattern using a combination of major and minor 3rds. Some of the fingerings will be unfamiliar at first, but with persistence they will start to feel natural.
C Major Scale 4ths Exercise
One of my own personal favourites using a combination of perfect fourth and tri tone intervals, this is a very musical pattern that isn’t too hard to play, with most of the work being done by barring either your first or third fingers.
C Major Scale 5ths Exercise
Using a combination of perfect 5ths and augmented 5ths, this exercise has a strong, modern sound that is tricky to play.
C Major Scale 6ths Exercise
Utilising some sweet sounding major 6th intervals as well as some slightly dissonant sounding minor 6th intervals, this exercise is great for finding new musical ideas.
C Major Scale 7ths Exercise
This exercise uses a combination of major and minor 7ths, and sounds very unusual. You might find the frequent use of this interval in the playing of John Scofield, who is a big a fan of major and minor 7ths.
C Major Scale Octave Exercise
A very tricky pattern to finger correctly, using only perfect octaves and large string skips. You’ll feel a sense of pride when you can play this one up to speed!
All of the above exercises should be practised in all 12 keys. Once you’ve done that, the possibilities are truly endless, as I would encourage you to take the same concepts and apply them to all positions of the major scale, as well as all positions of each mode of the major scale and any other scale that you learn from now on!
C Major Scale – Bonus Exercise
I found the following exercise really useful when a fellow teacher showed it to me a few years ago. It demonstrates every 4 note arpeggio in the harmonised major scale as you ascend, before you descend down the scale in order.
See the video below for a demonstration on the exercise above.
Again, the concept above can be applied to any scale that you learn in order to be able to play every four note arpeggio off of any note that you land on.
I hope that you have fun practising and applying the exercises above. There is no need to play them verbatim in your own improvisations, you can just take fragments from the ones that you like the best and weave them into your pre-existing ideas and phrases.
Until next time,