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How did you learn the scales?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by guitguy28, Feb 22, 2009.

  1. guitguy28

    guitguy28 Member

    Jul 3, 2004
    One thing I've never done is learn the scales. So I've been thinking about spending an hour or two each day just going through scales, but in a very methodical way:

    C Major scale: 1. loop a C Major chord. 2. play scales, arpeggios and chords (including Maj7, Maj 9, etc. chords) in each position. Think about each note-the name of the note and the interval- as I play.

    Repeat with all modes in that key: D Dorian, E Phrygian, F Lydian, G Mixolydian, A Minor/Aeolian, B Locrian.

    Move on to next key- G, for instance.

    So my question is: is this now you guys did it? Or did you go about it in other ways?

    For instance: Pick a song, analyze it, learn the scale, etc.
  2. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    we eat a lot of cheese and drink a lot of beer
    I kinda don't remember exactly. At some point I got methodical with it, but I already had a fair bit of it under my belt. I was really just filling in the gaps.

    What you're thinking sounds fine, but if you're starting from scratch I think it's going to be too much information for you to process and retain. I'd say take a major chord/scale and learn it in two positions, one based of the low E string and the other the A. Basically the same as you would play that basic barre chord for each. So:



    After that you can then go for what you're talking about, which would be to learn a scale for each chord/mode in that key:





    The idea here is that you "see" the chord shape, and use that as a frame for your scale. You should be able to see the notes in the scale over this chord shape. At which point it gets easier to change scales/chords. For instance, over that Gmin chord you could easily change from G dorian to G aeolian to G phrygian. And after that, G harmonic minor, G melodic minor, etc.

    After all this, do the same thing but with the chords based off the A string. You'll notice that it's the same patterns, just a different key. The next step is to connect all these. For instance you can play an F major arpeggio in that Gmin scale pattern. Gmin in that Bb pattern. Etc. This is what gets confusing on guitar, but it's really how the fretboard will open up for you.
  3. Austinrocks

    Austinrocks Member

    Feb 10, 2007
    might not like my answer, get a book of music, classical, holiday, what ever, songs you want to learn to play with out tabs, and work it up, you will find that the scales are quite simple, after you have done that,

    modes are just chords, in a I IV V you have the major or ionian mode, the lydian mode, and the mixolydian mode, if you can make that link you understand modes,
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2009
  4. stevel

    stevel Member

    Apr 6, 2008
    Hampton Roads, Virginia
    I agree - I think your plan will work, and provide you with not only theoretical knowledge, but practical knowledge as well.

    I remember learning C Major and A minor - relatives - because the were basically the same "shape" (or you could play them in certain positions that way).

    I had studied piano before though so I went in already knowing the notes. It was the patterns I had to learn on guitar.

    One approach I might suggest - you might want to learn the patterns first - very well - so they're under your fingers and you're not struggling trying to find frets, at the same time you're trying to find notes, if you get that.

  5. davya

    davya Member

    Sep 15, 2007
    Longmont, Colorade
  6. KagakuNinja

    KagakuNinja Member

    Nov 30, 2006
    Berkeley, CA
    I approached the guitar kind of backwards, starting with an emphasis on chords and scales, then much later, learning songs. i already had some knowledge of theory from playing the keyboard.

    I started by learning the note intervals of the major and minor scales. Since it is easiest to visualize the intervals on a single string, that is how I learned them first. I would go up and down the E string playing the major or minor scale, then the other strings. I also spent a lot of time playing scales and modes against an open string (providing a pedal tone).

    Then I practiced harmonizing the scales with triads and eventually, barre chords. Then later I got Fretboard Logic and was exposed to the CAGED concept, which totally changed my approach to the guitar, now I was working scales both horizontally and vertically. At some point, I simplified the scales to pentatonics, and discovered the "boxes" that everyone apparently uses (strangely enough, I never got this concept from any of the books I have)

    Then I realized that I could just use the bottom 3 notes of the E-shape barre chord, and that this was the magical "power chord" I had heard so much about. And then I started learning songs, and noticing how many rock songs were based on the minor pentatonic and/or blues scale. Bringing me to where most people start learning the guitar...

    So this isn't really the best approach, it is just what has gotten me to where I am now.
  7. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

    May 30, 2007
    I learned the C major scale first, on piano. I learned the other scales by singing them in univeristy music theory class. When other people around you are also singing, you tend not to feel so shy about your voice.

    I have found that including ear training sped up the learning process, especially when it was time to learn the modes, distinguish melodic minor from harmonic minor, etc. Took a while for me to get the sound of Phrygian vs. Locrian. You could probably learn how they sound by playing them on the guitar for hours instead of singing them, but I think you will spend 10x the hours.

    I once spent an hour a day on just scale practice on guitar. If I could do my guitar life over, I'd use flashcards to pick a random scale/mode, sing it to myself if I can't remember how it sounds, then play "connect the dots" on the fretboard, picking out random notes from the scale mode anywhere on the fretboard - and limit the whole thing to 10 min. tops. Then spend the rest of the hour on songs. If the flashcard came up with "major scale" or other scale/mode I already know in my head - I'd skip the scale practice portion altogether. My rude awakening was at a party during my final years at university, in which a guitar was passed around and everyone else knew several songs on guita. When it was my turn to play, all I could play was my stupid scale exercises. I then realized that to share something meaningful, musically, with other people, especially non-musicians, it is useful to know at least a song or two.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2009

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