Practicing scales on the guitar can be rather intimidating at times. After all, there are so many different types of scale patterns and sequences to memorize. So here is a piece of advice: DON'T MEMORIZE THEM!! Memorizing endless amounts of scale patterns and sequences will cause you to spend more time memorizing, and less time actually playing music. Sure you will have a vast collection of scale exercises at your disposal, but when it comes to applying them in a musical context you will end up sounding like a robot; regurgitating scale exercises that have no feeling or emotion to them, and you will put more effort into trying to recall a scale pattern from memory than paying attention to what you want your music to sound like. Here are a few tips to help you better focus your time and energy when practicing scales on the guitar:
1. Play it by ear. Pick just one scale pattern or sequence and play it until you have it memorized. You should be focused on memorizing how the exercise sounds rather than memorizing the finger pattern. Once you have it committed to memory, start to recreate the exercise using different areas of the fretboard. Use different fingerings, play it in higher or lower octaves, use only 1 or 2 strings...try to utilize the entire fretboard. The key is to not worry so much about the fingerings you use and to focus more on recreating the scale pattern or sequence by ear.
2. Use different rhythms. Learning to play scales will be of little use to you if you do not explore different rhythmic combinations. Learn to use rhythm to add to your expressiveness and create truly unique scale passages. Think of how rhythmic fluctuations in everyday speech can drastically effect the way a message is communicated and perceived.
3. Experiment with different articulations. Hammer-ons, pull-offs, and vibrato are just a few articulations that can really change the way a passage sounds. And let's face it, strings bends are one of the coolest and most uniquely expressive tools that the guitar has to offer. Practice adding whole step and half step bends throughout your scale patterns and sequences
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