Learning the guitar usually begins with learning a few chords and then possibly taking on some notes. It then progresses to songs that are familiar in both chord and note form. Inevitably the time comes to focus on the guitar scale forms. This is usually when improvisation is discussed as well. The
problem eventually appears in the student’s playing that they are confined to one particular scale form during their solos. Or, they transition to a new form but without clarity of the musical line. This is where learning to connect the forms comes into play.
By connecting the forms smoothly from any point ascending or descending, the single note solo line has continuity and fluidity. A musical thought can be expressed without having to reorient one’s self to the position on the guitar in a way that cause the line to miss its intended direction.
Two Guitar Scale Forms
In this post, we will be offering up two of the usual scale forms to study. Once these scale forms are memorized, Part 2 of this post will develop a method to move between the scale forms regardless of the position in the scale at any given moment. Don’t rush the learning of the form. It sometimes takes a while to really get the form into your memory and play it fluidly. There will be a few ways to perfect this given after the forms are presented.
6/4 A Major Scale Form
In the above guitar scale form, you will notice the name 6/4 A Major Scale. This indicates that the scale begins on the sixth string and the root (the note A) is played by left hand finger 4 at the beginning of the scale. In this scale you will also see the abbreviation, F.S. This stands for “Finger Stretch.” Finger 4 of the left hand must stretch a whole step (two frets) to attain the next note. The hand should not move from the initial position during the stretch.
6/2 A Major Scale Form
As indicated above, this scale has the name 6/2 A Major Scale. Following the same pattern from the 6/4, this indicates that the scale begins on the sixth string and the root (the note A) is played by left hand finger 2 at the beginning of the scale.
General Guidelines For Learn Guitar Scale Forms
It is important to know the actual notes that you are playing on the instrument. Too many students only learn the visual patterns without regard to the notes themselves. This sets up poor understanding of theory and proves to be a stumbling block when it comes to higher levels of improvisation. The notes of this scale beginning at the root (the first note of the scale) are A, B, C#, D, E, F#, and G#. They move in this order ascending the scale and the reverse order when descending the scale.
The best way to practice this understanding is to say the notes while you play through the scale. Then, pick a specific note at random and find it as quickly as possible in the scale form. Note cards can help with this by putting each note on a card and picking one after shuffling them. This helps keep things moving in random rather than in a pattern when learning the notes.
After getting comfortable with each scale, set your metronome to play quarter notes (i.e. one click per note). Then play eighth notes (one click but playing two notes). After there is a certain amount of security in playing eighth notes, then it is time to begin variation in rhythmic patterns. This variation causes the form to become more deeply imbedded in the memory. There are many other scientific reasons for this but that is not the subject of this material at present. Below are two examples of two ways to practice the 6/4 A major scale with varied rhythms.
Rhythmic Variation No. 1 For 6/4 Scale Form
Rhythmic Variation No. 2 For 6/4 Scale Form
It is a good idea whenever working on scales to get used to using a metronome. The metronome is the only objective tool guitarists have to measure progress. Many of the metronomes for mobile devices have preset rhythms that match the ones given in the above exercises.
It is crucially important to be able to see these scale forms clearly next to each other. They should be played in the position indicated but also in as many keys as possible to further the understanding of the fretboard. The time it takes to learn these fluidly will depend on the current level of the student. After the scales are fluid attention should be turned to learning how to connect the two guitar scale forms. This will be discussed in Learning To Connect Two Guitar Scale Forms – Part 2 of this series.