when we think about scales, we usually only think about playing a fixed order of notes up and down the fretboard (Do, re, mi, fa, sol, etc...), and more often than not, we forget that a scale is a tool we can use to create music. It's not a shape, it's not some lick, it has a root note, but that doesn't mean you HAVE to start on the root. It's specific group of notes with specific intervals between them that when played together create a specific kind of sound or "color".
For us Guitarists is obviously easier to play the scales up and down the fretboard, and it's good too! -As long as your goal is to develop your muscle memory-, but when we start thinking about playing music and improvising, playing up and down is, most of the time, not the best approach.
Now, this is not and improvisation lesson. I just want to show you guys two different ways to approach scales that you might not yet know and that might help you while using them. As I said, scales are a tool, and this article might help you use this tool in a better way.
The first thing you have to familiarize yourself with are Intervals.
An Interval is the distance between 2 specific notes. They are the core of all music, we use them to build chords and create melodies (among other gazillion things). Each Interval has a specific sound and is used in a specific way.
Click here to familiarize yourself with them, but if you already know your intervals, carry on!
For practical reasons I will write everything using a C Major scale starting on the 8th fret on the low E string (E shape in the CAGED System), here's how this scale looks like:
So, the first thing would be not to play the notes in your scales in the normal order (Root, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc) but rather, try playing in 3rds (Root - 3rd, 2nd - 4th, 3rd - 5th, etc) like so:
- And downwards
This is a good pattern to memorize. You can use it pretty much on any scale there is and it sounds way more interesting than just playing up and down from C to C.
So, as I wrote above, what you're doing is playing in 3rds. Now, why stop there? Try playing in 4ths or in 5ths, and don't stop there either, give it a try with each interval you can think of and see what happens. You just have to play attention to the diminished 5th between the 4th and the 7th degrees of the scale, but other than that you should be fine. You can also play sequences of intervals, for example a 3rd and then a 5th, or alternate intervals for each note you play, say, a 4th, then a 3rd, then a 4th, and so on (I - IV, II - IV, III - VI, IV - VI, etc).
Now, as you probably know, we can build diatonic chords on top of each degree of the scale. To do so you just have to stack 3rds on top of each other, so if you start on a C, the first 3rd you stack up would be E and then the second 3rd you need (starting on E this time) would be G. Those three notes make the C major triad. We can do that with every degree of the scale and the result are the seven diatonic triads within a scale.
Click here for a quick explanation about building diatonic triads.
By the way, this works pretty much for every heptatonic scale out there, you don't have to limit yourself to the Natural Major/Minor Scales
So, the next step here would be to play the diatonic chords within a scale. This might take some time to get under your fingers, but keep going and be patient!
The idea is to play each diatonic triad or tetrad as an arpeggio, going up on one degree of the scale, then coming down on the next one and then going back up on the next one and so on, like this:
- Upwards with diatonic triads:
- Upwards with diatonic tetrads:
This last exercise is also really good to develop your technique. It takes a while, but it really helps, specially with Alternate Picking and Left - Right Hand coordination. Also, hum or sing everything you play, that way you will unconsciously work on a Hand - Brain connection and eventually you'll be able to effortlessly play everything that's in your head.
As I said before, you don't have to limit yourself to the Natural Major/Minor Scales. This approach works for every heptatonic scale out there and it not only improves your technique and the way you can use scales, but it also helps with Ear Training a lot. Again, sing what you play!
Now, as I said, with stuff like this, it takes a while to start seeing results. Breaking down a scale like this and instantly playing adding it to your playing is not easy. It took me a couple of years to start implementing this into my playing, but hey, if I managed to do it, you'll do just fine.
Anyways, I hope this helps! And if you like my posts, don't forget to share and subscribe!
Thanks again for reading and I'll see you next time!