Most guitar players have heard of 3 note per string modes and other systems for scales on guitar, by why should you put the time into learning them? Here are 6 reason why:
1. You Will Learn How to Create Different Sounds
Different scales will create different sounds, or moods. By learning how to play different scales, you will learn how to create different sounds and emotions with your guitar.
And even better, you will start to be able to know the sound you are going to create by playing a certain phrase of lick… before you play it!
2. You Will Be Able to Improvise Along the Whole of the Guitar
I have found over the years that a lot of students come to me with some knowledge and experience with scales… but only know one position of a certain scale, or they know a CAGED system shape.
This instantly limits them to playing in a single place on the neck. By learning all the positions for a set of scales, you learn how to play over the entire guitar neck, which increases your options.
When you know your scales in all positions, you have more control over the pitch range you play in, you can play over a wider pitch range and you can easily move between different keys!
3. You Can Compose Using the Whole Guitar Neck
This is really a variation on the previous point, but once you have learned all the positions of a set of scales, the entire guitar neck is now available to you for composing ideas.
4. You Will be Able to Identify the Sound of Scales
Identifying the sound of a scale is a basic component of ear training (also known as “aural skills”) that a lot of guitar players tend to be a bit weak on.
If you learn different scales, and sing along the notes that you are playing, you will start to identify different scales that are being used in the music that you listen to – automatically!
This also enables you to start to recognise how to create specific emotions with your guitar playing, which is a vital tool for anyone composing on their guitar.
A great way you can start doing this, is to record yourself playing some scales, or program a MIDI track, burn it to CD and sing along in the car when you are commuting. You can do this with specific intervals and arpeggios. Steve Vai did this to practice ear training – and it seemed to work pretty well for him!
5. You Will be Able to Apply Music Theory Concepts in Your Guitar Playing
This is incredibly useful. When you start to learn your scales properly, across the length of the fretboard, you will find it much easier to apply music theory concepts that you learn.
For example, a few years ago, I was learning a compositional technique where a suspension is resolved to a chord tone. As I have thoroughly learned my scales, I could take this piece of theoretical knowledge, put on some backing tracks, and apply what I had learned to my playing, in different keys, in different places all over the neck.
6. You Will Learn to Visualise Theory on Your Instrument
Did you know that, in a time span of 1 to 15 days, your brain cannot tell the difference between playing your guitar and when you visualise playing your guitar? An experiment was done a few years ago where a group of children were given a piano lesson.
Half of the children then practised for an hour a day on the piano, every day, for a week. The other half, sat down for an hour a day, and had to visualise themselves practising.
After a week, both groups played to a similar, indistinguishable standard. (However, after two weeks, a gap between the skills of the two groups started to appear, with the students doing real practice progressing faster than the students visualising).
This demonstrates that visualisation is very powerful. I have students who visualise themselves playing when they do not have access to their guitar, and they progress very quickly at the skills they visualise.
Learning scale patterns is something that we can visualise on our instrument… and therefore something we can practice away from our instrument. This dramatically increases your practice time with the bonus that your don’t wear out your wrists.