Every new musician wants to find the easiest path towards becoming a pro. Like anything in life, however, there are certain steps that must be taken to master the process of playing guitar.
To help you learn scales accurately and with precision, here’s a step-by-step approach any newbie can take.
Step 1. Figure out the notes.
For example, let’s start with a minor scale which has a pattern of A-B-C-D-E-F-G. Experiment with this pattern as much as you’d like. Build up using the notes from each pattern each day you practice to explore how it works. You could do this on the E string starting with the lowest note in the scale. Play that outline up and down your fretboard several times to completely memorize it. Once you have it memorized, the next step is to start improvising for at a minimum of 10-15 minutes, using just the notes from that outline. Do your best to always improvise the pattern in a higher octave beginning at the 12th fret.
Step 2. Build on the previous scale.
The next session you tackle should begin with improvisation from the previous pattern. Starting with the second note, perhaps G after E. Then you would create an outline that has the same format as the previous step only building on it.
Step 3. Rehearse and repeat.
Next, you’d want to do improvisation from the previous day’s note, building on the note the same way you did previously. Always play what you’ve learned in the previous session so as to not forget it. The goal is to memorize and improve. Continue to create the new pattern the same way you did before, building up the fretboard.
Step 4. Memorize and play.
Next, you’ll want to begin improvising to use all the patterns you’ve learned simultaneously. Feel free to adjust the patterns at will. Practice this until you can find any note no matter the scale position and without thinking of the outline. The goal is to master playing these different note structures and to play them without worrying about not being able to remember their location.
Once you have successfully mastered using all these patterns at will, you can safely assume you’ve learned the guitar scales you need to know.
Commonly Used Scales
Learning and understanding the most important notes and patterns in Jazz is critical to becoming a master at playing the jazz guitar. Here are the most commonly used and important to memorize patterns in jazz theory.
• The Minor Pentatonic
• The Blues
• The Natural Minor and Aeolian Mode
• The Major
• The Dorian Mode
• The Mixolydian Mode
Once you understand these patterns and how they function in relation to some of your favorite songs, you can begin to improvise and explore your own talent a bit more.
Putting It into Practice
Clearly, when you start to tackle jazz theory and how to learn scales, you’re up against somewhat complex structures that you may not fully understand. After you’ve practiced scale positioning, how ascending and descending works, and memorized the most common structures, you’re ready to start putting it all to practice.
Practicing these guitar scales is the key to making jazz music your life. Anything worth attaining requires hours upon hours of practice. Ingraining what you’ve learned into your muscles and brain takes extreme effort, but once you have it, you can’t ever lose it! Understanding and recognizing the sounds these notes make is equally important and valuable for you to cultivate your talent.
Once you move past this point, your next focus should be experimentation. Experimenting with every note and pattern on the fretboard is a critical element in becoming a musician. Use sounds and notes that resonate with you and sound like something you’d like to listen to. Once you do this, the next step is to scale over backing tracks-a key element in becoming a pro! As you begin to practice this process, your music and movements will become automatic. Search the internet to find the best backing tracks.
The Importance of Theory
Learning how to form chords from a scale that can be put together and used in the same key is an important part of becoming an expert in playing jazz music. Forming chords from complex patterns may not sound easy, but it is possible. In combination with learning how to form the modes, you also need to know what the modes of each major scale are. Intervals are also important to understand in theory, so be sure you explore all of these elements thoroughly to grasp the essence of the process.
To learn scales, you need patience and an understanding of the elements we’ve outlined in this article. Guitar scales are a basic building block of both jazz theory and experimentation. When coupled with hours of practice, anyone can use this information to become a pro musician.
Marc-André Séguin is the webmaster, “brains behind” and teacher on JazzGuitarLessons.net, the #1 online resource for learning how to play jazz guitar.