Updated: Apr 27
Not another blog post on Major Scales...
Yes, that's right! The fact is that we will always practice this scale in one form or another whether we're refining our technique or coming up with new ways to use it. For those who are working on jazz and improvising, this article will greatly benefit you.
Typically, when we first learn our Major Scales on guitar we do so in 5 positions on the fretboard. Make sure you know how to do this! Other scales, arpeggios, and just about everything else we learn is based off these magic positions.
Once you're able to play it in the 5 positions, you'll want to start playing them in all 12 keys in position. As a jazz player and improviser, you must be able to play in all keys and this exercise that I'm about to show you is imperative.
Let's start by playing the scales in the 1st position of the fretboard. We won't use open strings and won't go past the 5th fret. The reason for playing in a limited range is that we rely less on muscle memory, and are forced to think and hear the notes more often. When you play in a limited region on the fretboard, there are too many fingering possibilities and therefore using one shape just won't cut it.
Before you start playing the scales this way, write out and eventually memorize all the 12 keys. Something like this...
Bb C D Eb F G A Bb
Start with the key of C, and progress up in 4ths: F, Bb, Eb, Ab, etc.. (there will be 3 overlapping keys).
When playing the scales, make sure you're able to identify all the notes of the scale. Practice them in two ways:
One, slowly and deliberately while going over note names.
Two, rapidly but accurately, just tuning in to the overall sound of each key. This is also a great picking exercise.
Fingerings: Whenever possible use compact, closed positions. (playing within a four fret span and not stretching out by using two whole steps per string).
I recommend incorporating a metronome speed only after playing them slowly, cleanly, and accurately with zero mistakes. Your goal is to eventually play this exercise at 100 bpm using 16th notes, from one key to the next without a break in your picking. This will allow you to find notes quickly and execute musical passages on the spot. This exercise really opened up the insight of the fretboard for me. You'll soon be on your way to becoming a masterful musician.