1a. How To Practice Scales


The daily practice of scales will lead to coordination, fluency between the two hands, flexibility, vastly increased small muscle strength, and rapid development of technique if played properly. Be mindful of these points when playing scales:

Arch the fingers so each fretted note is played by the tip of the left hand fingers, like this:



NOT the pad between the tip and the first joint. THIS IS WRONG:


The wrist remains relatively stright to accomplish this:


Excessive curvature of the wrist gets the job done, but it is a very weak position and will tire the wrist and hand rapidly. THIS IS WRONG:


Correct position of the thumb is in the center of the back of the neck. Many players will let their thumb ride over top of the neck, or even wrap over it to play 6th string notes with the thumb:

However, for standard barre chords and scales, the thumb should drop down to the center of the back of the neck:


 Keep the fingers close to the fretboard.  A distance of 1/4 inch or so is optimal, but even 1/2 inch is good. The pinky, in particular, wants to wander up to several inches away, and must be trained to remain in position. This comes easily with practice. Remember, when playing a scale each finger is responsible for one fret only across the 6 strings, so by keeping the fingers in position you are always ready to play the next note.


This is referred to as the one finger per fret position:


      5  .Maintain the left hand finger on a played note until the next note is fretted. If you let go too quickly you will get the effect of staccato (short, clipped note). Legato (long, smooth note) is the primary goal; staccato can be achieved relatively easily thereafter.

6. Unless you are working on an advanced picking technique,  ALWAYS alternate up and down pick strokes with the right hand.

7.   Target each note JUST BEHIND THE SUCCEDING FRET. (See 43. 2 reasons to target just behind the fret) for more detail on this.

Most importantly, be patient! Start very slowly, and do not increase speed until you can play at your present tempo flawlessly. Use a metronome and track your progress. It is human nature to want to play something too fast, with poor technique and mistakes, 500 times for the 1 in 20 that will be correct. Golf instructors shake their heads at golfers, usually men, who bang away at the practice range with their driver, the one that hits the ball furthest but is the most difficult to master. They hit dozens in a row for the good one they get every now and then, while ingraining terrible habits. They would do a lot better to work on other parts of their game. It is easy to get drawn into the same thing on the guitar, and is definitely the type of thing to avoid. Establish good practice habits from the beginning and you will improve faster than you thought possible!

© 2012 Jim Greenfield