The point of scales.

Discussion in 'Guitar Lessons, Tutorials & Tips' started by bob-bobby, Mar 14, 2005.

  1. bob-bobby

    bob-bobby Extinct or Banned!

    The point of doing scales is simply this: to show your fingers where the notes you need to make music are. Do you *have* to do scales to accomplish this? Absolutely not. There is only one absolute have-to in music: to make music. I'm not being facetious here; I'm serious. If you had only ten minutes a day to practice — which may apply to you, at least sometimes — are you gonna choose to play scales, or play tunes?

    If you said, "play scales," transcribe five Art Tatum solos, and watch the Exorcist with the lights off — backwards. Of course you're going to play tunes. Even if you're just strumming and humming and singing, you're making music. Playing scales, as they're traditionally taught, is not making music.

    And you intuitively know this: your ears *know* when they're hearing music. And when you hear *yourself* making music, you feel a sense of rightness, of satisfaction, like you're scratching an itch you've had for a long time.

    You sense you're not making music when, the first time you tackle a new exercise, you start thinking about baseball, or what's for dinner, or something apart from what you're doing. Your mind doesn't just wander; it takes a leave of absence. More accurately, it's like an employee you're not paying enough, who decides to go looking for another job.

    But back to scales: you want to practice them if you have the time. Scales condition your fingers to go to the right notes at the right time. Playing scales is like teaching your fingers how to do the Twist, the Tango, or whatever other dances you prefer. See, you could get out there on the dance floor without knowing how to dance: you stomp your foot and snap your fingers instead. And that might feel pretty good, though you might get strange looks from the people who are dancing.

    In the same way, you could get some musical sounds by hitting notes at random on the guitar. "Let's see, I feel like hitting fret 6, string 3, fret 5, string 4, and ..." I bet some people have actually learned to make music this way, and had a blast doing it. Still, you can get results in playing melodies quicker if you practice scales.

    ** Practicing scales shows your fingers where to go to play melodies on the guitar **

    And they do other positive things for your musical development, too: they teach you the notes on the fretboard, which will help you in learning new chords. They also give you material to improvise with for a solo.

    And here's something we went over in the Playing Guitar by Ear saga:

    * Practicing scales makes it easier for you to learn melodies by ear *

    How does it do this? By drastically reducing the number of possible notes you need to think about.

    It's like this: imagine you get dropped down in the middle of a jungle or an abandoned island. Think Survivor, okay? You know nothing about how to survive in the wild. But you strongly suspect that you can get some kind of food supply from the plants that surround you. Of course, you're correct.

    The only trouble is, eating some of those plants will kill you, some will merely put you in a coma for two weeks, and some might be pretty tasty and filling. But, unless you've learned about the *plants in this place* — like the notes on the guitar — you might be better off fishing for food.

    You know, these metaphors might be amusing, but I hope you realize how instructive they are, too.

    Therefore, if you have the time after learning to play songs, take just a bit of time to practice scales.

    Here's a scale exercise you can practice. You might find it more fun to play with the midi file, the Power Tab, or another player, instead of playing with just a metronome.

    First, here are some basic chords for a second guitar to play, while you practice the scales. Or, record yourself playing these chords, and then play with the recording. The left-most number is on the high E string. An "X" means "don't play anything on this string."

    x 3 2 0 1 0

    x x 0 2 3 1

    3 2 0 0 0 1

    Okay, now for the scale exercise itself.

    BPM=80, 4/4

    C Dm

    Gtr II
    Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q
    | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
    / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

    Gtr I
    Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q
    2 4 1 2 4 1 3 4 2 3 4 3 1 4 2 1

    (Finger numbers appear at bottom of tab.)

    G7 C
    Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q H W
    | | | | | | | | | | |
    / / / / / / / / / / /

    Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q H H W
    4 2 1 2 4 1 2 4 2 2 2

    Duration Legend
    W-whole; H-half; Q-quarter; E-8th; S-16th; T-32nd

    + - note tied to previous
    . - note dotted
    .. - note double dotted

    S - shift slide

    Duration letters will always appear directly above the note/fret number they represent the duration for. Duration letters with no fret number below them represent rests.

    Subhro and death_metal_fan like this.
  2. Rey1970

    Rey1970 New Member

    cool !! fun to read .
  3. death_metal_fan

    death_metal_fan oh goody, it's a woody!

    Great article bobby.

    In my opinion learning music theory is a pointless waste of time. My idol Chuck Schuldiner made some divine music and he always maintained that he didn't learn nor had the intention of learning even an ounce of theory and I see his point. If you keep learning scales you will be concentrating on whether you are playing the scale correctly or not, not how good the music you are making sounds. I agree with this view whole-heartedly and therefore have no interest in music theory whatsoever. Keep playing what sounds good to you, not what some damn book or website tells you.
  4. Subhro

    Subhro Argentina lost :"(

    cool .. :).. evn i don kno ny theory :p:
    nice post bobby ! reps 4 ya :grin:
  5. dharmatma

    dharmatma Banned

    ahh..well i kinda disagree with u there..
    learning theory is not a waste of time..i was self taught too..and then when i started learnin theory i realised how much time i could have saved in learnin stuff.
    agreed that most rock,metal musicians dont know much theory and still churn out quality stuff..but there are also loads of killer players who do know their theory and make awesome stuff.

    in my opinion uve got to know the rules before u can break them.
  6. dennis

    dennis The Bhangra King

    I totally disagree..its fking impractical to improvise without knowing scales.
    Ok, if all u wanna do is learn songs from tabs by wrote and play them then u dont need scales, but if u wanna improvise and make ur own solos i feel scales(and ear training) are imperative. U cant be an engineer without knowing maths, u cant be a doctor without knowing some Bio..similarly u cant be a lead guitarist without knowing some scales..period.
    I cant think of any lead guitarist who doesnt know/use a scale or two....rhythm guitarists, yes(cavalera etc)..but not lead guitarists.
  7. stoned_survival

    stoned_survival New Member

    i agree with dennis to the hilt man !!!u can neva think of makin music widout knowin various scales -----and when u improvise on them ----they generally sound good ----u cant just play any notes on the frttboard and think its gonna sound gr8
  8. Rey1970

    Rey1970 New Member

    There's a lot of people who play music without theroy I use both I was first taught by an old friend, he did not know much on theroy but his family background was musical!!!but he could reproduce any music he heard on any instrument, & yes I can boast on the old guy!! so my point and its my opinion,the older generation most of them did not use theroy, also they were more devoted & original with their music, also a lot of ppl who did not take school!!! could not read much fall in the same bracket generation depend on everything and they want to know it the fast possible way,while in the process foget to use their most valuable "instrument" their EAR because there is a lot more ppl going to school today and is the way they learn they are acusstom to this method of learning,many of the old players B.B king can't read music but he's got his own blues scale "box" how was music made in the"50 & so on no guitar tuner!! but we've learnt from them!!! so I would agree there's ppl who don't use theory because of their "gift" or not fortunate enough!!! and there's ppl like myself (most self taught but my intro to music was shown to me) who rely on EAR & THEROY to understand more fully what we play and why and how!!!etc.
  9. Addy Pant

    Addy Pant Highway Star

    Hey Bobby, copy-pasted this article haven't you?? I've read this somewhere, I think.
  10. Addy Pant

    Addy Pant Highway Star

  11. ssslayer

    ssslayer Banned

    oye death metal fan !

    not even a single death metal guitarist is uneducated in terms of music theory ...

    i guess that speaks for itself ... as to how imp and useful the theory is ...
  12. dennis

    dennis The Bhangra King

    rofl @ addy....bobby,chi chi least u cudve posted a link, didnt expect such plagiarism from a mod ....nowlets see what happens :p:

    and chuck shuldingers leads are forgettable to say the least( riffs are amazing though )
  13. annand

    annand the pessimist

    we all have our difference of opinions (isn't that always the case).

    scales are a series of notes that go together (it's like thinking in the box) - they sound cohesive and not out of place - and using it to compose music helps the musician to know which note to play next; which ones will go together.

    and ofcourse you don't need to learn scales to make music (it's your prerogative), but it does make things easier.
  14. light_of_erindi

    light_of_erindi New Member

    I hate learnign theory...!!..:)
  15. Quadrophenia

    Quadrophenia New Member

    when i think of theory..i think i start playing like a robot..very mechanical..''oh dont want to play that note!''..i dont know what it is..

    does anyone else share the same feeling? :annoyed:
  16. drunken_wisdom

    drunken_wisdom WiSeCrAcKeR

    hey dmf ...clear ur inbox dude....
  17. death_metal_fan

    death_metal_fan oh goody, it's a woody!

  18. amit82cse

    amit82cse Silent observeR

    Well, learning theory depends on your interest. If you have just started learning guitar then you might not have that interest in theory, what you want is to play this dam instrument asap. THeory requires deep undestanding of notes and chords. But once you have mastered these you would like to know all the magic that derived this wonderful instrument. You would be intereseted in how chords are formed, how to pick the notes in a given chord, what is the history of having 6 strings in the guitar, why the diameter of each string is different, what are the base frequency of each string, how does the chords of happy song differs from sad song.

    Its an ongoing excercise, the more you delve deeper, more you want to know. I feel this way. I delve even into the technical side to know whats the frequency difference between note A and B.

    So it depends on your interest. Having some knowledge of theory helps in understanding the chords/notes better that you are playing.
  19. aPocH

    aPocH New Member

    What so ever are the interests of diffrent ppl but the fact that "Theory helps" cannot be denied. I am a newbie and just started playin guitar (3 months), but my teacher has a very strong hold on theory and when he tells me the reason behind doing each and every thing in gutiar playing i kinda get things better.
    Knowing the ifs and buts about playing a certain thing in a certain way helps in developing an understanding abt what you just did. An as i mentioned i'm a newbie i find it hard to catch the note with my ears, and its theory that fills in this gap (ofcouse this has limitations ) when i try to play some riff on my own.

Share This Page