Scales, along with arpeggios, form the bulk of all we do on the classical guitar. Perhaps 20% of right hand technique on classical guitar is scale technique.
On classical guitar, we use scale practice mainly to train the hands. Other genres (jazz, blues, rock, etc.) use scales in different ways, with a focus on improvisation. On classical guitar, the focus is on how the hands move together.
Right-Hand Technique for Scales
- I/M Alternation – If you only study one scale technique, this is the one. The most common and useful right hand technique for scales is I/M alternation. This is the index (I) and middle (M) alternating. Alternation is the basis of most scale and melodic playing.
- String-Crossing – One of the main challenges of I/M alternation is moving from one string to another. So it pays to perfect your string-crossing. This will allow you to play smoothly at top speed.
- Avoid Rest-Strokes – There are two ways to play scales with the right hand: free strokes and rest strokes. We recommend using only free-stroke until the technique is fully ingrained. And only then introducing rest-strokes. This article explains the differences, and the reasoning behind this recommendation.
The Left Hand in Classical Guitar Scales
- The 5 Scale Shapes – These 5 scale patterns are the basis for most any other scale or pattern. These are often the most-used patterns in scale practice.
- Quickstart Guide to Classical Guitar Scales – This is a basic primer on guitar scale practice.
- The Chromatic Scale – This scale uses all the notes. Useful as an exercise, and it also occurs in pieces of music.
How to Improve Right-Hand Scale Technique
- Quick-Prepping – This practice technique helps you train your hands to work in a well synchronized way. It’s useful not just in scale practice, but in pieces as well.
- Scale Fragments – Use small bits of scales to work on the fine details of synchronization, string-crossing, connecting notes, etc.
- The Art of Legato Scales – “Legato” means smooth and connected. This tutorial discusses connecting notes beautifully. When done well, melodies sing and everything sounds more flowing and natural.
Increasing Scale Speed
For lessons on speeding up, see the Speed section. Note – “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” It’s more important to play scales in steady rhythm, with well-connected notes. Speed will naturally come as your hands ingrain the movements. (Just as we can now tie our shoes quickly, though we never actively try to speed this up. Speed comes from familiarity.)
The Inner Game of Scales – Mindset and Theory
- What’s the Point of Practicing Scales on Guitar
- Why We Procrastinate Practicing Scales
- Should You Learn the Segovia Scales?
- The Music Theory of Scales
- How Chords and Scales are Related
All Scale Articles
Below are all the articles tagged Scales.
- Classical Guitar Scales: Shapes Explained
- Classical Guitar Speed Bursts
- How Chords and Scales are Related (How the Guitar Works!)
- How to Play (and Practice) Accents on Classical Guitar
- I and M Alternation (Classical Guitar Right Hand Technique) w/ video
- I and M String Crossing
- Lessons in Music Theory for Guitar (and everyone else)
- Play Legato Guitar! Synchronize the Hands for More Fluidity
- Practice Guitar Scales: Introducing Variations
- Quick-Prepping Technique for Scales, Speed, and Solidity
- QuickStart Guide to Practicing Scales on the Classical Guitar
- Scale Fragments, for Fluid Scales and Melodic Mastery
- Scissors Exercise for I and M Alternation
- Should You Learn the Segovia Scales?
- The Chromatic Scale on Classical Guitar (What and Why)
- The Play-Prepare Double-Movement: The Two Actions of Every Note
- What’s the point of practicing scales on guitar?
- Why You Procrastinate Practicing Scales (and how to stop)
- Why You Should Avoid Rest Strokes on Classical Guitar (for now)