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Best way to learn scales?

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Estimable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 152
Topic starter  

My goal is to be able to play any scale (okay, just the common ones. I'm not learning the Hungarian 7th minor) in any direction along the fingerboard without particularly thinking about it. What would you say the best way to go about this is?


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Noble Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 2171

Assuming you know standard notation:

First, learn the fretboard.
Second, start playing 1 scale (say A Major) and play it everyway you can think of: on one string, on two connected strings, on two non-connected strings, in 1st position, 2nd position, etc. SAY the notes as you play. SAY the scale degree as you play.
Third, take that one scale and start playing it in thirds, fourths, fifths, start doing arpeggios, from music, all the while saying the note or the scale degree out loud (it's important to do both).
Fourth, once you have that scale down, do a related scale. For example, if it's A major, do the same with F# melodic minor.
Fifth, keep doing related scales until you can't think of any more related scales to do. The trick here is to learn not only the scale, but how it relates to the base major scale and the theory involved in the scale. If this get's internalized, the rest gets very easy.
Sixth, once you're out of related scales, move on to the next major scale.

This method will take a long time. You will also KNOW the scales when you're done.

You can learn box patterns in a couple of weeks, of course, but unless you know what you're playing, why you're playing it, and how it's used musically , those box patterns are pretty well worthless.

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Honorable Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 314

What I did was the "box" patterns over and over. It took me about a year to get some speed going, but maybe I'm a little slow. Starting with the Ionian scale in G Major, A Major, B Major...etc. Then the Dorian and so on, backwards and forwards. Once I knew the "box" patterns I learned how to move in between them and come up with some cool licks.

You still have to know what key the song is in, and it's realtive minor.

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Illustrious Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 8184

Well, I'm still working on it, but I have found that working the arpeggios ( especially the 7th arpeggios) into any scale that I learn helps a lot- as it gives me a better understanding of the note values I am using. I took quite a time to learn the major scale patterns but have found the arpeggios are the glue that cross links all the knowledge.