How Do You Practice Scales? The 2 Important Scales And HOW To Play Them!

By Christoper Horton •  Updated: 02/09/23 •  8 min read

“How do you practice scales” is going to be a big question once you start playing guitar. There are two important scales to learn when you are starting out and today we go over everything!


How Do You Practice Scales? Everyone Starts Somewhere!

Learning how to play scales is one of the most important parts of learning guitar in general. Even if you never plan on playing a solo in your life, learning scales can give you some really great insight to how chords are built. Scales can be very important to any player.

But how do you practice scales? Well, first you need to know which scales you need to practice. But after that, you need to memorize the scale pattern. Once you have the scale shape down, you should probably start to use a metronome, depending on your goals. But a metronome will never hurt your practice!

How Do You Practice Scales Efficiently?

  • First, you want to find a scale to learn!
  • Memorize the scale shape and pattern
  • Play each scale starting with the lowest note to the highest
  • THEN, Play it backwards from highest note to lowest
  • Use a metronome to stay on beat!

The metronome is the most important tool in my opinion if you are trying to learn how to solo and build speed. But before you even start to think about playing solos, you need to know the right scales to play. Today we are going to go over the best scales to start with, how to play them, and how to use the metronome to practice!


How Do You Practice Scales? Well, You need SCALES!

How do you practice scales?

The first thing you need to know about playing scales, is the scale pattern themselves! If you have been playing guitar for a while, you have more than likely heard the word “scale” more than a few times. But maybe you don’t exactly KNOW what a scale actually is when it comes to playing guitar.

Scales are an organized sequence of notes that are either ascending, or descending. They are the building blocks of chords, and solos alike. It takes a different approach to play scales, as opposed to chords. Chords are static, where scales are based on movement.

Learning scales is very important whether you plan on becoming a “lead” guitar, or not. Scales can help you learn the notes on the fretboard, as well as teach you how to build chords from just a root note. You can learn the fretboard much faster if you understand how scales work. Learning scales can increase your entire guitar vocabulary.

So where should you start when it comes to learning and practicing scales? The first scale that everyone usually learns is the Minor Pentatonic Scale. This is a great scale to start with, and this scale is what most Blues and Rock music is based on. You will hear Pentatonic scales all over the place in popular music, and it is very easy to understand and learn.

how do you practice scales?

This is a super easy scale, and you can move this scale anywhere you want. You can move the root note-1-anywhere you want on the low E string. The notes will change, but the actual pattern does not change at all. Try moving it around and starting on a different fret!

The diagram above shows the most simple version, with the interval names listed. The “1” note is the root note, and you will hit the root note of A 3 different times in this scale! While this might be the easiest scale to start with, there are two that are the genesis of ALL other scales.


The Major And Minor Scales

How do you practice scales?
The Major Scale: Dorian Mode

The Major Scale is one of the most important scales to learn! If you notices the interval numbers, there are no sharps or flats across the entire scale. All of these notes are “even”. If you play it, you will probably think it sounds very familiar to your ears. Almost like a nursey rhyme?

This is because the Major Scale is used very often in movie soundtracks! The theme for “Star Wars” for example, or the famous “Superman Theme” are good examples of the Major Scale. It is the first mode in music theory, where it is called Dorian. This is the scale that all other scales branch off from, and create new scales.

The Major Scale should be the first pattern that you commit to memory, after the simple Pentatonic Scale. As you learn and practice other scales, you will notice that many of them are just altered version of the Major Scale. Likewise, the Major Scale has a counterpart that is just as important…

The Melodic Minor Scale

how do you practice scales?
The Melodic Minor Scale

The Melodic Minor Scale is the perfect counterpart to the Major Scale, and you can see that we added a “flat 3rd” interval to the Major Scale. But this changes the entire sound of the scale! Minor scales are often associated with sounding dramatic, sad, or moving.

So while the Major Scale gives us things like theme songs that sound bombastic and “triumphant”… the Melodic Minor can add a little bit of a dramatic sound. You often hear Minor scales in movies and TV shows during a dramatic moment, or a sad scene.

Once you have these scales, along with the Pentatonic Scale memorized, you can start to really understand how solos are written. You can also see where the notes of chords originate! For example, on both scales you have the root note and a 5th right?

That makes a power chord! Which we also call a “5th Chord” for that reason.

After you have learned basic chords and how they function, and you have learned how to play with fluid transfers, scales should definitely be next on your list. It can help you learn the notes on the fretboard, intervals, and even help you write your own chord progressions!

Learn these patterns, and memorize the shapes. Get familiar with playing the patterns, and then it is time to move on to the next step.


How Do You Practice Scales? With a Metronome!

How do you practice scales with a metronome?

Once you have the scale patterns committed to memory, then the next step is learning how to practice them properly. Just like learning chords, you should learn the scale well enough to be able to travel note note with ease. You should use a fluid motion, and be able to hit every note cleanly.

After that, most students want to learn how to get faster, and become all around “better” at playing scales. This is where the metronome comes in! You can use an old-school one like in the picture above, or a digital one. There are even some great phone apps that have a variable count metronome.

So how do you practice scales? I tell students that they should always start with a slow tempo on the metronome. You can start as slow, or as fast as you want…but starting out slow would be the best idea. You can start very slow in 4/4 time, at 60 BPM if you want.

The whole idea is to start slow, and then work your way up to faster tempos. This gets your finger dexterity in shape, and the more you practice-the faster you will get over time. There really isn’t any shortcuts to becoming faster or “better” at guitar. The secret to playing better and faster is practice.

So memorize your scale pattern, then practice it as slowly as you want until you get familiar. Once you get to the point that you are comfortable with the scale pattern, start using the metronome to fine tune your speed and accuracy.

The metronome will not only help you build up your speed and dexterity, though! It will also help improve your timing. Being “on beat” and being able to keep good time is much easier with a metronome compared to say, tapping your foot.


Wrapping Up…

Learning how to practice scales properly is the next step after learning chords. Scales will really open up the fretboard for you, and you can see where other guitarists get solo ideas from, while also adding to your whole “guitar vocabulary”. The scales we talked about today are the basis for all of the more complex scale patterns.

There are so many scales and patterns out there to learn! But every scale starts with the basic Major Scale, and either adds or removes notes from the Major Scale. We all start somewhere, as guitarists. Scales can open up an entire new world for you as a guitarist.

What Are Scales?

Scales are an organized sequence of notes that are either ascending, or descending. They are the building blocks of chords, and solos alike. It takes a different approach to play scales, as opposed to chords. Chords are static, where scales are based on movement.

How Do You Practice Scales Efficiently?

The best way to practice scales, is to learn and memorize the scale first. You should get comfortable with the notes and the pattern first. Then start slowly with the metronome, and build your way up!

Christoper Horton

Christopher has been playing guitar, bass, and piano for 28 years. He has been active in the professional music industry for over two decades. Chris has toured for years with several bands and music projects across the United States. He worked in Los Angeles as a studio musician and engineer working with many genres, but mainly Pop, Rock, and Metal. In between giving private lessons, he is usually recording under his various projects at home in Georgia. Christopher plays Schecter Guitars, BOSS Amplifiers, and uses STL Tones in the studio.

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