Guitar players love playing in box patterns, shapes and so forth. That way of thinking has its application, but if you really want to learn a scale – I mean get down to the heart of the matter – I strongly encourage you to learn the scale on one single string.
I tend to break things down into their simplest form. I guess I bring that old KISS approach to problem solving to the guitar. Learning scales is one area where keeping things simple has its rewards. In its most basic sense each scale is just a series of notes. The notes are played in a set sequence of intervals. It’s the intervals that give each scale its own unique sound.
If It Ain’t Broke, Break it!
I believe most conventional guitar methods complicate scales unnecessarily by introducing scales to guitarists crossing strings. It’s just plain hard to see the scale when you move across the strings.
Yes, I said see. Not hear.
The conventional methods sound exactly the same as the approach I’m going to introduce to you. But the difference is in the visual reinforcement built in to this alternative way of learning scales.
Lately, I have been playing and practicing my scales using a one string approach. I wrote about that in detail here:
In short, there is so much to be gained by actually seeing the intervals (spaces between the notes) when you have to move your hand up the neck. You see the climb. You see the distance. You see the interval.
Something gets lost for new (and sometimes no-so-new) guitarists when you shift strings and have to adjust for the differences in how the strings are tuned. I don’t want to confuse this issue, let’s just say that things aren’t so straightforward using the conventional, positional approach to learning your scales.
Give Me Some Scales
Hopefully, you’ll read this and feel compelled to practice your scales on one string. If so, grab the TAB for this lesson and give it a whirl. This lesson focuses on the blues scale in A, but I really encourage you to check out the introduction to one-string thinking here:
Then, move on and learn the minor pentatonic scale on one string by checking out this lesson:
Once you have those two down, you’ll be ready to learn the blues scale (or just practice it to get the same benefits) using the one string approach.
Good luck with this, it’s a fun way to shake things up if you’ve been playing and practicing your scales the same way for decades like I have and it’s also a great way to approach learning the blues scale if you’ve never delved deeply into it.
Enjoy and Play On!