Practicing scales has benefits and drawbacks; depending on your goals and preferences, it might be more or less valuable. In this blog post, I will explain the pros and cons of practicing scales and give tips on making the most of your practice time.
If you’re a beginner or intermediate guitar player interested in learning lead guitar, you may have encountered several conflicting opinions on the importance of practicing scales. While some guitar teachers and YouTube experts believe that focusing on learning songs, licks, and riffs is more beneficial than spending time on scales, others argue that mastering scales is essential to becoming a genuinely skilled lead guitar player.
It is understandable to seek clarification about the best approach when learning lead guitar. After all, there are plenty of different techniques, methods, and styles to choose from, and what works for one person might not work for someone else. However, there are a few good reasons why many experienced guitar players recommend practicing scales as a part of your lead guitar journey.
First of all, scales are the building blocks of music. They provide a framework for understanding the notes, chords, and melodies that make up your favorite songs. By learning scales, you’ll better understand how music works and how to create your solos, riffs, and improvisations. Plus, practicing scales can help you improve your technique, dexterity, and finger strength, which are all essential for playing lead guitar at a high level.
Additionally, practicing scales can help you develop your ear for music. As you become more familiar with each scale’s different notes and intervals, you’ll recognize them more easily in the songs you play and listen to. This can help you develop a better sense of pitch, timing, and tone, all critical skills for any musician.
Of course, practicing scales isn’t the only way to improve your lead guitar skills. There’s certainly value in learning songs, licks, and riffs, and you should also spend time working on those. However, incorporating scales into your practice routine can help you build a strong foundation for your lead guitar playing and give you the tools to take your skills to the next level. So don’t be afraid to give them a try!
The question again is, “Is practicing scales worth the time and effort?” Who is right, and who is wrong? I’m not sure, although I have a stack of scale help guides I purchased years ago that are collecting dust. I never found them helpful, probably because I became impatient and wanted to get on rocking:)
Where to Start?
The Benefits of Practicing Scales
Practicing scales can help you improve several aspects of your guitar playing, such as:
- Fretboard knowledge: Practicing scales can help you memorize the notes on the fretboard and learn how they relate. Knowing where all the notes are can help you find your way around the neck and play in any key or position.
- Technique: Practicing scales can help you develop your finger strength, speed, accuracy, coordination, and synchronization. Proper technique can help you play faster, cleaner, and more fluidly.
- Theory: Practicing scales can help you understand the basic building blocks of music, such as intervals, chords, modes, and harmony. Music theory can help you create melodies, solos, and chord progressions.
- Ear training: Practicing scales can help your ear recognize the sound of different scales and modes. A well-trained ear can help you improvise, transcribe, and learn songs by listening.
The Drawbacks of Practicing Scales
Practicing scales can also have some disadvantages, such as:
- Boredom: Practicing scales can be tedious and repetitive if you do it mindlessly or without a clear goal. Lack of focus can make you lose motivation and interest in playing guitar.
- Lack of musicality: Practicing scales can make you sound robotic and uninspired. Suppose you rely on them too much or don’t apply them to musical situations. It can make your playing sound dull and predictable.
- Overthinking: Practicing scales can make you overthink and overanalyze your playing if you get too obsessed with them or forget about the big picture. Dwelling on perfection can often make you lose your creativity and spontaneity.
How to Practice Scales Effectively
So how can you practice scales to maximize their benefits and minimize their drawbacks? Here are some tips:
- Have a clear goal: Before you practice scales, decide what aspect of your playing you want to improve and how practicing scales can help you achieve that. For example, if you’re going to improve your speed, practice scales with a metronome and gradually increase the tempo. If you want to improve your ear training, practice scales with a backing track or a drone note and try to sing or hum the notes as you play them.
- Be creative: Don’t just practice scales up and down linearly. Try to vary your patterns, rhythms, articulations, dynamics, and directions. For example, try skipping notes, playing triplets, adding slides or bends, playing softly or loudly, or changing the order of the notes.
- Apply them to music: Don’t just practice scales in isolation. Try to apply them to musical situations, such as songs, licks, riffs, solos, or chord progressions. For example, try to find out what scale is used in a song or solo that you like and practice playing it along with the original recording or a backing track. Or try to create your melodies or solos using the scale that fits the chord progression.
- Have fun: Don’t forget that practicing scales is not an end but a means to an end. The ultimate goal is to make music that sounds good and expresses yourself. So don’t be afraid to experiment, explore, and enjoy the process.
Learning lead guitar can be significantly enhanced by practicing scales effectively and intentionally. However, it is essential to remember that this is not the only tool, nor the most crucial one. Practicing other aspects such as rhythm, phrasing, expression, tone, and taste is essential to become a skilled lead guitar player. So, prioritize developing these skills alongside practicing scales.
Remember that practicing scales is not a shortcut or a magic formula for becoming a great lead guitar player overnight. It takes time, effort, patience, and dedication. But if you practice smartly and consistently, you will see results.
So what do you think? Do you practice scales regularly? Do you find them helpful or boring? If you have any questions or thoughts about practicing scales, let me know in the comments below!