Take it from the famous adage practice makes perfect. If you’re a guitar beginner who wishes to learn a firm technique and play well, you shouldn’t neglect the study of scales.
Dedicating two hours a day for practice can correct faulty hand positions and increase your fingers’ strength. As simple as practicing classical guitar scales on an air guitar helps solve several technical problems quickly.
How you practice scales will depend on your objectives. In this article, you’ll find classical guitar scales techniques to develop or hone necessary skills. If you’re prone to hand problems, these techniques are ideal to warm-up muscles, joints, and tendons.
As recommended by Andrés Segovia, father of classical guitar, exercise the use of “im,” “mi”, “ma,” “am,” “ia,” “ai,” and “imam” when you practice your scales. While Segovia only recommends using the rest stroke, you can also practice with free stroke.
1. Moving Through the String
The motion of the fingers on your right-hand is ballistic. They’re quick and explode through a string. Think of: all the joints of your finger moving in the same direction towards your palm. When you practice scale, follow these steps:
- Try to stay away from your guitar, then hold your hand in a loose fist.
- Allow your fingers to relax outwards, then close them into a fist quickly.
- Just as crucial as the motion through the string is the return of your fingers. At slow tempos, you can relax your fingers out to a starting position. At quick tempos, make use of your extensor muscles.
2. Finger Alternation
To stay relaxed when going fast, guitarists use finger alternation. Anyone can play fast, but advanced players can play quickly for a long time while staying relaxed.
Try doing a speed burst — a series of slow notes interrupted by a short burst of quick notes. Take it a step further through a speed burst of short strings of quick notes, then stop and relax. Begin with two to three notes per burst, then build it up.
It should feel like two big beats: first is the burst leading to the second beat (which is the last note).
3. String Crossing
If done wrong, string crossing can trip up a scale. When you practice, start with a quick burst of a few notes, then place your finger to play on the next lowest or highest string. To extend this further, do string crossing on two or three strings away (can be challenging for beginners).
Remember, your arm will carry your hand to new strings. That means a “position shift” will require moving the arm, wrist, and hand as a whole rather than collapsing or extending. This allows you to maintain a stable hand position 100% of the time.
Finger exchange is the most basic concept of classical guitar scales. As one finger finish playing, another comes down while the first finger relaxes and prepares for the next notes to come.
1. Hand Position
Having a stable hand position is a crucial first step when you practice scales. Establish a position wherein the large knuckles are parallel to your guitar’s neck and space between each finger. Your finger should remain a half-inch away from the fretboard.
After playing one finger, another comes down while the first goes off the string. Let your fingers relax so that it will spring away from the string naturally. At fast tempos, you may need to empty a finger quick enough.
- A good hand position is to set all four left-hand fingers – one finger per fret on a single string.
- Apply pressure on all four fingers, then relax.
- Continue this pulsing motion until it becomes natural.
- You can also press and release each finger while keeping the others down or pulse each finger while letting others relax over the fretboard.
2. Shifting Along the Neck
Sometimes, scales on classical guitar will include shifting along the neck to change position. Except in particular situations, your arm should always move as a whole with the hand as you play along the fingerboard. The arm does the moving while your hand goes along the motion and maintains a similar position.
- First, the left-hand thumb releases pressure and comes off the neck.
- Next, the arm carries the hand to the next position.
- Then, the thumb reapplies pressure, and fingers get set.
When shifting different positions, try to glide along and not press down. This ensures a secure shift and makes things easier when playing.
3. Shifting Across the Neck
When moving across the fingerboard, you may amend some forearm and thumb positions to access the strings. Start with a stable hand position, then place it on the neck. Next, move up and down.
Instead of allowing your wrist to collapse and arch, keep it straight, then move your entire arm up and down. Moving across the neck may make use of slight wrist rotation to achieve a smooth string crossing.
Do you really need to practice scales?
Practicing scales is crucial to maintaining and enhancing guitar skills. To be honest, the classical guitar repertoire doesn’t have plenty of passages of extended scales. So if you want to play a piece with many scale patterns, it makes more sense to practice and exercise those specific sets of scale than an abstracted minor or major scale.
When it comes to guitar technique, scales are believed to be the key to mastery. But no matter what you believe in, constant practice definitely has a good effect on your play.