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How important are scales?

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Postby Ness K » January 24th, 2011, 5:20 pm

Alright I've been playing for a couple years now and I'm proudly mediocre but one of my weak spots is scales...like just how important are they to your skill as a player? I mean I know that they help in soloing but is that all? Just curious
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Postby NoteBoat » January 24th, 2011, 8:09 pm

Think about it this way... the 'standard' guitar has 19 frets (which means that almost all guitars have at least that many), times six strings. You've got 114 places to make a sound. That's a lot of choices.

Scales let you organize the fretboard. If you want a particular sound, you choose a scale associated with it - and roughly half those notes won't be up for consideration.

By allowing fewer choices, scales help focus what you can do with your melody. Instead of being overwhelmed with the possibilities, you can narrow down just a few choices into (hopefully) the right one for your next note.

So that's really the practical reason for learning them. They can also be important as a yardstick for comparison - especially the major scale. Chord spellings and other scale formulas are easier to grasp when you view them against a single standard.
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Postby Minus_Human » January 25th, 2011, 6:08 am

I'd say they are, i never thought they were when i started - i was only into playing riffs etc.. :D
But on the whole knowing them now they made me a better player all round.
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Postby NEZTOK » January 25th, 2011, 12:58 pm

When I started I couldn't make a riff sound right to save my life. IT HAD TO BE RIGHT OR WHY BOTHER was my motto. So I didn't bother (lost some friends. :? ) After a really long while I stumbled over the pentatonic scale. I was playing it by ear so I didn't know what it was at the time. I've been obsessed with scales since...

As far as I'm concerned they can help with everything music related.
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Postby Ness K » January 25th, 2011, 1:37 pm

Thanks guys I think I understand it now. Special thanks to NoteBoat because your explanation was excellent.
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Postby kblake » January 25th, 2011, 4:30 pm

According to Scott Grove... not at all ! ! !

But do check out his Campfire songs... they are really good....
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Postby kent_eh » January 25th, 2011, 7:17 pm

Ness K wrote: Special thanks to NoteBoat because your explanation was excellent.

You'll find that they generally are.
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Postby Chris! » March 4th, 2011, 8:06 pm

NEZTOK wrote:After a really long while I stumbled over the pentatonic scale. I was playing it by ear so I didn't know what it was at the time. I've been obsessed with scales since...


I like that observation, NEZTOK. Makes me think that good-sounding music didn't come from using proper scales, but proper scales came from analyzing music that sounds good.
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Postby Liontable » March 5th, 2011, 3:20 am

Well, since the thread has been necro'd either way!

I prefer doing a mix of scales, and just playing. I used to play my scales pretty much all the time. At a certain point I found myself unable to play anything not in a standard pattern/up-and-down run. It was then I decided to just play randomly at a certin place on my fretboard, and listen what sounded good. I ended up with a mix of my pentatonic scale, and a few notes not normally included (nor in the blues scale). It probably is part of a scale, but this got me to use it effectively instead of purely relying on the patterns I knew.

It's not like that for everyone, but one of my weaknesses is settling too much into a routine to get out of it. :)
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Postby Minotaur » March 5th, 2011, 6:13 am

The extent of my knowledge of scales is limited to their function as keys to be played in, and their chords. I don't think running scales up and down the fretboard for its own sake is of any use. It's like knowing and practicing the vocabulary of a language but not knowing how to use it to speak the language. But if you know the root notes of the chords in a scale or key, then you are on your way, imo.
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Postby notes_norton » March 6th, 2011, 7:27 am

Most melodies are made of scales, scale fragments and/or arpeggios.

If you practice your scales and arpeggios, when you come across a new melody to learn, it will be much easier to learn and play the new melody because your finger habits and muscle memory will already be established.

I know scale practice isn't as much fun as playing your favorite songs, but if you include each practice session with some scale practice, you will eventually find learning future favorite songs to be much easier and you will learn them much quicker. Practicing the scales are simply a good investment for the future.

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Postby Kaspen » March 10th, 2011, 12:11 pm

Everybody that is a great guitarist knows scales, even if they don't know it.

Scales are a map. You can find your way to your destination by just mucking around and eventually end up there, or you can follow other people's direction and shortcuts and get there much faster. Both ways work, but I think going down the theory road is superior. Not saying the other way hasn't worked for other people too.
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Postby Johnny Lee » April 5th, 2011, 10:33 am

Hey, thought this'd be a good place to chime in.

I started out playing a lot of theory/exercises including scales.

1. they were boring
2. it wasn't music

Then I began just learning lots of solos and licks. That's when things actually started to click and make sense. Plus, it sounded good and kept me motivated to continue playing, unlike scales which bored me to tears.

I'd say practice scales a little, but knowing music is superior to knowing lots of theory. :)
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Postby s1120 » April 5th, 2011, 12:19 pm

Johnny Lee wrote:Hey, thought this'd be a good place to chime in.

I started out playing a lot of theory/exercises including scales.

1. they were boring
2. it wasn't music

Then I began just learning lots of solos and licks. That's when things actually started to click and make sense. Plus, it sounded good and kept me motivated to continue playing, unlike scales which bored me to tears.

I'd say practice scales a little, but knowing music is superior to knowing lots of theory. :)



I pratice scales buy spending a short time running through them when I start, then spend a wile taking those scales, and try to turn them into a solo/song/tune. Helps me get the scales down, but also teaches me a lot more, and keeps me learning and interested.
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Postby Johnny Lee » April 5th, 2011, 2:24 pm

s1120 wrote:I pratice scales buy spending a short time running through them when I start, then spend a wile taking those scales, and try to turn them into a solo/song/tune. Helps me get the scales down, but also teaches me a lot more, and keeps me learning and interested.


If you're making music with your practice, that's a good way to do it. Joe Pass used to do the same thing, just make stuff up. Of course his father was quite strict on him.
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