One of the most discussed topics and most musicians agree on, is that practicing scales makes you better on the instrument you play, whether it is guitar, piano, or cello. In this article, I will discuss the issue of classical guitar scales extensively, what are their benefits, and how you can benefit from your practice on them.
Benefits of practicing the classical guitar scales
Classical guitar scales combine many elements of techniques in one operation. It can make you better at:
- Switching fingers of the right hand i,m
- Left hand moving from one place to another on the guitar
- Left hand independence
- Easily move from one string to another
- Tune control
- The Rhythm
- Increase speed
- Dynamics control
- Knowing the locations of the notes on the guitar
And the list goes on.
In fact, of all the exercises out there for the classic guitar, scales are the most complex that combines many technique elements you won’t find in any other classic guitar exercise.
Scales also allow us to practice the individual elements apart from the music or the piece itself, thus not playing the piece mechanically.
The Big Mistake
Scales appear frequently in music written for piano, violin, and flute, and rarely in guitar pieces! In fact, it is very difficult to find a perfect one-octave scale in a lot of pieces, and when there is a long scale in a piece, it shows clearly because it is so rare! For example, a piece like this:
Another famous example is (Chaconne), but it was originally written for violin.
The written pieces for piano and violin are replete with many scales, which vary from Baroque music to the present time. Therefore, it is natural for the player of these instruments to constantly practice scales and make them part of their routine, due to the requirements of the pieces they play.
As for us, it doesn’t make sense to practice scales constantly in order to be prepared for some notes that may appear fleetingly in a guitar piece!
So why do we practice scales?!
Because they are tools.
Simply put, they are tools that can be used to focus on specific technical elements and techniques. Once these elements are isolated, they can be incorporated into the playing of music, which is the ultimate goal of the exercise.
Without a specific focus on practicing the scales, you will be wasting your time in vain.
Yes, the scale itself may become familiar and flexible, but given that there are so few actual applications of scale in the compositions, the practicing would be really useless!
Be clear about what you’re practicing for
Before you start practicing a scale, you need to define a clear purpose and function for that scale. For example, you can practice Crescendo and Decrescendo, or Stacatto, or on a certain rhythm.
Here is an example of a scale for the purpose of practicing Crescendo, Decrescendo, and dotted eighth notes.
The ways you can practice scales are almost endless, and to give you some inspiration I’ll list several examples below:
Using the fingers of the right hand im, ma, ia
Most classical guitarists only play with the two fingers i and m, and experiments have proven that these two fingers are the strongest without any doubt.
However, scales give you a chance to allow other fingers to practice, and two other fingers like pi or ia can have a different sound, a different speed, or a different tone.
Invest some time to learn about other options.
List of Objectives for Scaling Exercises
Here are some suggestions that you can apply as goals when practicing classical guitar scales:
Crescendo and decrescendo
Group notes of 5, 6, or 7 notes
Ponticello (near the bridge)
Tasto (near the soundhole)
Shifts – from one position to another
Classical guitar scales are wonderful. It combines many technical elements or techniques for the right and left hand, and we can add countless variations to customize scales practicing to our needs.
Just beware of falling into the trap of practicing scales going up and down without thinking, and without a clear goal.
Use them as tools to improve or perfect a particular technique or problem you have.
Be very specific about your scales practice. Speed, dynamics, accuracy, knowing the locations of the notes, changing the fingers, moving the left hand from one place to another, etc… All these are techniques that can be improved by scales.
As I mentioned before, most of the pieces composed for classical guitars do not have parts that contain long scales. Simply practicing the musical scales in order to play them only has a limited benefit in playing music.