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5 Essential Jazz Guitar Scale Techniques

Written by Matt Warnock http://www.mattwarnockguitar.com

Fun and Easy Ways to Build Chops and Open Up the Guitar Fretboard

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Introduction to the Scale Techniques


Welcome to my free guitar technique ebook and thanks for signing up for my weekly jazz guitar newsletter! In this book you will find five scale techniques that you can add to your daily woodshedding in order to better you knowledge of the fretboard, build your chops and become a better improviser. These five techniques are: 1. Intervals 2. Triads 3. Arpeggios 4. Digital Patterns 5. Legato Patterns All of which can be used in both a practice room and improvisational setting to maximize your time in the woodshed.

Practice Guide
So, how do you go about practicing these scales in order to get the most out of each exercise? Here are some of the ways that I like to practice scale patterns in order to build chops and develop my creative playing. 1. Practice in 12 keys at various tempos 2. Practice using different scales and modes 3. Improvise over a static chord or key center using only one of the 5 scale techniques 4. Write a melody or solo using a specific scale technique as the melodic basis for each line 5. Sing along with all of the above to build the connection between your ears and fingers If you are new to learning scales on the guitar you can still get a lot out of these techniques. Just visit my Scale Fingerings for Jazz Guitar Page to find information and notation for Major, Melodic Minor, Harmonic Minor, Harmonic Major, Symmetrical and Pentatonic scales for guitar. Now lets dig in and have some fun with 5 Essential Scale Techniques for Jazz Guitar!

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Scale Technique 1: Intervals


The first scale technique that well take a look at, Intervals, features groups of two notes run through a scale fingering. In the following examples, you can see that there are four variations to any interval that you are practicing: Ascending Playing all intervals upwards regardless of the direction of the scale Descending Playing all intervals downwards regardless of the direction of the scale Alternating 1 Playing the first interval ascending and the second interval descending etc. Alternating 2 Playing the first interval descending and the second interval ascending etc.

These four permutations are important to work through as they will provide you improvisational material, and prepare you to transcribe jazz lines as you will hear a lot of great players using these four approaches in their solos. I have written out all four approaches for the first interval, 3rds, but have only written one for each of the intervals after that, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths and 7ths. This way you can get the idea on how these four approaches work with 3rds, then work it out yourself with the other intervals to really ingrain these ideas into your hands, ears and minds as you work through them in the practice room. 3rds Ascending G Major Scale

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3rds Descending G Major Scale

3rds Alternating 1 G Major Scale

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3rds Alternating 2 G Major Scale

4ths Ascending A Aeolian Scale

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5ths Descending F Lydian Scale

6ths Alternating C Major Scale

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7ths Alternating B Locrian Scale

Bonus Material: Wes Montgomery Lick

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Scale Technique 2: Triads


The second scale technique we will look at is Triads. Triads, being a three-note chord, are going to focus on three-note groupings through scales as opposed to the two-note groupings we saw in the Interval section of the book. When practicing triads you can use the same four variations, Ascending-Descending and two versions of Alternating as we did with our interval practicing. For an added level of learning while working this technique, say the name of each triad as you play it through any given scale. Such as saying these triads for C major:

Cmaj-Dmin-Emin-Fmaj-Gmaj-Amin-Bdim

This will help you learn the neck at the same time as you are working on your chops. And if you are really adventurous, you can practice playing the first note of each triad, the root, and then singing the next two notes, the 3rd and 5th. So if you played a C major triad you would play the first note, C, then sing the next two, E and G. You can try singing along with yourself as you play through the exercises first in order to ease into this exercise, then you can take off the water wings, dive into the deep end and see if you can sing the 3rd and 5th of each chord after playing the root. Not easy, but a great way to take your ears to the next level.

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Ascending Triads C Major Scale

Bonus Material: Wes Lick 2

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Descending Triads G Mixolydian Scale

Bonus Material: Mike Stern 5ths Lick

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Alternating Triads 1 B Locrian Scale

Bonus Material: G7 Scale Pattern

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Alternating Triads 2 A Aeolian Scale

Bonus Material: Octave Pattern

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Scale Technique 3: 4-Note Arpeggios


Well now take a look at the final harmonic-based technique, four-note arpeggios. These arpeggios are built by adding a 7th to the triads from the previous examples, building a Root-3rd5th-7th chord off each note in any scale you are working through. Again, take your time with these, they will be tricky to master. If you are looking for inspiration, check out Mike Sterns lines, he uses diatonic arpeggios in all sorts of ways to create some of the most memorable solos in jazz guitar. As well, all of the advanced exercises from the triad section can be applied to arpeggios such as singing the last three notes after playing the root, and saying the name of each chord as you run them through different scales in your practice routine.

Ascending Arpeggios C Major Scale

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Descending Arpeggios C Major Scale

Practice Tip 1: Scale Fingerings


There are many scale fingerings out there ranging from one to three octaves and using a number of different finger combinations. So, how do you know which ones are right for you? There is no easy answer to this question, but for me I tried a number of different fingerings until I found ones that I like, and then from time to time I visit the other shapes to see if they have grown on me over time. If you are looking for a new way to play any scale, try finding the root on the 6th, 5th, 4th and 3rd strings. Then, play the scale ascending from that note using your 1st, 2nd and 4th fretting-hand finger. You might not like every pattern you find, but you might be surprised where this will lead you in your practicing and performing.

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Alternating Arpeggios 1 - G Mixolydian Scale

Practice Tip 2: All 12 Keys


It can be tough to learn any scale and scale pattern in all 12 keys on the guitar. But, at the same time it is an essential skill that we all need to develop. So, in order to make this a bit easier on ourselves we can use the Cycle of 5ths to slowly lead us from one key signature to the next in a logical and easy to follow progression. The cycle is: C-F-Bb-Eb-Ab-Db-Gb-B-E-A-D-G-C If you practice your scales in this order of keys, you are only adding 1 flat each time you get to the next key in the progression, until you reach your starting point of C again. Not only can this help you work through all 12 keys without simply sliding your hand to the next fret and repeating the fingering, but the Cycle is used in countless jazz chord progressions so you are also preparing to play over tunes once you get on the bandstand or in the jam room.

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Alternating Arpeggios 2 D Dorian Scale

Practice Tip 3: Going Slow


It is always better to practice very slowly then to race through any exercise, though it may not seem like it at the time. Going slow allows you to properly train your fingers to play with correct technique and to learn the movements they will need to navigate any scale, pattern or lick. As well, going slow allows your ears to absorb the new material that your fingers and brain are digesting, keeping them in lockstep with the technical side of your playing. Far too often I have advanced players come to me for lessons and, though they can play very well, their ears are far behind their fingers. Going slow can help prevent you from having this problem. And as John Wooden, or Michael Jordan depending on who you believe, said Practice doesnt make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

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Scale Technique 4: Digital Patterns


Well now take a look at four different digital patterns, which are note patterns that we repeat throughout any scale fingering that we are working on. The first two, 123 and 1234 are scale based patterns, while the second two, 13543 and 13576543 and mixes of triad/arpeggio ascending and scale notes descending to connect the pattern to the next note in the scale. If you have a rock background, especially you shredders out there, then these patterns are probably old news. BUT, even if youve gone over them before in your practicing to develop speed and dexterity, you may not have checked them out as an improvisational tool yet. So, try to take any tune youre working on and only improvise using one or maybe two of these patterns. See how long you can go with only one melodic device before you find your solo becomes boring, then see what you can do to spice it up. Try varying the rhythms and accents that you use, use different modes and other harmonic colors, just try and stick to the pattern but keep things interesting. Not easy to do, but an exercise that can really pay off when you hit the bandstand. 123 Pattern C Major Scale

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1234 Pattern C Major Scale

Practice Tip 4: Playalongs


One of the most important things we can do as improvisers is to hear whatever we are practicing against a given harmony. Far too often we find ourselves working out a device in the practice room that sounds great, but when we bring it to a jam or gig it just doesnt fit like we thought it would. To prevent this from happening, you can practice using a harmonic backing track such as Band in a Box or the Jamey Aebersold series. Taking a new melodic device and hearing it in a harmonic context can speed up your learning process while preventing you from getting surprised on stage when you take the material out into the real world. Try it out, a great way to maximize your time in the woodshed.

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13543 Pattern C Major Scale

Practice Tip 5: Learning Scale Shapes


Learning scale fingerings on the guitar can seem like a tough and boring process. But, we can use the geometric nature of the guitar to our advantage when learning these shapes, and by relating new material to stuff we already know we can make learning scales easy on the guitar. For example, if you already know a Major Scale shape, you can simply raise the 4th note by one fret and youve got yourself a Lydian mode. Or, you can lower the 7th note and youve made a Mixolydian mode. Easy huh? To dig into this concept further, check out my article: Jazz Guitar Scales Made Easy

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13576543 Pattern C Major Scale

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Scale Technique 5: Legato Patterns


The last of the 5 scale techniques is adding legato to your scale fingerings. Ive chosen to use a three-note per string scale in the first three examples, since you can see how the different legato patterns fit very easily into that scale. Then, in the last example Ive gone to the most traditional major scale fingering out there to give you an idea of how you can apply these patterns to any scale, regardless of fingering. The basic principle behind these patterns is that you pick two notes on each string and slur them, hammering on or pulling off depending on the situation. Here are the different patterns: 1. Slur between the first and second note of each string 2. Slur between the second and third note of each string 3. Slur between all notes on each string 4. Apply the above slurs when applicable and fingering dictates

Legato Pattern 1 G Mixolydian

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Legato Pattern 2 G Mixolydian Scale

Legato Pattern 3 G Mixolyidan Scale

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Legato Pattern 4 C Major Scale

Further Study
If you liked the above exercises and want to learn more, you can check out the following series of articles on my website. Happy practicing!

30 Days to Better Jazz Guitar Bebop Guitar Vocabulary Essential Jazz Guitar Scales Modern Jazz Guitar Techniques Practicing Jazz Guitar

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