Classical Guitar Scales

classical guitar scales
Segovia believed that scales formed the most important aspect of guitar practising as they develop finger strength and accuracy.

In fact, he went as far as to suggest that one should play scales for about 2 hours a day!

While there is total agreement that scale practise is important for every musician (beginner or advanced), there is less agreement on how much importance should be given to scales within the practise regime of the classical guitar player. A common question is what percentage of our practise should be focussed on scales? Ultimately all practise is a balance between the time available to practise and the most efficient use of that time to achieve the best progress. Here, and in short, the question is how much time do I spend on scales with the answer resting on the shifting balance between the benefits gained and the time spent.

Another question that raises a lot of discussion and debate is how are scales to be practiced and also which scales are to be practiced. This gets even more complicated when you consider that scale practise involves left hand and right hand activity, both of which you are trying to develop through the scale practise. It also involves ear training as you are engaged in listening to the dynamics and the tone of the scale that you are forming. And above all it involves mental work as you test and realign your body physically and attempt to co-ordinate the physical aspects of finger strength and flexibility with musical articulation and tone and dynamic.classical guitar scales

Students generally focus on playing scales at breakneck speed. While developing a good speed is definitely an important reason for practising scales, it is by no means the only reason. In fact, there is little worse for the development of your technique and your musicality than scales played badly, with poor articulation and control. The attitude of playing scales in this way exists as one of the common errors for practising classical guitar scales. Click here for the 4 common scale practising mistakes that are made by classical guitar players which talks to the attitude that should be adopted for scale practise and the importance of and an approach for developing through scale practice your musical reflexivity.

The surest, easiest and quickest way to practise the scale is to start slowly. Very slowly! Increase the tempo slowly as competence is reached at each tempo. Use a metronome to guide your tempo, but do not use it all the time while you are practicing scales as this will result in your scales will end up sounding very mechanical.

Scales, well practised, provide the opportunity to develop the players musical control. Scales should be practised legato and staccato and should have minimum string squeak, particularly when shifting positions. The player should practise playing the scale along the dynamic range from pp to ff starting the scale with pp and gradually working up to ff and then back again and vice versa. Click here for further details on how to practice scales. classical guitar scales

The classical guitar scales series

This series on classical guitar scales includes a number of pages which you can access by clicking on the links provided.

  • Aspects related to how to practice classical guitar scales are discussed. The page talks about what to practise by discussing the selection of scales to practise and the order in which they are to be practised. It discusses the amount of time that should be allocated to scale practise with the answer resting in the balance between the benefits gained and the time spent. The page ends with a suggested scale practise schedule.

  • One aspect that serves to discourage are the challenges with selecting which scales to practice. Three strategies for doing so and four key guiding principles are provided in this page.

  • Classical guitar players (from beginners to intermediary players) frequently make 4 common mistakes when practising scales. Click here for the four common mistakes made in the practise of scales and the importance of using scales for your technical and your musical development through the enhancement of your musical reflexity.

  • This page on scale notes and fingering provides the theory related to the development of major and minor scales which will empower you to construct, by yourself, any scale required in the future. It also provides links to the notes and fingering suggested for major scales, minor scales and other scales required by guitar examinations.classical guitar scales

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Books on classical guitar scales

The practising of scales is a big topic and many books and chapters of books have been written on the topic. In fact, you can scarcely find a guitar method without a section of it devoted to scales. I’ve cited some of the best works on scales for the classical guitar below.

  • Dionisio Aguado, Metodo de guitarra Second Part II. This publication should be read within the context of the period in which it was produced. Nonetheless, it remains a pioneering piece of work for classical guitar pedagogy and contains octaves and thirds and many more.

  • Andres Segovia, Diatonic Major and Minor Scales. The fingering and position movement suggested in this method by Segovia has been adopted as the standard for most examination scales with this text existing as the standard college and degree text for classical guitar students. The contribution of this method, besides the important contribution of the fingering provided, is the ordering of the scales to be practiced with Segovia stressing the importance of practicing the major with the relative minor (and ofcourse vice versa).

  • Leo Brouwer, Scales for Guitar. In this method he challenges the idea that a scale is a simple exercise. He argues, on the contrary, that the performing skills required are complex as they present a number of difficulties and challenges. He proceeds to outline these difficulties and presents a series of exercises to address these.

  • Charles Duncan, Art of Classical Guitar. This book contains a great chapter that discusses scales and scale practice which captures succinctly the ideas contained in the other methods that I’ve indicated here and contains some great ideas for practice.

  • The Christopher Parkening, Guitar Method Vol 1 and Guitar Method - Vol 2 provides an excellent framework for scale practice.

  • Frederick Noad, Solo Guitar Playing - Vol 1 and Solo Guitar Playing - Vol 2 both contain a chapter on scale practice. These chapters focus more on the scales patterns that are to be practiced (which he provides) than on technique and musical development.

  • Scott Tenant’s Pumping Nylon contains a 10 page chapter on scale practice which focusses on developing ease and speed. This is an excellent chapter to work through no matter what level of guitar player you are.

  • Aaron Shearer’s method for guitar contained in his Classical Guitar Technique Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 are both standard texts and well worth having on your bookshelf. His Classical Guitar Technique Vol. 3, called Scale Pattern Studies for the Guitar, focusses specifically on scale patterns.

Useful Blogs on Classical Guitar Scales.

  • Simon Powis provides a good summary of the different ways to practice the scale.
  • Muriel Anderson, a composer and award winning guitarist, provides some excellent guidelines for scale study.
  • Creative guitar Studio provides great tips for planning and implementing scale practice.
  • Christopher Davis has a world of information in his blogs related to the left and right hand development.
















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