GUITARGET PRACTICE #2: New Approaches to Playing Scales

Guitarget Practice

by Sam Russell

In this months’ Guitarget Practice, we are going to take a look at some different ways to play scales. We’re going to use the major scale as an example, but the ideas can be applied to any 3-note-per-string scale (and other scales with some tinkering). This will help you get some new sounds and break out of playing up and down scales. It will also give you some new ways to practice scales, which will help you memorize them faster and give you a more in depth knowledge of them, allowing you to be more creative and have less restrictions on your playing.

All the examples will be in the key of G major.

Starting Off… The Major Scale

To start off with, let’s quickly revise the major scale.

It looks like this:

Figure 1

And we play it like this:

Figure 2

We are going to take an intervallic approach to playing up this scale. By this, I mean we are going to look at playing it in intervals. Each different set of intervals will create some really unique sounds. When we play through this scale as tabbed out above, we are playing up in “seconds”, we are always playing an interval of either a major or minor second. Let’s look at how we would play this scale in thirds:

Figure 3The above pattern was one of my favorites when I first learned the modes! It’s also great for speed training.

We’ll now look at the remaining patterns, fourths, fifths, sixths, sevenths and octaves:


Figure Fifths:

Figure 5Sixths:

Figure 6Sevenths:

Figure 7Octaves:

Figure 8Closing Remarks

So there you have some new ways you can practice your scales. These new patterns will force your fingers to work a little harder, which in turn will give you more freedom when moving around in this scale, improvising and when it comes to writing your own music. You should find that each set of intervals creates a certain sound or mood. To really hear the effect of this, record yourself playing a G major chord, then experiment with playing these different patterns over the chord. Finally, to help understand how the exercises were made, look at them in relation to the scale diagram at the start. Then you should be able to easily apply these ideas to other scale patterns.

Leave a comment if you have any questions!
– Sam

GUITARGET PRACTICE #2: New Approaches to Playing Scales © 2015 Sam Russell. All rights reserved.


Sam is a UK based professional guitar player, who specializes in Metal and Neo-Classical music. After graduating with a masters degree in Astrophysics, Sam decided to pursue his love of music and studied at the British Institute of Modern Music for a year, graduating with merit. A personal highlight was performing Joe Satriani’s “Always With Me, Always With You” for his final performance. After leaving, Sam moved into teaching, eventually setting up his own guitar teaching business in West London, where he continues to help people unlock the potential buried inside themselves. Since leaving college, Sam has been studying with neo-classical virtuosoes Tom Hess and Luca Turilli, in the pursuit of constantly improving his technique, compositional skills and musicianship. To date, Sam has also attended workshops with Guthrie Govan, Bumblefoot, Vernon Reid, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and Ola Englund. Additionally, in summer 2014, Sam spent a week in America studying music business with Steve Vai and also interviewed musicians at Hellfest, in an ongoing effort to build networks and understand the mental approach of professionals at the top of their game – the most interesting interview being with Pår from Sabaton.

Performance-wise, Sam played live with a London based heavy metal band for several months (2013/2014), before deciding to start looking for more ambitious people. Previously, while at university Sam played at various venues across the north of the UK and performed regularly while attending music college.

Current projects include writing his debut album (due for release 2015) and transcribing and releasing Bach’s Cello Suite’s for Electric Guitar, available on his website www.SamRussell.co.uk

In addition to working on the music side of his career, Sam has been studying music business with Tom Hess since 2013. Elements of this program include how to add value to potential business partners, creating leverage (time and financially), reducing risk and creating win-win situations.




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