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At this point, you should know how to hold the guitar, proper left and right-hand position placement, the various parts of the guitar, guitar transposition, and the names and notational symbols for all the notes on the guitar up to the 12th fret. (If needed, please review Lessons 1 and 2 for this information.)

1) The Major Scale

Our initial exploration of the major scale will provide for us an important means of developing basic guitar technique while concurrently training our ears to hear: musical pitch (frequency) intervals (the distance between two pitches, both melodically and harmonically) chords (three or more pitches sounded simultaneously, traditionally comprised mainly of stacked thirds) arpeggios (notes of a chord sounded successively).


In upcoming lessons, we will use the major scale (and many other scales, modes and chords!) for purposes of improvisation and composition


There are numerous fingering possibilities for each scale, mode, arpeggio, diad and chord type. Scale fingerings are generally divided into two categories: horizontal fingerings (across the fingerboard) and vertical fingerings (up and down the fingerboard). For this basic course, we will learn 2 horizontal and 2 vertical fingerings for the same scale.

Lets start with the G Major Scale (horizontal, 2 octave) fingering illustrated in Example #1. Notice that this fingering occurs in 2nd position. A position is determined by where the first finger of the left-hand is placed. Although this G major scale fingering begins with the 2nd finger on the 6th string, it is the 1st finger placement that determines how the position is labeled. A position typically encompasses an expanse of four frets with the four left-hand fingers placed behind each respective fret. One may temporarily stretch back or up one fret while maintaining a position placement.

Play Example #1 very slowly -- paying careful attention to the left-hand fingering and the right-hand down/up picking pattern. Memorize the fingering and recite the notes out loud while performing this exercise. Make sure that you are holding the guitar properly and employing the proper left and right-hand positioning. For now, avoid using vibrato. Remember that the key of G contains one sharp (F#), so all Fs are sharp when playing the G Major Scale.

2) The Metronome

Now, set your metronome (drum machine, click track etc) to 40 beats per minute (quarter note = 40 bpm) and play each quarter note of the G Major Scale in Example #1 in perfect synchrony to the quarter note pulse (beat or click) of the metronome. (In 4/4 time, each quarter note equals one beat.) To test your accuracy, record yourself performing this exercise against the click of the metronome. Listen to the playback. Are you slightly ahead or behind the beat? Are you playing notes in the space between the clicks of the metronome? Strive to play exactly with each click of the metronome. If you are having difficulty, listen to the metronome for a while. Pay careful attention to the temporal distance between each click. Developing a consistently accurate sense of time is an integral ingredient towards becoming an accomplished musician. Accurately and consistently performing a variety of rhythmic subdivisions exactly with the metronomic pulse provides us with a foundation for understanding time. (N.B. ) There are, however, more advanced levels of time study that involve purposely playing slightly ahead and/or behind the beat for expressive purposes, employing accelerando or ritardando against a steady pulse, or concurrently employing multiple time grids.)

3) Subdivision: Eighth Notes

Now, lets play the G Major Scale in eighth notes (Example #2). To do this, we must subdivide the quarter note beat into two equal parts. There are four beats in 4/4 time whereby each quarter note receives one beat. By subdividing each quarter note into two equal parts, we create eight eighth notes in 4/4 time (Example #2). The first eighth note occurs on the downbeat of beat one; the second eighth note occurs on the upbeat of beat one. This downbeat/upbeat pattern repeats for the other three beats. Label each downbeat with its corresponding beat number (i.e. 1,2,3,4) and each upbeat with the and sign (+). Thus, eight eighth notes in 4/4 time would be labeled and counted as: 1+, 2+, 3+, 4+ (one and, two and, three and, four and).

Again, set your metronome to 40 bpm. Each click represents one quarter note. The speed of the quarter note is 40 bpm. Subdivide each quarter note into 2 equal parts (eighth notes) and play Example #2. You are now performing the G Major scale twice as fast as Example #1! The speed of a single eighth note is 80 bpm. (40 bpm x 2). Make sure you are playing this exercise cleanly and accurately before advancing!

4) Subdivision: Eighth-Note Triplets

To play the G Major scale in eighth-note triplets, we need to subdivide the quarter note beat into three equal parts. There are twelve eighth-note triplets in 4/4 time per measure (3 eighth note triplets x 4 beats = 12) as shown in Example #3. Label the first eighth note in the triplet with the beat number (i.e. 1,2,3,4); the second eighth note in the triplet with the word trip and the third eighth note in the triplet with the word let to form: one-trip-let, two-trip-let, three-trip-let, four-trip-let. Set the metronome to 40 bpm. Each click represents a quarter note beat. Evenly recite one-trip-let, two-trip-let, three-trip-let, four-trip-let. Play Example #3. You are now playing the G Major Scale three times faster than the quarter note pulse in Example #1. The speed of a single eighth-note triplet is 120 bpm (40 bpm x 3). Master the following right-hand picking patterns below:

Picking Patterns for Eighth-Note Triplet in Ex. #3: down up down, up down up (repeat for the next two beats) down up down, down up down (repeat for the next two beats) down up up, down up up (repeat for the next two beats)


Then try these: up down up, down up down (repeat for the next two beats) up down up, up down up (repeat for the next two beats) up down down, up down down (repeat for the next two beats) down down down (repeat for the next two beats) up up up (repeat for the next two beats)


5) Subdivision: Sixteenth Notes

To play the G Major scale in sixteenth notes, we need to subdivide the quarter note beat into four equal parts. There are sixteen sixteenth notes in a measure of 4/4 time. Count sixteenth notes as: one e and a (soft a sound) and repeat for the other three beats (i.e.: 1e+a, 2e+a, 3e+a, 4e+a). Set the metronome to 40 bpm. First practice counting sixteenth notes against the quarter note pulse, then, play Example #4. You are now playing the G Major Scale four times faster than Example #1! The speed of a single sixteenth note is 160 bpm (40 bpm x 4). (I changed the rhythm slightly in Example #4 {two 16th notes and an 8th note on beat 4, measure one} in order to have the tonic G note descend on the strong beat of measure two. Practice as written and as a steady string of 16th notes!)

6) G Major Scale in 3rds

Examples #5 and #6 provide an excellent exercise for developing both left and right technique by performing the G Major Scale in 3rds. G, A, B, C, D, E, F# comprise the G Major Scale. To perform this scale in 3rds, play the G note (tonic) on the 6th string, skip the next note in the scale (A), then play the B note on the 5th string, return to and play the A note on the 6th string, skip the B note and play the C note on the 5th string. Continue this pattern up to the high G (1st string), and then descend in 3rds to the low G (6th string) as in Example #5. By alternating down/up strokes between adjacent strings, the picking hand receives an ample workout! Again, set the metronome to 40 bpm and play the G Major Scale in 3rds as quarter notes, eighth notes, triplet eighth notes and sixteenth notes. Example #6 illustrates a slight variation to the eighth note triplet pattern by returning to the starting note in each triplet grouping.

7) Major Scale in All 12 Keys

Once you have mastered all the above exercises in the key of G Major (quarter note = 40 bpm), proceed to transpose each of the exercises to the other 11 keys ascending and descending chromatically (G, G#, A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, then G, Gb, F, E, Eb etc). Try practicing the G Major Scale and the G Major Scale in 3rds using one rhythmic unit when ascending (i.e. sixteenth notes) and a different rhythmic unit on the descent (i.e. eighth note triplets). Repeat this exercise for the other 11 keys, ascending and descending chromatically.

Once you have mastered all the exercises above, advance the metronome in 5 or 10 beat per minute increments and perform all previous exercises. Strive for accuracy, clarity and an excellent time feel.

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