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Mix up Playing Rock Guitar Scales with Different Ideas

rock guitar scales

Guitar scales can seem like a daunting thing to learn, especially without a good teacher to show you the way. Luckily we have Paul Gilbert here who knows all about which guitar scales you should know for playing rock and roll, and he'll make you learn to love practicing them too. 

Use the Pinky Finger!

As someone who's been teaching guitar since the 80s, Paul Gilbert has seen a LOT of guitarists play over the years. One particular issue he notices is that a lot of people like to tuck their little finger away and only play with either two or three fingers. No pinky?!

Although this doesn’t seem like a big issue at first, it can actually lead to major problems down the road - especially in areas where speed or continuity are essential. Not only that, but using only two or three of the fretting fingers is just a less efficient way to play guitar. It's much more fun with a pinky involved! 

rock guitar scales - pinky finger

So, Paul will often stress to his students to “use the pinky finger” - because it’s much easier to form a good habit than it is to break a bad one. Of course, using the pinky finger isn’t always easy (especially if you're not as tall as Paul), but a little practice can go a long way. 

… to help you increase your speed and accuracy

One of the main reasons why Paul focuses on using the pinky finger early on in his online guitar lessons at ArtistWorks is that most other techniques build upon using all yourfingers. If you place your hand on the guitar, you will notice that each finger falls approximately on a fret. When playing any scale you will typically use four frets to complete the seven note pattern. This is a great place to begin incorporating the pinky finger.

After just a few days of practice, you should notice an increase in speed. As you begin to flow through the scales and become faster, accuracy often becomes an issue. Make sure to keep switching the scales and keys you’re practicing. This will prevent you from memorizing only one pattern.

Accuracy comes not only from a scale formula and a walking sound but also the pattern that plays out on the guitar neck.

Major and minor scales are a great place to begin practicing techniques, as they include similar but slightly different fret patterns. As you begin to master these, you can move on to modes that integrate both major and minor scale patterns from a specific starting point. One scale that you’ll definitely want to focus on is the pentatonic scale.

Learning the Pentatonic Scale

The pentatonic scale is considered to be one of the most (if not, THE most) important guitar scales to know for playing rock guitar. This is a five-note (‘penta’) scale system that is embedded within the major and minor scales. With fewer notes and using all four fingers, it becomes possible to significantly increase accuracy and speed. While working to master all pentatonic scale positions, you will have many opportunities to increase your pinky finger work.

Check out this geat pentatonic scale exercise that Paul Gilbert teaches his students, it's definitely worth a try:

Experiment with Different Picking Styles

Last but definitely not least, the picking hand plays a critical role in efficiently completing finger and scale exercises. It doesn’t matter how fast your fretting fingers move if you can’t pick the notes. It is also in your best interest to learn different picking styles. These can range from an alternate picking technique to sweeping techniques. In any style, try to make sure you have a stable or anchored picking hand and focus on hitting the correct string(s).

Now it’s time to give reading a break and go grab your guitar and practice! Remember to have fun with it, May You Rock Well!

rock guitar lessons with paul gilbert

Paul Gilbert teaches rock guitar online at ArtistWorks, be sure to check out the free sample lessons! 

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