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Getting into Acoustic Guitar Scales

Now that you have learned chording and bar chords, as well as strumming. It's time to begin to learn how to play scales on the acoustic guitar. Scales are great for many reasons, including:

  • improving timing
  • improving coordination
  • learning to improvise
  • learning lead guitar skills
  • learning to layer guitar sound when recording
  • learning about the individual notes on guitar strings and frets
  • and a lot more!

Scales can be frustrating at first, and should be practiced slowly to gain confidence, accuracy, and timing as well as learning to coordinate your brain and hands to work together. First develop accuracy and clean sounding scales. With time, increase the speed but never sacrifice accuracy as it will impair your growth and skill and produce poor habits. Additionally, make sure that your guitar is set well for scale playing. If your acoustic guitar is not of decent quality or if the action is set too high or too low, you will have a challenging and disappointing time learning to play the acoustic guitar well. If you have to make changes to your guitar, be sure to study them well to ensure that you have the best entry level acoustic guitar to fit your personal needs.

This initial scale development is not a typical scale one would play in a song, as it is purely chromatic covering only 1 string and 4 frets. You can alternatively practice this exercise on each of the 6 strings to improve your feel and coordination in picking on 1 string at a time.

How to start learning scales and improving coordination.

Start slowly and accurately. Take the left hand or chording hand and pick any fret to practice. The diagram will use the high E string (the first string) on the first 4 frets, but you can use any fret that is comfortable.

Take your left hand and first finger and place it on the first fret of string 1. Next, place the second finger on string 1 on the second fret. Thirdly, place the third finger on the 3rd fret of the first string. Finally, place the 4th finger on the 1st string, 4th fret. All 4 fingers of the chording hand should be on the first string, in alignment now and on consecutive frets, 1 through 4.

Repeat this process and do it in timing or rhythm while counting, 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4 etc. Try to focus on accuracy and consistent timing. If you have to, use a metronome or clock that ticks loud enough for you to hear and follow.

Now, use the pick to pick downward each time you place your next finger on the acoustic guitar string. In other words, when you place finger 1 down, pluck down on the same string with the pick, using your right hand 1 time. Then, in timing with the metronome or beat you are using, pick down as soon as your second finger hits the string on the second fret. Repeat the timing of the pluck or pick with each successive placement of the next fingertip of the chording hand so you are picking each time your next finger hits the string.

After getting comfortable with this, try alternating your picking so that you pick alternatively: down-up-down-up etc. You should pick down on fingers 1 and 3 and pick upward on fingers 2 and 4.

Practice this scaling pattern over and over and alternate strings as well as moving between strings. Always master these at a speed slow enough that your efforts are clean, accurate an coordinated. With repeated practice every day, your tempo will improve and you will be able to play faster and faster scales in no time. However, be sure to never sacrifice quality practice for fast, inaccurate guitar practice. Additionally, this exercise works equally well if you are an acoustic guitar player, bass player or electric guitar player.

The lesson provided by 20 plus year guitarist, Aaron from You can read more about guitars and acoustic guitar reviews by visiting Additionally, he has written reports from over 20 years of experience to help beginners and intermediate players to be more confident when learning how to buy an acoustic guitar.


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