a guitarist's occasional blog
Practicing scales isn't necessary for everyone. If your only ambition is campfire strumming, you can probably stick to learning the songs you want to sing. There is no shame in only strumming "cowboy" chords. We all have our priorities in life.
However, for students who wish to improvise, pick fiddle tunes, or play guitar solos up the neck, there is no substitute for learning scales. I've attached a free guitar lesson pdf. here with four C major scales for guitar that beginning students and guitar teachers might find useful.
Enjoy! Practice some scales, but make sure to play some music as well!
I recently taught Gene Vincent's classic "Be-Bop-A-Lula" to a beginning group guitar class. It's a great song for beginners with three chords: E, A, and B7.
I wanted to give my students a little taste of taking guitars solos. So I wrote a simple guitar solo using some common blues and rock & roll phrases over a basic 12-bar blues chord progression — the same progression used on "Be-Bop-A-Lula".
A lot of people try to begin soloing by wandering around a basic blues scale shape. I tend to think that sort of things leads to playing things that aren't very musical. I once saw an interview with Eric Clapton where he talked about constructing his solos as statements by stringing together musical phrases in a meaningful way.
Learning a the notes of a scale is like learning the letters of the alphabet. You have to organize the notes into musical words or phrases before you can start playing real, meaningful music.
The sample guitar solo I wrote for this lesson can be played as it is written. But each measure really represents a useful musical word or phrase that can be used over and over in other settings. Think about the first measure here; it's a musical phrase that can be used just about anywhere over a E or E7 chord when you are playing the blues or blues-influenced rock and country music. So think of each measure in this exercise as a word or phrase you can add to your musical vocabulary. As your vocabulary grows, your soloing will become more and more interesting.
Do learn to play this solo exactly as written. But then go back and switch measures 1-2 with measures 3-4. The solo works just as well. Or for something maybe a bit more surprising, simply play any one of the first four measures for the entire first four measures of E. It works! (Some of these phrases are reminiscent of Stevie Ray Vaughan's intro to "Pride and Joy".)
You can continue learning new musical words and phrases from TABS you find. But listen to players like Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, or Robert Cray. Steal their licks by listening. The little mistakes you make copying their playing will give your playing its own voice. That's what every one of those players did. So we can do the same thing!
My Vintage 47 is a Valco-style 12 watt tube amplifier that is built in California by David Barnes. This amp is an amazing blues and jazz amplifier with a classic sound. I picked this up right around the same time I traded out a beautiful Martin OM-21 guitar for a Gibson ES-335. I'm practicing with that combo these days in hopes of becoming a legit jazz cat in my later years — which seem to be just around the corner!
Chuck Cheesman writes hopeful, loving, and sometimes funny songs for people of all ages.
All materials ©℗ Chuck Cheesman
Banner photo by Gina Dazzo