Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Boot Camp Part 5: Scale Fragments

This week in Doctrine of Woodshed we're diving deep into scale fragments.  We've touched on them before and used them in context of other lessons.  See: here, here, and here

This week, we're going to go through a scale fragment workout.  We'll cover left hand endurance, right and left hand coordination, fretboard knowledge and speed.  Scale fragments can become a vital part of your practice regimin, allowing you to improve several aspects of your playing.

So, what is a scale fragment?  Easy. Part of a scale.  Simple as that.  As a guitar player, I mean small parts of the boxes we typically use for scales.  We then loop them and play the fragment repeatedly.  Here are several different examples.









In the video, I'm playing them all with alternate picking.  This is an excellent way to work on coordination between your right and left hand.  At first, this may be a bigger challenge than you realize.  I picked the above examples because each one has a different picking pattern.  Avoiding consecutive downstrokes, "inside the string" picking, and odd-numbered note groupings can all make a scale fragment unexpectedly challenging.  Just follow our usual procedure - start ridiculously slow, pay attention to all the little details. Then, when you have it perfect, pick up the tempo in small increments.

But what if we didn't pick every note?  Well, that's a horse of a different color, and the beginnings of a gnarly exercise.  Play each one of the above examples again, but this time only pick the very first note.  After that, when you continue to loop the fragment, you sound each note with just your left hand.  Use a combination of hammer ons and pull offs (when staying on the same string) and left hand tapping (when moving to a new string).  Here are a few written out. You should be able to figure out the other examples.




This alone makes a great legato exercise.  Same as always - break out a metronome and start slow.  But what if we take it a step further?  Take one of the above examples, and see just how long you can loop it.  10 seconds? 20 seconds?  You may gain a new appreciation for just how long 1 minute is by trying to loop an exercise for a solid minute.  Don't forget the metronome!  No slowing down when you get tired - make sure you maintain a consistent tempo.

If you can handle that, what about doing each one for a minute - back to back!  Here's a video of me going through the first one to show you what I mean.  (Caution: listening to this can get a little tedious. Try playing along once you understand the process)



The above examples are intentionally different patterns.  But you can use similar fragments to work on your fretboard knowledge and practice scales.  Let's take a look at the A minor scale to see what I mean.  I'm using the pattern from fragment number 1, all on the E and A strings.





You could do something similar in one position as well, and on various string combinations.  You'll find that there are only 3 different patterns you'll ever come across in major scales and their modes.




This is something I'll come back to in a future lesson to talk about fretboard knowledge.  Being able to know exactly what note you are playing and how it relates to the key you are in is an invaluable skill that doesn't necessarily come intuitively to guitarists.  Once I finish the Boot Camp series, I'll take an in-depth look at how to improve knowledge of the fretboard.


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