Academy Articles

How do I memorize scales and notes on the guitar more easily and effectively?

Guitar Coaching
September 22, 20223 min read

Hello there, guitar slingers!

Today, I would like to try and suggest a different way of looking at scales. Something that I have seen that works well over and over again. The most important thing is you need to enjoy the process. There is no need to learn all the scales etc in order to create music. There is a lot of amazing music written by people who only knew a couple of scales at best. It is better for you to see it as a marathon. It is a lifetime endeavor. Not something that is going to be over in a couple of months or even years.

The next thing to consider is you do not need to end up using all of these scales. Just like when you are learning a language, you end up after several years of learning a language with your favorite words and your favorite expressions. You understand what is going on, but you are not using all the words that you have ever learned in your vocabulary.

According to my over 25+ years of experience as a teacher, I strongly suggest learning one or at maximum two or three different scales per year. However, when you learn a scale, you should not just learn one position of a scale and say “Ok! I am done”!

Let me illustrate — let’s say, for example, you want the Mixolydian scale. You need to learn the CAGED boxes, then learn the three notes per string patterns, and also the chords that fit well with this scale. Next, you learn the chord progressions that are used for this scale and then learn licks that bring out the sound of the specific scale. So, it is not as simple as learning a couple of positions.

You need to invest a lot of time in order to learn all this material but then you are less likely to forget what you have been practicing for this period of time. Do not try to cram all this knowledge into a short period of time. You are going to forget pretty much everything. It does not work this way. It has to become a part of who you are on the instrument. It is not something that you have to memorize in order to pass the exams and then it is ok to forget it.

What about the order in which to learn the scales?

Here is what I suggest for a rock player:

In the first year, work on learning the pentatonic, the blues, and then the natural minor scale. Once you are in your second or third year, then learn the Dorian, harmonic minor, and then the Mixolydian scale. You may have noticed that major scale is not on the list for the first 2 years of playing! The reason is, that the major scale is rarely used in rock music. So, even though it is very useful to have an understanding of it to help you with theory when it comes to learning shapes and playing with it, it is much less useful than the above-mentioned scales. At least in most styles of rock/metal music. Of course, there are exceptions like country, but usually, in most styles of music you are going to be using the other scales I mentioned before and that is why this is the order I suggest.

I hope this was helpful. You can watch the video below, where I explain this topic in more detail. If you’re interested in developing your guitar skills and reaching your music goals, please check the different Elite Guitar Coaching Academy packages and how you can get private coaching from me.

Ioannis Anastassakis

Born in the Greek island of Crete, Ioannis Anastassakis completed his Bachelor’s degree at the American College of Greece and subsequently studied at the distinguished Musicians Institute (GIT), where he remained as an instructor, after graduating at the top 1% of his class. He continued his graduate studies in Music, at the California State University, completing an MA in Guitar Performance, graduating Magna cum Laude.

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