Stop Running Scales!


Now, I’m not a huge fan of scale patterns but I’ve come to the conclusion that endlessly running scale patterns,perhaps as part of your practice routine, is a waste of time.

I remember the late, great Eric Roche also saying something along those lines in his theory classes back in music college, I imagine after seeing wave after wave of 3NPS widdlers. He remarked that running scales was a great technical exercise but had little to do with music. I couldn’t agree more. In fact, the only point of running a scale pattern is to transfer it from the sheet of paper to your head. Once it’s in your head there’s little point in running up and down it over and over unless it’s technique you’re after. I wouldn’t actually recommend it for technique purposes either as those patterns tend to get ingrained in muscle memory and besides, whatever you practice will eventually show up when you’re improvising. Your audience will most likely not be thrilled by hearing every note of the Lydian b7 scale, no matter how fast you can play it.

Practice what you preach

After I came across the two position system, I began to practice scales by making music with them, in other words, by practicing stuff I would actually play in public and as this system lends itself well to playing in different keys there is even less motivation for Malmsteen type antics.

But what about technique?

I came up with a few technical exercises to fulfill the need of running up and down scales for technical purposes. As you can see they’re basically the (3 possible) permutations of the major scale 3NPS patterns which amounts to the same thing as running scales only avoiding the rut-inducing patterns themselves. Enjoy!

Start on the low F and follow the pattern down and up the fretboard, as you would a normal 3NPS pattern, until you get up to the dusty end, then come back down.

Here’s the next permutation. Just like the last one follow the pattern up and down the fretboard.
And finally, rinse and repeat with this one.
This exercise can also be applied to the permutations of the melodic minor and harmonic minor scales for maximum technical prowess!

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