Practice Exercises


Practicing Scales and Scale Patterns on the Resonator Guitar can be helpful to your playing in many ways. Improvement to timing, tone, and knowledge of the Fretboard are just a few of the benefits these exercises can provide. If a player intends to play melody lines or improvise on the instrument, these exercises are invaluable.

This page describes the types of exercises generated by the Scale Analyzer. These can help a player become familiar with the Fretboard and skilled at the various moves needed for playing melody. There are probably other, perhaps superior exercises for accomplishing these goals. I do not suggest that every player should practice all the exercises described, but I do feel that any player can benefit from some form of practice of Scales in the Keys in which he intends to play.

Notation & Terminology

This Section describes the Tabulature generated by the Scale Analyzer for representing exercises. Also, terminology used throughout the website is defined.

Tab Description

The following defines the meaning of the various lines that make up the Tablature, using a G Major Scale as an example.

	      Scale Degree:    1  2  3  4  5  6  7  1   2  3  4  5  6  7  1     
Fret numbers for each Note:
	      First string:  |------------------------|----------0-----4--5----|
	     Second string:  |------------------------|----0--1-----5----------|
	      Third string:  |----------------------0-|-2----------------------|
	     Fourth string:  |-------------0--2--4----|------------------------|
	      Fifth string:  |-------0--1-------------|------------------------|
	      Sixth string:  |-0--2-------------------|------------------------|

Scale Degrees correspond to the Notes in the Diatonic Scale: 1 (do), 2 (re), 3 (me), etc. The vertical lines are measure markers, which may be helpful to define the timing (feel) for some exercises. It is assumed that all Notes are of equal length (i.e., Eighth Notes). No scheme is proposed at this time for representing exercises with varying Note lengths, although such exercises can also be very beneficial.

When the location of a Note on the Fretboard must be specified, it will be indicated by the number of the string and the number of the fret, sepatated by a backslash (\). Strings are numbered from 1 to 6, from highest to lowest pitch. The fret number for an open string is represented by 0. Thus, the F Note on the fourth string, 3rd fret is denoted 4\3.

Bar Movement

Each Note change in a Scale is referred to as a "move", which is accomplished by some type of manipulation of the bar. The different types of moves that are referenced are as follows:

Right Hand Techniques

Scale Exercises help strengthen both hands, and increase familiarity with the Fretboard. There will be many choices of how to play the exercises in terms of which finger to use for a given Note, and whether to pluck, hammer-on, slide, etc. The moves one uses to play the Notes will vary with the player's style and approach to the instrument. It is recommended that a given exercise be learned initially using the moves that feel most natural. However, when the left hand has become comfortable with where the Notes lie, additional benefit can be gotten from the exercise by varying the right hand technique.

Some players tend to use only two fingers for single Note playing; thumb-index, thumb-middle, or index-middle. It is good exercise to learn the exercise using alternating fingers (e.g., T I T I . . .) taking care never to interrupt the alternation by using the same finger twice in a row. The exercise can be varied by leading with the opposite finger, so that the entire right hand pattern is reversed.

Players who use three fingers for single Note playing may want to try the exercise using different pairs of fingers. Another technique is to attempt the exercise using a forward or backward three finger roll (uninterrupted) to play the Notes.

For Open Position Exercises, another variation is to use all hammer-ons, pull-offs, or slides where possible, thus minimizing the number of Notes plucked by the right hand.

There are numerous variations that can be formed by using combinations of the techniqes described above. Such variations can result in moves that are very awkward at first. But that's like a body builder putting more weight on the bar. Whatever awkwardness you overcome contributes to the general dexterity of your hands and will improve your playing.

Melodic Technique

The word "melodic" is used for want of a better term, since there is nothing particularly more melodic about this technique than any other. The term is borrowed from "melodic banjo style", which uses similar moves. Similar moves are also used in guitar styles, in which the they are often referred to as "floating".

A Melodic Move is defined as a case where a fretted Note is played above the Open Position followed by the next lower Note in the Scale played on a higher open string, or vice versa. Since open Notes must be in the Scale for Melodic Moves to be available, Keys that include all the open Notes (G, C, and D) offer the best opportunities. Other Keys that contain 2 of the 3 open Notes can also make use of melodic techniques.

Because Melodic Moves are, by definition, Free Moves, bar movement is minimal. Melody lines can often be simplified by one or more well placed Melodic Moves. During normal playing, one may use a mixture of Free, Closed, and Melodic Moves, as best suits the situation.

A feature of Melodic Moves is overlapping Tones, that is, a Note continues to ring while the next Note is played. Although this is a very pleasing sound, there are cases where one desires the Notes to be distinct. To achieve that goal may require some additional damping techniques, which are not covered in this discussion.

The following exercise illustrates the use of melodic technique, using all available Melodic Moves in the Key of G:

  1  6  5  4  3  2  1  6   5  4  3  2  1  2  3  4   5  6  1  2  3  4  5  6   1  

The above exercise uses a nearly complete Scale, visiting all the Notes except the 7th (F#). Tab for a complete G Scale can be generated by the Scale Analyzer.

Exercise Types

An exercise is a routine in which the Notes of a Scale are played in some defined order or arrangement. There are many possible ways to construct exercises that can benefit a player. The Scale Analyzer generates Tablature for Practice Exercises of two types: Scale Exercises and Scale Patterns.

Scale Exercises

Scale Exercises involve playing the Notes of the Scale being practiced in the order they occur, or in reverse order. The sequence of Notes begin on a Root Tone, proceeds Upward and/or Downward through the Notes in the Scale, and end on a Root Note, either the same Tone or an octave. Starting on a Note other than the Root is avoided because it can sound to the ear like one is playing in some Mode of a different Key. Scale Exercises are generated by the Scale Anlayzer using the Scale Method that is currently being displayed. If a Scale Map is being displayed or the Fretboard is cleared, generation of Tablature does not apply. Each of the other Position options specifies the part of the Fretboard of interest by a Fret Range or by a Note Range. The information that the user must provide to specify the Tablature varies accordingly, as described in the following sections.

Note Range

When the user selects a Position of "Low Octave", "Middle Octave", "High Octave", "Low&Mid Octave", or "Mid&High Octave", a Note Range is implicitly specified. The type of Tablature that is created depends on whether the range spans a single octave or two octaves.

One Octave: For "Low Octave", "Middle Octave", or "High Octave" options, Tablature is generated with the following Note sequence variations:

The Starting Root Tone (Low, High) must be specified. The following is an example of a One Octave Practice Exercise in the Key of C, Low Octave, Starting on the Low Root:

  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  1   7  6  5  4  3  2  1 

Two Octave: For "Low&Mid Octave" or "Mid&High Octave" options, Tablature is generated with the following Note sequence variations:

The Starting Root Tone (Low, Middle, High) must be specified. If the Starting Root is "Middle", the Starting Direction must also be specified. The following is an example of a Two Octave Practice Exercise in the Key of A, Low&Mid Octave, Starting on the Middle Root, Downward:

  1  7  6  5  4  3  2  1   2  3  4  5  6  7  1  2   3  4  5  6  5  4  3  2   1 

For Two Octave Exercises, Diatonic Scales only, an additional option is provided to allow the user to specify either 4/4 or 6/8 time signatures. If the 6/8 timing is chosen, Tablature consisting of 22 Notes is generated. This results in exercises that feel rythmically natural. There are four Note sequence variations, depending on the choice of the Starting Root and direction:

The Starting Root Tone (Low, Middle, High) must be specified. If the Starting Root is "Middle", the Starting Direction must also be specified. The following is an example of a Two Octave Practice Exercise in 6/8 for the Key of C, Low&Mid Octave, Starting on the Low Root:

  1  2  3  4  5  6   7  1  2  3  4  5   6  7  1  7  6  5   4  3  2  1 

Fret Range

When the user selects a Position option of "Open Position", "Closed I-", "Closed I+", "Closed IV-", "Closed IV+", or "Closed V", a Fret Range is implicitly specified.

For Open and Closed Positions, Tablature consisting of 25 Notes is generated. Although these Positions have a Tone range of less than two octaves, Practice Exercises are still constructed to start and end on the Root. There can be up to eight Note sequence variations. There are two Root Tones (Low, High) from which the sequence can start. And since it is possible that neither the High nor Low Root is the highest or lowest Note in the Position, the sequence may start Downward or Upward. Finally, there may be a choice of the Highest/Lowest Notes to use in the sequence. The the Highest and Lowest Notes are selected as a pair such that the practice sequence ends on the Root Tone it started on. The sequence variations are as follows:

The Starting Root Tone (Low, High) and Starting Direction (Upward, Downward) must be specified. If for those chosen options, the Highest/Lowest Note is ambiguous, that must also be specified. The following is an example of a Practice Exercise in the Key of D, Open Position, Starting on the Middle Root, UpUpward, the 2nd (E) and 4th (G) Notes as the High Note and Low Note:

  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  1   2  1  7  6  5  4  3  2   1  7  6  5  4  5  6  7   1 


Notice that this exercise could be varied by making the High Note the 3rd (F#) and the Low Note the 5th (A).

Patterns Exercises

The Scale Analyzer provides the option to generate Scale Patterns for Diatonic Scales, when a Note Range is specified.

Scale Patterns are repeating arrangements of Notes in the Scale. They are constructed by defining a pattern of Scale ordinals, and then a second pattern by adding 1 to each ordinal, then adding 2, 3, etc. For example, consider the Scale Pattern 1-2-3-1 in the Key of G, which corresponds to the Notes G A B G. The exercise would consist of playing:

	1-2-3-1,  2-3-4-2,  3-4-5-3, etc.

Which corresponds to the Notes:

	.               .               .
	G   A   B   G   A   B   C   A   B   C   D   B, etc.

A "dot" above the Note indicates the beginning of a pattern cycle. This convention is used in Pattern Tablature generated by the Scale Analyzer.

Descending versions of Scale Patterns are formed by subtracting numbers. In the specialized arithmetic used here, there are only numbers 1 through 7 and the addition and subtraction operations have the following, somewhat peculiar behavior: 7 + 1 = 1 and 1 - 1 = 7. This corresponds to "wrapping around" the end of an octave. It is important to Note that the numbers in a pattern do not represent Scale Degree. In a minor mode, for example, the first set of Notes in a 1-2-3-1 pattern would be Scale Degrees 1, 2, 3-, 1.

When practicing a Scale Pattern, one becomes familiar with all of the various Note changes contained in that pattern, including comfortable ones and those that were awkward at first. So when any of these moves are encountered in a tune or are desired during improvisation, they will be familiar and playable. More familiarity with a given Key is gained as each new Pattern Exercise is mastered.

There are many possible Scale Patterns, limited only by ones imagination. The patterns offered by the Scale Analyzer are as follows:

	2 Note Patterns:	1-3, 1-6, 1-2, 1-7

	4 Note Patterns:	1-2-3-1, 1-3-2-1, 1-7-6-1, 1-6-7-1

	3 Note Patterns:	1-2-1, 1-7-1, 1-3-1, 1-6-1, 1-2-3, 1-7-6

Because patterns consist of multiple Notes, they may "span" Position shifts. The Scale Anlyzer uses only the Notes that are displayed for the selected Scale Method, and is not guaranteed to present the most efficient way to play the exercise. It may be easier to play Notes that are not displayed, or even to use a different strategy moving up than moving down the Scale. In general, it is beneficial to practice variations of the exercises that use different Position Shift strategies.

Tabulature generated for Scale Patterns proceeds through the Scale once, either upward or downward. The direction must be specified. The following is an example of a "1-2-3-1" Pattern Exercise in the Key of G, Middle Octave, Upward:

  .           .            .           .            .           .            .           .  
  1  2  3  1  2  3  4  2   3  4  5  3  4  5  6  4   5  6  7  5  6  7  1  6   7  1  2  7  1  

When a pattern does not start and end on the Root, there can be some interesting behavior. The following illustrates some examples for two Note patterns.

The ascending 1-2 and descending 1-7 patterns are the same playing Scales where each Note is repeated twice:

			    .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .
	ascending 1-2:      1  2  2  3  3  4  4  5  5  6  6  7  7  1  1
			    .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .
	descending 1-7:     1  7  7  6  6  5  5  4  4  3  3  2  2  1  1

The following illustrates the similarities between some of the 2 Note Pattern Exercises:

			             .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .
	ascending 1-3:               1  3  2  4  3  5  4  6  5  7  6  1  7  2  1
			    .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .
	ascending 1-7:      1  7  2  1  3  2  4  3  5  4  6  5  7  6  1

			             .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .
	descending 1-6:              1  6  7  5  6  4  5  3  4  2  3  1  2  7  1  
			    .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .
	descending 1-2:     1  2  7  1  6  7  5  6  4  5  3  4  2  3  1 

Notice that the ascending 1-3 pattern visits the same Notes as the 7-1 ascending pattern, shifted by 3 Notes, and that corresponding Notes occur on the opposite beat (downbeat versus upbeat). The same is true for the descending 1-6 and 1-2 patterns. Because there are subtle rhythmic differences, and right hand techniques are likely to vary, it is beneficial to practice each of these patterns despite their similarities.