Guitar scales are an important part of learning the guitar. Playing scales can help develop finger strength, picking speed, and communication between the left and right hand. In today’s video, we’re going to show you an awesome guitar scale exercise.
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Major Scale Guitar Positions
There are plenty of different ways to play major scales on the guitar. Some scales can be played using open strings, while others use closed positions — meaning they don’t use open strings. To get the most out of our awesome guitar scale exercise, we’re going to focus on the closed position G major scale.
The closed position G major scale is designed to give your fingers a good workout. Each finger will be assigned a different fret to cover, starting with your index finger on the second fret. From there, each finger covers the next fret up until your pinky is on the fifth fret.
In the video, we explain the G major scale. Each finger stays on the fret, and you shouldn’t have to change your hand position when playing the scale. Before starting the exercise, make sure that you have the closed position G major scale down.
Pick Direction for Guitar Scales
As you continue to play the G major scale, make sure that your pick directions are alternating. Each down stroke with your pick should be followed by an upstroke. This is called the golden rule of strumming/picking. While there are always exceptions, this is a good rule to follow.
Gaining confidence in alternating your pick direction on the guitar will help you play faster. In addition, alternating the pick direction can help you conserve energy. By using the smaller motor muscles in your hand, you can limit the exhaustive movement of your whole arm.
By practicing the closed position G major scale with alternate picking, you can begin to play the scale much faster. Solidifying your pick directions will also get you in a healthy habit of minimizing energy while maximizing speed and efficiency in your guitar playing.
The Ultimate G Major Scale Exercise
While this exercise is being demonstrated on G, it can be used in a variety of scales. For maximum effectiveness, use closed position scales for this exercise. This will give your hands a better work out and it will help you understand the fretboard that much more.
- The directions for the exercise are as follows:
- Play the first four notes of the scale. Make sure your pick is alternating directions with each note played.
- Then, start on the second note of the scale — in this case, A — and play the next four notes of the scale.
- You should have gone one note higher in the scale.
- Next, start on the third note of the scale — a B — and play the next four notes.
- Keep playing the groupings of four, and continue advancing up the entire scale.
It might be difficult to play at first, but this scale exercise is a serious workout on guitar.
You might be wondering how to play this scale exercise more accurately or quickly. Fortunately, Tony gives some expert advice on how to play this scale exercise on the guitar. Focus on the groupings of four, and just repeat one grouping 10 times. This will ensure that those notes are under your fingers.
To build speed with this scale exercise, it is important to go about this slowly and methodically. The best way to build speed is to not realize you’re getting faster. Sounds counterintuitive, right? The reasoning behind this lies in slow and steady progress while making sure the notes are accurate.
To build your speed, start with a metronome on 90-120 bpm. This range is designed to help you find a comfortable speed. Play through the exercise until you feel comfortable playing along with the metronome. From there, you can bump up the speed by 5 bpm each time. If you struggle on a new tempo, don’t be afraid to lower the bpm by five and start again.
Tip: Combine this exercise with these beginner-friendly guitar scales.
Learning to Play the Guitar with Tony Polecastro
Thanks for watching this video, and let us know in the comments whether this helped your guitar playing. If you have any other tips, be sure to leave them in the comments.
If you liked this free online guitar lesson, you’re really going to love Tony’s Acoustic Challenge. Built by guitar geeks for guitar geeks, Tony’s Acoustic Challenge is a guided guitar learning platform that covers everything on the guitar. From soloing on the guitar to chicken picking to playing in your first jam session, Tony’s Acoustic Challenge gives you the skills you need to learn the guitar. Request an invite today to learn more!
I’ve been a TAC member since January 2018and I’m loving it, still learning and still getting better. This speed building exercise is definitely a good way to develop another part of my guitar skills. Thank you Tony for putting out this gem of a lesson.
This is a really fun exercise…… it’s 7:30 am and I’m playing guitar! I found it challenges my brain to remember where I started the last set of four and my fretting fingers to hit the right fret…..and I haven’t even tried the speed exercise yet. I have a feeling that this is gonna be important ……
What metronome app to you recommend?
There are lots of free metronome / tuner apps available for iPhone / android. My favorite is “GuitarTuna”:
Try googling and installing this free one, Tony:soundbrenner metronome app
Great exercise… Thanks
It’s like a roadmap. You cant get to where you want to go unless you know where you are. Great lesson and I will apply it . Now where did I put that metronome ? …
Just a thank you. I am a DInasaur Guitar Player 😉 who teaches children in Cambodia. I’ve been away from music theory for quite awhile and have found this an excellent exercise to impart to the kids. Cheers
Awesome Tony, I’m 55 years old started playing about 1.5 yrs ago, play everyday, just love it. Thanks for the scales, started watching you 5 months ago. Committed to being a guitar geek for the rest of my life….
Charles, Lake Arrowhead, CA
Great to see another novice 55er practicing/playing regularly. Thanks, Charles.
Maybe I sold my guitar too soon?? I couldnt squeeze the neck anymore and my hands are small…but I liked the “sound” of the string music. Well, no going back now bc I traded it for a uke. I gave up the guitar years ago and remember nothing. So im starting from scratch But I understand the reasoning behind fluidity and the scale patterns as it relates to tempo. Thanks for the tips Tony P I will work on it this summer break..
This is especially tricky with harmonic minors. Excellent tongue twister for the right hand.
is there a tab for this scale exercise?
i can’t seem to figure it out 🙄
Thanks, Tony, for the reminders that form is more important than speed and to use the metronome. No shame for me starting at 92 BPM.
The G-scale shape has been great for me, because that’s often the key I sing in. Singing the note names (G–A–B–C–D–E–F#) of the scale helps me familiarize myself with the fretboard and builds confidence. What also is helpful for me–a little twist on the first-four-notes-thing–is to play the thirds: 1-3-2-4, 2-4-3-5, 3-5-4-6, 4-6-5-7 (G-B-A-C, A-C-B-D, B-D-C-E, C-E-D-F#, D-F#-E-G).
It is great!
Enjoyed watching your scale exercise. I am a 62yr old beginner and have watched your fretboard workshop twice. Watching videos like this one are an important deciding factor in which online guitar study method I hope to begin in the not too distant future. Your videos are thought out and well presented. I hope you keep them up. I also appreciate receiving your Acoustic Tuesday emails.
Hey Tony, I recently viewed your review on and then purchased an Emerald Amicus 12 string. I am absolutely in love with it. I am developing the left hand of a vise grip and it seems that to make it sound good capoed, ( i tune it so that I can play all natural major keys either open or capoed at the 1st fret.) requires a capo that will really clamp down on the strings. Have you played this thing capoed and have you found one that works well? The best one I have for it is a Shub. I have tried my Thalia. The Thalia is way to bulky. The Shub is better but still gets in the way behind the neck. I’m also concerned that clamping down that hard is going to mar or damage the neck. Any suggestions? ( since you are a major guitar accessory geek ) Thanks, Sam
Hi Tony I’m Canada so our dollar is a little less and I can only afford one lesson package,I am a fairly new beginner and know the common chords and that’s all! am I better off to enroll in the challenge or the fretboard wizard your promoting at the present time?
Thanks for the video, looks like a fun exercise and will definitely be using in practice. It would be great to see a tab on the bottom of the screen when you’re showing the shape of the scale. Another handy addition would be direction on the right hand, i.e. down vs up on the notes, as you only talk about the fretting hand.
good lesson but you went a little bit fast… maybe go slower on showing what strings we’re hitting and go over it a few times at the start???? also Is it important what direction your pick plays??? for example on each particular note is it recommended that you ALWAYS play that note on a down beat or an upbeat???? Or does it matter? Good exercise tho to make my fingers work better at mastering scales once i figured out what you were doing. thanks.