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Can you suggest any beginner level guitar exercises for learning scales, which are not too boring / repetitive for a casual listener?

Currently the only time I can find to work on improving my guitar playing technique is to insert some exercises when I play some songs for my wife and kids. However I don't want to bore them to death with straight scales and 16x repetitions, hence the question.

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Looking at scales in varying interval degrees is a great way to make scales more interesting. A good place to start is by looking at an interval called a third. The below exercises are based on 3rds and are great for learning scales, harmony, intervals and the fretboard all at the same time. You also can make them as interesting as you like when you apply varying rhythms.

The exercises below show the music and tab for Ascending/Descending 3rds as well as Ascending/Descending "stacked" 3rds . The rhythm is written in eighth notes. For a beginner feel free to use quarter notes at a nice and slow tempo.

The exercises and others like it can be found/explained at: philbguitar.blogspot.com/2012/01/ultimate-interval-workout.html

Ascending 3rds

When you get to "Stacked" 3rds (i.e. true stacked thirds would essentially be triads), you'll be playing the same quality/type of intervals, but you'll also be arpeggiating all the chords for the key of C. So you'll be working on melody and harmony at the same time. For example, the 1st triplet is C-E-G (C Major) the 2nd triplet is D-F-A (D minor), so on and so forth.

When you get the single note melody practice down, try to play the exercise as triads instead of single note arpeggios. So if you playe C-E-G all at once you'd be playing the C major triad, then if you ascended a third and played E-G-B, you'd be playing an E minor triad. Use that method to move up and down the scale and you'll start finding your basic triads all over the neck and you may even start hearing some pieces of songs or writing your own.

Ascending Stacked 3rds

Lastly, the exercises show the C major scale in 7th position, try playing the exercises in different positions to improve your fret-board dexterity. Also, some of the triads aren't possible in this position. If you find yourself practicing a specific scale, like C for example, find a beginner song in that key. A good one for the wife and kids in the key of C might be, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". Let me know if you can't find a good version, I'll write one out for you.

  • Thank you! This is obviously an open question with no single right answer. I do consider simple classical etudes or improvisation as well, but your answer comes closest to the original question, and definitely deserves to be marked as the accepted solution. – vdanylchuk Oct 8 '15 at 16:45
  • @vdanylchuk good luck with everything, music is my best friend – A. Evans Oct 14 '15 at 20:40
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You could choose a scale, find a backing track that uses that particular scale and try some improvisation. It's a good way to start 1, putting yourself under pressure when it comes to perform and 2, start to actually use the scales for real rather than just practicing them up and down in repetition.

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I warm up with some of Carl Czerny's 125 Exercises in Passage Playing by only playing the right-hand part. I use the fifth fret of the G string as the C above middle C when reading the music.

You can also look for classical guitar Etudes, which are specifically meant to be educational and/or technique-oriented pieces that are also musical on their own.

Finally, some popular music makes for great exercises. Some of the ones I use are Satellite by Dave Matthews, Jessica by the Allman Brothers, and Spain by Chick Corea (again, arranged for guitar).

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