Myths about learning anything on guitar abound. Here are a few about scales:
1. The CAGED System is great for learning scales.
I’m pretty sure it’s crap.
2. The more scales you know, the better you can improvise.
Any decent blues player will prove you wrong every time.
3. The Major Scale and the Modes are two separate entities.
If you’ve fallen into this trap, check out our free lessons and this article on modes.
4. You need to know guitar scales to play a good solo.
Not necessarily but it helps…
5. You can’t play the harmonic minor scale without sounding cheesy.
Hard to pull off but Allan Holdsworth manages it.
6. Once you know the pattern, you know the scale.
Knowing the pattern is only the beginning… Next comes the mammoth task of actually prizing some music out of a scale.
7. You need to be able to play every scale in every key in every position.
Not off the top of your head. Knowing how to do this in theory is more than enough.
8. One scale fits all when playing over changes.
It can do, but if you’re not aware of chord changes and modes then your solo will lack color.
9. Learning scales up one string is wrong.
This couldn’t be further from the truth, in fact, just as you can play vertically, horizontally and diagonally on guitar, you should learn scales in those same directions.
10. “Insert name of guitar hero” doesn’t play scales so they’re not worth learning.
Then do some SERIOUS ear training.
11. Running up and down scale patterns as fast as you can makes for a good solo.
Running up and down scale patterns, no matter how fast, will always be exactly that; don’t be that guy, your audience will thank you for it. If you must play fast then do it right.
12. “Insert technique” is the fastest way to play scales.
The rapid execution of scales is usually the result of a variety of techniques, used in a tasteful way, not one special trick.
13. It’s only worth learning scales on the top four strings.
Probably not a good idea as you’ll end up with huge gaps in your knowledge.
14. Modes are not scales in their own right.
That’s exactly what they are. See Modes: How to Avoid Years of Confusion.
15. You only need to learn pentatonic scales.
Don’t limit yourself, there’s a whole world of scales out there waiting to be explored.
16. You should spend 8 hours a day practicing scales.
You could… but you’d be neglecting other important aspects of guitar playing.
17. There are “5, 7, 14 etc.” patterns for each scale.
It depends who you ask but if you ask me there should only be TWO patterns for each scale.
18. If you learn scales you’ll lose your “feel”.
If you learn scales then just run up and down scale patterns when you solo, yes you will lose whatever feel you had. Scales should always be a means to a (musical) end, not the end product in itself.
19. No one knows all the scales there are to know.
Allan Holdsworth and Pat Metheny would probably beg to differ.
20. The harmonic minor scale is as exotic as it gets.
The harmonic minor scale is as cheesy as it gets; there are far more interesting scales to be learned. Check out the lessons or our Exotic Scales and Modes eBook.