As guitarists, we tend to practice scales in a non-discriminate way; what I mean by this is that when we’re playing a scale we tend to treat every note the same way which makes for monotonous leads that don’t really sound like music. This can happen with any scale system, but it’s especially prevalent with 3NPS and CAGED System users through no fault of their own due to the massive (and unnecessary) amount of information there is to deal with. Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those ‘breaking out of scale patterns’ lessons; in fact, we’re going to stay well within our scale patterns and tweak them just enough to make our lines a little more musical.
Up Close and Personal
If you want to make music with a scale, it’s best to strip it down to its essence – a playable one-octave shape – so that you don’t have to worry about remembering patterns and juggling large amounts of notes. For this kind of exercise, I like to use patterns on the top three or four strings with an extra 7 thrown in to help with resolving lines. Here’s an example:
Here we have a one-octave C Lydian pattern with the intervals marked on the diagram. The extra 7 is just below the root on the G string, and will be of infinite help with phrasing and resolving. What a lot of players miss about scales is that not all the intervals in a scale were created equally and shouldn’t be treated equally.
By far the most important notes in a Lydian scale are the 1, 3, #4, and the 7; these notes give you the essence of the Lydian sound, while the rest play a supporting role. This means that you can’t give all the notes equal volume, vibrato, placement and use; you need to give more importance to the 1, 3, #4, and the 7. The first thing to do is mess around with this pattern but EMPHASIZE the important intervals; in fact, put your headphones on so that no one can hear you and really exaggerate the 1, 3, #4, and the 7 for a while to bring out that Lydian flavor. Once you’ve done this, try playing some regular lines and see how much better they sound.
The Shy Scale
I’d say the melodic minor scale is one of the shyest of all scales in that in the beginning, it’s hard to bring out the sound. At first it sounds like a major scale tacked onto a minor scale, then it just sounds weird and unusable, so you sling on a few backing tracks and you kind of get into it, but it’s not until you really exaggerate those 3rds and 7ths that you begin to coax out the real sound of the scale.
Use this one-octave pattern and see if you can get acquainted with the sound. If you can make it sound like the melodic minor scale without any backing, you’re on to something.
Getting to Know You
This is a great exercise to do with scales you haven’t used before. Check out this Dorian b2 scale:
The notes to lean on here are the 1, b2, b3, 6, and b7, so try to focus your lines around those while using others to support your lines. This is the difference between making music with scales and just playing random notes in the hope that something turns into a phrase.
Try this out with your CAGED and 3NPS patterns to see if you can make them more musical. It’s more of a challenge because of the number of notes you’re juggling, but you should be able to hear the difference.
If you like the above patterns, download the PDF below which contains 12 of them to practice with.