Want to make your scale practice both effective and fun. This post will highlight different ways of utilizing Baroque patterns to practice facility and creativity at the same time.
“Why do we practice 3 octave scales? “
This was the question I asked my teacher, Neil Smith, many (many) years ago when I first started learning classical guitar. I just never understood the
reasoning behind playing up and down the fretboard in 3 octaves. If I am honest, I still don’t! The occurrence of a bare 3 octave scale fragment up and down in guitar music is so rare, you might as well be looking for the Neverbeast with Tinkerbell. (Spoiler alert: they do find him – eventually! As I am sure some of you will also find 3 octave scales in music, somewhere.)
What we do need to do is practice scale patterns, they do occur, a lot! So you are better off filling your time playing patterns, than say the Segovia scale book! Controversial I know, but musical.
If you haven’t, check out the first post on the Renaissance period patterns
Food For Thought
And let me just add, you do need to practice scales (part of your routine at least) in the beginning, as it is the shortest route to improving your overall technique. You do not need to keep practicing them once your technique is established, with one caveat: unless you are still studying for exams, then you still need to. In fact it is counterproductive if you do. You are what you practice, and if all you practice is scales, that is all you really are going to be able to play well. And who the hell wants to listen to a guitarists play up and down scales?
Some Baroque Patterns
Right lets kick off the patterns chronologically. Starting with some ye-olde-famouse Baroque patterns that abound in these early styles. There are three patterns for each period, and they come straight out of the music. The patterns are pervasive and probably best termed public domain as they crop so often, either in that period or in music in general. (and by no means are these all the patterns)
So let’s dive into them with the 1800s legend and power walker – J. S. Bach.
Figure 1 & 2
Above we have two different Baroque patters from Bach’s huge range of works. The first figure is a generic idea, and one which Bach uses a lot, to change direction within a scale run; the second one can be found across all instruments and is a favored pattern of his, especially at the end of pieces. (Note the first note has been transposed up and octave for ease of execution here.)
Figure 3 & 4
Here figure 3, which is from Scarlatti’s famous Sonata, see the video below, which is utilizes rhythm to break up a scale fragment. This idea is then extended through the whole piece in various key centers. (Want some help learning this piece, check out this post on memorization –
Figure 4 is taken from Weiss’s Lute suite, and it utilizes both rhythm and a change of direction mid scale to provide interest. He then extends this idea across diatonic chords in the piece. Again it is a piece worth checking out.
Scale Pattern Dictionary
A top tip: (and one I got from Leo Brouwer during a course on composition) is to start keeping a dictionary of examples from music that you like. So, excerpts from pieces, but kept together as say: scale patterns, or accompaniment ideas, or melody. This is very similar to what jazz musicians do with their lick books. That way you will have a handy set of ideas at your fingertips whenever you might need to compose or improvise. I have already started one for you with the free download below. It has all the patterns above in it, along with a few pages of blank staves for you to write your own down.
Fluidity – Speed Bursts
Right if you have a burning need for speed, and let’s face it who doesn’t, then please check out these micro studies on getting up to speed with speed bursts. It is the one proven method that will improve your overall tempo and performance.
Interlocking Modes & Fretboard Geography
Ok, so you have your patterns, now what? Well they need to be practiced across the fretboard in various keys and positions. This is will help solidify your fretboard geography and the actual notes on it. Especially if you practice with a backing track whilst tracking changes.
Because that means you are being forced to think about the chords: where you are and where you are going! Not just idling in a half coma whilst you mechanically run through your scale shapes. (And yes I am guilty of that, for many years in fact.) How else do you run through two hours of scales a day! It is not done mindfully that is for sure.
So only practice for 20 minutes at time and do it with your full concentration on. You know you are doing it well and with the brain engaged as you should feel drowsy and want to sleep afterwards.
If you are new to understanding the fretboard, then please check out these handy tips for learning your notes.
How to practice these patterns, well there are two methods to begin with, see below. Two general patterns have been used to show how to practice patterns, once you get a handle on these use the Renaissance patterns above in the same manner.
- Understand the pattern and then take it through a scale, or mode. See below
- Pick a note and then play the fragment, pick another note and then play the fragment from it perfectly transposed. Try doing this in a cycle of fourths.
The patterns below are very general and are found every where in any style of music, they are a great starting point for getting to grips with scale patterning.
In sets of 3
Above is a general pattern that can be found in just about any style of music, a scale broken into sets of 3 notes, the brackets. It has a very distinctive sound, and is used today in jazz and metal guitar a lot, like a lot!
Here is the 3s in a scale fragment
In sets of 4s
Above is another very frequent pattern, sets of 4 notes. Again this can be found every where from the Baroque to modern times.
Scale Patterns Combined
Above is all the information from this section in one scale fragment: target notes, 3s, and 4s. This is what it looks like when you utilize this information to make your own scale practice routines. It is a fantastic way to get to know your fretboard at the same time as your music.
And that is it, hopefully this post has help you gain a better understanding of how to creatively jazz up your scale routine and make it more musical. If you found this worthwhile, consider getting these sorts of lessons in your inbox. It also means you get to ask me questions on any of the content.
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