Quite Possibly The Funnest Way To Practice Chords, Rhythm, And Scales

A Minor Scale

Read Time 3 Minutes

Guitar Practice Time That Doesn’t Suck

You know what sucks? Practicing. Not just any kind of practicing, but the kind where you just sit there going up and down a scale shape at 80 BPM over and over. Helpful? Sure. Boring? Like you wouldn’t believe. Some people have the self discipline to maintain, but I being the guy that I am I cannot stand doing the same thing over and over, so when I practice things like that it really only goes so far before I’m off to something else to keep myself amused.

So what’s the miracle solution to make practicing scales, chords, and everything more amusing than monotonous? Let’s break it down into steps.

Step 1: Dust Your Metronome Off

The metronome will be as big of an asset as its ever been in a case like this. Obviously a metronome’s purpose is to help you keep you in time and on time. There’s no surprise about this, so you can guess step 1 is a relatively short step. Get your metronome or a drum machine or bust out one of your loops on your computer.

Anything you have available that can hold a steady beat. Metronomes are great because they are so vague on the rhythm. It’s all just the beat, so you have a lot of freedom to decide how you want the rhythm to feel. Drum machines and loops are good in that they cut a lot of that stuff out and just give you a rhythm to work with. Pick your poison and let’s hit step 2.

Step 2: Pick Your Positions

For this stage you’re gonna need at least two things. For the convenience of the example we’re going to say a chord and a scale.

I am going to choose Am as my chord.

Am Chord Chart
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And now I’m going to pick a scale.

A Minor Scale
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This is simply what I’ve chosen for example. To really set yourself up for improvement this would be best if you chose things you aren’t proficient with yet and want to improve on. The point of practice is after all to spend time perfecting what you can’t do already. Doing things you’re already proficient at does well to keep you in check, but doesn’t push you forward, so find something you suck at and follow me to step 3.

Step 3: Initiate Sequence: Practice

Ok. You’ve got a scale, your chord, and your metronome. Time to merge them all into one. All you need to do is set your metronome on a decent tempo to work with, 80 BPM is oft times doctor recommended so there’s a suggestion on where to start, and while we’re at it 4/4 is the time signature of choice. By now I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you those are also up to your discretion. If you’re trying to get better in odd time signatures or at faster/slower tempos, then by all means. Adjust as you see fit.

Once you’ve tweaked this guide to suit your needs you simply play the chord along with to get a rhythm down. After your rhythm is sorted out you break things into halves so to speak. Playing in 4/4 for example the first bar would be the chord strummed in the appropriate rhythm. The second bar would be a shift to the second position you’re working on and improvising within the shape you’ve chosen.

To give a simple visual to assist take a look at this.

Guitar Scale Tab
Click to Enlarge


You can see every other bar returns to the chord that’s holding the rhythm down. This exercises so many grounds at once and at the same time makes practice sound more like you’re playing a song than just playing around with things. You develop your sense of rhythm, if the two positions you’ve chosen are far enough you exercise your shifting, and for scales and arpeggios you solidify the shape to memory more strongly.

All you have to do is keep the groove going and it will start to fall into place. Next thing you know you’ll be playing music to improve instead of just going through the motions out of a feeling of obligation. There are so many different ways you can take this to improve yourself so let that creativity take over.

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Kyle Smitchens

Kyle Smitchens is the Guitar-Muse Managing Editor, super hero extraordinaire, and all around great guy. He has been playing guitar since his late teens and writing personal biographies almost as long. An appreciator of all music, his biggest influences include Tchaikovsky, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Steve Vai, Therion, and Jon Levasseur of Cryptopsy.

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