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Scales for Classical Guitar

Scales are the cornerstone for learning and developing classical guitar technique.  Whilst their benefits are largely undisputed in early stages of technical development, classical guitar players are often divided on their value once an advanced level of competency has been attained. 

What’s the Classical Guitar News Team's view on the value of practicing scales?

Basically, it doesn’t matter whether you use scales from a standard method or scale book (we recommend Scott Tenant’s Pumping Nylon as a must have for all classical guitarists, irrespective of level) or from a classical piece, their value is undeniable. For example, they are particularly beneficial after a lay-off of several days in re-engaging the fingers, regaining appropriate left and right hand synchronisation. 

Variation in practice is key. Try these...

But, practicing scales as a dry, academic exercise will do you few favours, rather be imaginative in your approach. Look to vary tempo, rhythm (simple and compound/triplet scales are particularly good), apoyando (rest stroke-nail comes to rest on neighbouring string), tirando (free stroke-where the nail comes up and away from the adjacent string), sul tasto (playing beyond the soundhole up towards the fretboard, ponticello (playing closer to the guitar bridge to produce a more biting and metallic sound) are just some of the variations you can build into your playing.  We at Classical Guitar News regularly adopt these approaches ourselves when practicing scales-enough said. 

Why should I practice scales?

Simply they are one of the best exercises for developing and maintaining left/right hand co-ordination, string cross, rest and free-stroke playing (not forgetting slurred, ascending and descending variants too!).  Off course scales cover both octave, thirds and even sixth’s playing. If you’re looking for a more musical scale work out, Giuliani and Paganini (for single note, 3rds and octaves) are hard to beat. Check out the links at the end of the article here (anchor link).

Try Practicing with one hand only...
                                            
But, there are also other exercises you can adopt too, based around the scale theme. For example, (for right handed players, iso-focating the right hand only so that the plucking hand only plays.  Trying practicing scales without the lefthand-easy? It’ll take some practice but this is a great way of isolating problems in both technique and piece playing since many of the problems we classical guitarists face surrounds the ability of our right hand to rapidly and accurately string-cross. 

Recommended Further Viewing & Reading

For further information and insight, we whole-heartedly advise checking out Scott Tenant’s "Pumping Nylon" book and accompanying DVD.   

If you’re looking for a pure scale-focused method then Segovia’s infamous, Diatonic Major and Minor Scales for classical guitar comes highly recommended.

You can also check out some of the grade books, the Toronto Conservatory Series is particularly good from this respect too. Check some of our recommendations right here now...

 

 

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Here's a selection of Top Tips from David Russell's website:-

Practice Sheet-always know where you are with your pieces
Play or not to play-ensure you select the music you'll enjoy the most
Damping basses-how to ensure you control that elusive baseline!
Trills-an essential but sometimes tricky part of guitar playing covered
Unusual Barrees-when conventional barrees just won't work

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