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How To Make Guitar Scales Sound Good

November 7, 2019


When it comes to improvising using scales many guitarists get into the habit of playing in a linear and predictable fashion. This is mainly because of how we initially learn scales, using sequential patterns on the neck. A question I often get asked is how to make scale movements sound more musical. In the first lesson on major pentatonic, we learned the importance of using target notes to give our scale movements more purpose and keep them connected to the backing music. But how we approach these target notes is also a key factor in melodic soloing. If you listen closely to some of the best loved solos out there you’ll notice that they often mimic vocal dynamics in terms of moving from one note to the next. The most memorable melodies, whether vocal or instrumental tend to avoid prolonged linear movements through a scale. So how do we escape the trap of simply running through a scale in straight, predictable runs? Once you’ve learned a pattern, you’ll know how to get from one note to the next in the scale’s natural sequence. But you’ll also know how to skip notes in the sequence. For example, in this major pentatonic pattern we could start on the 5 on the second string, and instead of moving down to the 3, we could skip the 3 and move to the 2 before targeting the 1. We could of course reverse this movement and skip a note moving UP the scale. Or we could play from 5 to 3, but skip the 2 before landing on 1. These are two simple examples of how skipping notes in the scale sequence can create more melodically interesting phrases. Now, when fingering these note skips, especially with pentatonic scales we’ll often have to use a technique called “rolling”. This is where we consecutively play two adjacent strings on the same fret, using the same finger for both. Using just one finger keeps our fingering economical especially when playing at speed. In the previous example, we’d fret the second string with the flat part or pad of our finger, just below the tip and then “roll” it to a more vertical position so the tip frets the third string below. This technique is quite subtle and takes some practice. But being able to roll will allow you to skip certain notes in a scale seamlessly. The rolling technique is also essential for many arpeggio patterns, especially for sweep picking. We can create exercises covering the entire pattern that use this roll technique. Such as this one… Once you can play through the entire pattern like this break it down, isolating parts of the sequence as a lead up to your target note. Try also skipping two notes in the scale sequence. For example… We can then experiment with combining the different sequences with linear movements. You can find more skipped note sequence ideas, with tabs, on the lesson page. We can make linear runs sound more interesting by staggering them. For example, here I play three notes down from the top… Now I take one step back in the sequence and play another three notes down… Repeat this sequence and you get the following… Simply reverse the sequence to move up the scale. Just like the skipped note sequences, we can break down this full exercise into small phrases that resolve to a target note. Pedal sequences involve playing one static note and alternating between that static note and a sequence of other notes. It’s quite difficult to explain in words, but here I identify the pedal note, or pedal point, marked in red. I then alternate this note between other notes in the scale. Again, the idea is not to play through an entire pattern using these sequences rather isolate small phrases that lead to your target note. Already we have countless combinations of skipped, staggered and pedal sequences to create melodic phrases. Once you’ve practiced each type of sequence individually, it’s time to practice combining them seamlessly. For example… Of course, you don’t want to completely crowd your solo with drawn out sequences so be sure to also include simpler phrases, that give your solo some breathing space. If you like, you can try out what you’ve learned in this lesson over my guided jam tracks. Try applying different sequence techniques over other patterns across the neck. There are other ways to bring your scale phrases to life, including techniques such as bending, slides and legato but we’ll look at adding those to our repertoire at a later time. For more help with the techniques covered here, including tabs, visit the lesson page. Cheers!

100 Comments

  • Reply Liz H March 9, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    Wow! All I saw was the title to the video because I've been using the linear approach for strength, speed….NOW I can really do something with those scales!! Very impressive video and lesson…so much I've subscribed!!! You have made my day by sharing your knowledge-THANK YOU!!!

  • Reply Tim Morphy March 12, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    These ideas provide a great framework for solos so appreciate you putting this together.

  • Reply AmEer Rai March 30, 2016 at 7:41 pm

    Thanks for lesson, this is what exactly i was looking for. It has always been my pasion to know more n mor abt guitar playing,
    i can play upto mark, can play fast n hard, slow n smooth knew some technique tricks, knew tab reading… But abt the scale no idea at all,
    scales are use for chord formatn. progressn, makin solos but how to learn them all what r their types n sub- types how many types of they are, major minor is something i understand but what these natural minor, pentatonic ,minr blues , dorian are,?? Hoping an answer pleaseee.

  • Reply Gevon Sutherland March 31, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    I love this channel

  • Reply Pelicruise May 13, 2016 at 2:32 am

    tone dictates melody and direction. know your gear and don't be a style-less guitarist, you're fine with that in mind. hastag winning

  • Reply GhostriderPossum May 24, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Just discovered this on youtube…this is absolutely great the best i found for my progress. I 'm a little bit stuck with my solos they sound too much noob pentatonic like and now i found this !! Thanks for this it is simply great this is what i'm looking for. I'm very motivated again to apply this at Home 🙂

  • Reply Rojo Wilson May 24, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    why would anyone thumb this down?

  • Reply Brain Panzer May 28, 2016 at 7:27 am

    Thank you for your work. Some of the best content on YouTube!

  • Reply Annunaki9 Velazquez June 10, 2016 at 9:31 am

    Thank you so much!
    This is what I needed.
    I couldn't find anything to do with the scale and this my friend will have me up for days!!

  • Reply Evan Deffley July 21, 2016 at 1:08 am

    Wow, this is excellent. Most informative video I've seen in a while, and not even 8 minutes long.

  • Reply ARIEL GARCIA July 27, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    thanks!!!! the best learning tool!!!

  • Reply Fista wong August 6, 2016 at 7:04 am

    backing tracks chords?

  • Reply jeremy janic August 17, 2016 at 10:00 am

    this is one of the best guitar channels on YouTube! Cheers!

  • Reply charly34831 August 17, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    I know you may never read this but I just got to say your fucking awesome.

  • Reply shrediknight August 28, 2016 at 5:02 am

    make a video on how to apply theory to songs , with song analysis examples

  • Reply ghostofgar September 7, 2016 at 11:07 am

    Amazing how you can be stumbling through youtube and stub your toe on a gem like this!

  • Reply Tyler October 18, 2016 at 1:21 am

    I love you Fret jam….

  • Reply Gerson Luis Lage November 21, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    Amazing way to learn…

  • Reply Adiel Sorto December 26, 2016 at 4:22 am

    That's owesome I didn't have any idea on how to make this melodic songs by just using parts of the scales, I like this pages

  • Reply Paul Jacques December 30, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    Another fantastically clear explanation on how to improve your playing! Brilliant stuff- thank you!

  • Reply SneakyRoninGaming January 16, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    so ive played guitar for almost 10 years, first peeked into scales after 2-3 years of playing, got lost, got frustrated, hated them with all my heart. Now, 8 more years later i find this channel, and my hate for scales grows to huge love and appreciacion 🙂 thank you fretjam, uve changed my view on scales 🙂

  • Reply larrimo s February 17, 2017 at 2:04 am

    Great stuff but the diagrams are tough for lefty players. I usually draw the diagrams for left handed use, takes some time but worth it.

  • Reply diceMEass February 18, 2017 at 7:13 pm

    I CAN GET A LOT OF GIRLS BECAUSE OF FRETJAM!!! THANK YOU!!!

  • Reply KM MINING March 3, 2017 at 7:30 am

    Quality… you have 1 more subscriber   🙂

  • Reply ASK 1-l-8 Channel March 5, 2017 at 5:37 pm

    Terima kasih, selama ini saya sudah menghafal scale, tapi rasanya saya miskin ide untuk menciptakan lick yang melodious.
    Video ini memberikan saya masukan yang bagus.
    Thank you
    From Indonesia

  • Reply Miles Fisher March 20, 2017 at 11:07 pm

    Thanks so much!

  • Reply GTBizo May 5, 2017 at 2:31 am

    excellent

  • Reply tangobayus May 14, 2017 at 2:08 pm

    Playing scales fast does not make you a great guitar player. Good melodies use a combination of intervals and note lengths, repetition and variation. Listen to Mozart.

  • Reply Spanish Guitar School Shah Fazil May 16, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    can't thank you enough…. hugs & best wishes.

  • Reply Jesus Torres May 20, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    Awesome

  • Reply GuitarGuy May 25, 2017 at 6:06 pm

    i like this but us yanks often use the ionian label for the first one and aeolian label for natural minor.

  • Reply Feathers Band Nepal June 22, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    I love u man

  • Reply Adivaldo Antônio Fernandes Benevides July 19, 2017 at 1:04 pm

    muito bom

  • Reply Arnoud July 21, 2017 at 12:04 am

    Amazing, I found my way to become a good guitar player

  • Reply Japhet Anciado August 5, 2017 at 9:37 am

    Best guitar teacher

  • Reply LIVE ROY August 7, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    ur the best @fretjam do helpful…

  • Reply Chewwy153qt August 22, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    How can there be 29 people who don't like this video and series?

  • Reply yosua yordan August 25, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    thank you fretjam …

  • Reply Rock Kk September 3, 2017 at 7:45 pm

    thanks man really helping

  • Reply Alex Giordano September 4, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    Thanks dude, this stuff is just what I was looking for, god bless you!

  • Reply Dhulia Bhaskar October 18, 2017 at 9:28 pm

    this is the best guitar tutorial channel I have ever seen

  • Reply _19cct November 10, 2017 at 3:15 am

    this is gold

  • Reply Foot Massage November 26, 2017 at 8:47 am

    Fucking love you

  • Reply Michael Wrigley November 28, 2017 at 12:24 am

    What an outstanding video

  • Reply Matheus de Souza December 6, 2017 at 11:48 pm

    Legendary.

  • Reply Malsawmtluanga Renthlei December 8, 2017 at 8:07 am

    thank you, for a guy who dint have time for class this is absolute heaven

  • Reply Michael J Echon January 25, 2018 at 2:40 pm

    You are an excellent teacher

  • Reply Handson Mefsut March 10, 2018 at 7:24 pm

    Crystal clear. The most concise thing ive ever watched on you tube and exactly what ive been looking for, for a very long time. Thanks for making this.

  • Reply Juan Rios March 23, 2018 at 1:52 am

    To fast to furious

  • Reply Ostariel Raekor March 23, 2018 at 10:02 am

    Stop saying fingering xD

  • Reply Dotmars March 25, 2018 at 4:23 am

    These comments sound… fake lol. I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember. I was unaware it was a technique with a name. Great tutorial nonetheless.

  • Reply gao ning March 28, 2018 at 2:58 am

    so inspired !

  • Reply Escape the Matrix April 18, 2018 at 7:01 am

    It's official – I can now 'Like' all your videos before I watch them.

  • Reply Alejandro Sastoque April 21, 2018 at 3:30 am

    Wow! Thanks for the great lesson.

  • Reply Yo Pauli April 21, 2018 at 11:25 am

    One of the most useful lesson I've seen on YouTube. Thanks

  • Reply TENE BAUM May 6, 2018 at 9:07 pm

    can someone please tell me what the scrambled numbers across the fret board mean? like the 8 8 5 8 8 etc

  • Reply Adnan Abdullah May 19, 2018 at 8:55 am

    oh wow. this is some REAL teaching, thank you so much.

  • Reply Aek Sinsang May 21, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    Another well thought out lesson

  • Reply Barrie Sansom May 23, 2018 at 7:52 pm

    This is really good and has just freshened up my solos instantly. Thankyou

  • Reply Japhet Anciado June 3, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    After months of playing I hated.minor pent, its like a car without its 4th wheel lol

  • Reply Jeffrey Norris June 18, 2018 at 11:33 pm

    FretJam is the one!! (44) Down votes? I'd guess they were by people with guitar channels, and they're jealous, or they were shredder-wannabes, and they weren't interested in actually learning to play the guitar properly. lol

  • Reply I suck at Gaming August 23, 2018 at 5:58 am

    The pedal note or system.. remind me of the sweet child of mine solo. Maybe i'm wrong..

  • Reply wa ja September 23, 2018 at 5:24 pm

    Excellent. Im so bored with linear scale phrases

  • Reply Shinychewbacca November 1, 2018 at 5:20 am

    The part of 3:40 sounds alike Marty Friedman's scenes

  • Reply Joe Jiles December 19, 2018 at 9:55 pm

    I really appreciate these Jewels you've given..thks

  • Reply Alias Smith January 11, 2019 at 11:06 pm

    I have abselutly no musical talent , bud I got it Fantastic explaining

  • Reply Elias Castillo January 13, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    Advice I was told that helps me is listen to the jam track first before improvising.

  • Reply Truth & Logical Minds January 19, 2019 at 6:01 am

    There's always that one guy or that one video that just makes it far more simpler than the other guy. I liked it.

  • Reply ao el January 21, 2019 at 8:47 pm

    I love everything about this channel

  • Reply Ali Eser January 22, 2019 at 11:03 pm

    what exactly is a target note?

  • Reply machia0705 January 23, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    Fret Jam is a powerful visual learning tool with superb verbal instruction.
    It’s one of , if not the best learning video series on the internet.
    Thank you from New Jersey, USA.

  • Reply Alex February 9, 2019 at 12:29 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Reply Cristo Pohodolus February 11, 2019 at 1:03 am

    Simply ….. effective as every lesson !!! Kuddos.

  • Reply D34tH x K1NG February 15, 2019 at 6:05 pm

    This is such an amazing video dude, got a new subscriber in me. Keep it up!!

  • Reply Swamp Fox Road February 19, 2019 at 10:14 pm

    I loved how this was explained. Thank you for this awesome video

  • Reply samiebuka May 4, 2019 at 8:18 pm

    I been watching you. Awesome!! What software do you use to make the lessons?

  • Reply sami satochi May 9, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    guyse how i can play with my friend like that i mean
    if my friend play a major – g major – f major – c major

    how i can use scales

    i only use the major of the a major and play only with thiis scales to g and f and c huh

  • Reply JZZY WLLMS May 20, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    How do you make scale movements sound more musical?

  • Reply sherif afifi May 22, 2019 at 1:29 am

    thank you, my Dear, but I can't understand this Numbers please I want to know I am a beginner

  • Reply cole ashmore May 27, 2019 at 12:27 pm

    Great content! It would be cool if you could do a lesson on surf/spy spegetti western etc. There’s very little out on the concept of use.
    Thanks again

  • Reply bob simons June 10, 2019 at 7:25 am

    i finger the shit out of some notes

  • Reply Prutiss Bartlow June 15, 2019 at 3:33 am

    And the monkey said to the man I can talk to you now
    Thank You
    Knowledge is truly power that unlocks an unconscious mind to become conscious how to become conscientious and welling mine is a precious gem.

  • Reply jim rogers June 16, 2019 at 1:13 am

    Where the hell has THIS been all these years????????

  • Reply Jon Doe June 27, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    your videos are a cut above

  • Reply choochoochooseyou July 7, 2019 at 4:17 pm

    So is this how all solos are put together? My mind is blown.

  • Reply jambeat757 July 12, 2019 at 1:53 am

    https://youtu.be/cVs6oRuWkLM

  • Reply machia0705 July 15, 2019 at 3:43 am

    This is excellent.

  • Reply Leksono Nanto P July 29, 2019 at 3:19 pm

    High Quality content!

  • Reply Wallace July 30, 2019 at 1:17 am

    Wow the demonstration at the end (7:16) is so beautiful.

  • Reply 1821712 August 1, 2019 at 7:58 am

    GREAT LESSON, THANKS. THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I NEED TO GET ME INTO IMPROVISING WHICH HAS ALWAYS SEEMED ALLUSIVE. YOU HAVE GIVEN ME HOPE. VERY INSPIRING LESSON. Robyn

  • Reply AM G August 3, 2019 at 9:52 am

    This was so helpful. Will help me understand what my favorite guitarists maybe doing. Also, gives me different styles to practice and combine. Thank you!

  • Reply Theo Kroukamp August 22, 2019 at 12:03 pm

    I have sen a lot of musical videos on YouTube and I have to say that this is one of the better ones that I have seen. That you for keeping it this simple and intuitive.

  • Reply Vincent Vegas August 29, 2019 at 8:08 am

    U r boring

  • Reply BARISTA Domz September 7, 2019 at 7:15 am

    Nice Bro it’s so helpful 🙏Godbless

  • Reply Celestial Body September 20, 2019 at 11:41 am

    Very cool video…thanks!

  • Reply Alex Samuel September 22, 2019 at 9:30 am

    Wow… just what I've been looking for all this while…

  • Reply Alejandro Roal October 6, 2019 at 5:03 pm

    This is what I exactly needed. Thank you so much… Great Info.

  • Reply Sameena Kausar October 14, 2019 at 2:02 pm

    Thanks for this wonderful tutorial !
    Accidentally stumbled on your channel but now wouldn't miss your tutorials.
    I had been looking for melody phrase construction,technique for so long.
    Subscribed your channel immediately after watching your video.
    Be blessed !

  • Reply ccmkoho October 16, 2019 at 2:35 am

    How is the 3rd above the root on the neck diagram? Last time I checked it was the 5th. Obfuscates the video

  • Reply Alex Davis October 19, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    Fretjam is hands down the best guitar lesson YouTube channel period!!! Thank you for touching on literally EVERY concept! Could and have already spent DAYS learning

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