Master Scales Inside & Out With These 4 Exercises!

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Most guitar players practice their scales in a mundane routine of running up and down the shapes, but it’s time to shake things up and make your practice more exciting and effective with a fresh approach!

In the video above, I’ll introduce you to the best scale exercises for the ultimate scale practice, to not only give you some practical ideas on how to boost your overall awareness of note relationships, but also to help you truly master scales and learn intervals. Let’s see how well you really know your scales 😏

Throughout the video, I’ll be demonstrating all exercises using the major scale within a single neck position. However, for those of you who’ve been following my CAGED Fretboard Visualisation Masterclass, you’ll soon discover how to apply these exercises to different positions on the neck while understanding the role of each note you play.

These exercises aren’t for the faint hearted, so brace yourself for this one 😉

Exercise 1: Thirds

Our journey begins with a straightforward yet essential exercise to broaden your scale knowledge. Start by playing your chosen scale, but don’t just focus on memorising the shapes! Focus your attention to the relationship between the intervals you’re playing, and how each note fits into the scale.

In exercise 1, you will sequence through the scale in thirds. Here are the four variations I demonstrate in the video:

  • Ascend the scale in ascending thirds;
  • Alternate the direction of thirds as you ascend. For example, ascend a third from 1 – 3, then descend a third from 4 – 2, then 3 – 5, 6 – 4, and so on;
  • Descend the scale with ascending thirds;
  • Alternate the direction of thirds as you descend. This is the same as the second variation, except you’ll descend the scale instead.

Be sure to master these variations, as I will be reusing them throughout the next exercises!

I often tell my students to “say it as you play it”. Even better than that, try to hum or sing the intervals as you play them – that way you’ll also be training your ear! This exercise lays a solid foundation for the more exciting challenges ahead.

Exercise 2: Sixths

For this exercise we will increase the difficulty by expanding the relationship between notes. You will run through the same practice examples noted in exercise 1, but instead of thirds we will use sixths.

To clarify the alternating direction whilst ascending, you will play:

  • 1 up to 6
  • 7 down to 2
  • 3 up to 1
  • 2 down to 4

and so on. Remember to say it as you play it!

Exercise 3: Triad Arpeggios

Once again you will play each of the 4 demonstrations highlighted in example one, but with triads instead! This will begin to get much harder now, so don’t expect immediate results.

Exercise 4: Seventh Arpeggios

You know the drill by now! This is going to become very difficult by now, but is a real test of your interval knowledge and awareness.

Take your time! It’s ok to suck at this if it’s your first time! Persevere, and I promise that after a few weeks of practicing, you will have a much better perception of intervals on the neck!


In essence, these are the best scale exercises for a fresh and exciting approach to the ultimate scale practice, offering you a chance to enhance your awareness of intervals and notes of the guitar neck significantly. This will help you to break out of finger patterns and scale boxes, and instead make decisions much more intuitively without always depending on shapes.

Once you’ve gained proficiency in one key or area of the neck, feel free to venture into others or even explore the realm of minor keys! The possibilities are endless, and these exercises will undoubtedly prove to be a valuable stepping stone on your journey to master scales.

If you’re just starting out with these exercises, don’t be discouraged if it takes a few weeks to get the hang of them, especially as you explore different neck positions. If you’re looking for additional guidance, consider checking out my CAGED Fretboard Visualisation Masterclass. This class is all about interval visualisation across the neck and will give you the tools to work all the way from beginner to expert!

Darryl Syms has been teaching guitar for more than 15 years, and in that time has helped thousands of students across the world excel on guitar.

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