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1/23/09

Learning the Jazz Guitar Scales

by Logan Young

When learning to play jazz guitar, you'll have to master learning the scales. Most jazz guitar players are led to believe that all they need to do is learn how to finger the scale and that's where their learning ends. When it comes time to play solos and improvs, they get frustrated because they find it hard to just play. The real problem is not that playing an improvisation is hard or beyond their skill. The real problem is that they haven't learned to master the scales as they thought they had.

Basically, there are five skills that need to be mastered because they set the foundation for your improvisation and solo play. If you don't master all five skills in your jazz guitar lessons, then you will have a difficult time doing the improvisation because you don't truly know the scale and as a result won't have a feel for the scale. The five skills are: ears, eyes, intellect, fingers and application. Let's see how they can work for us.

How-to #1: Learn to hear the sound of the scale so that when you hear a tune, you know what notes they are. This is an amazing skill that most people don't develop because they rely on music sheets, fakebooks and their teachers.

How-to #2: Learn to see the scale on the fretboard. Your eyes will help you develop technically correct hand and finger positioning technique when playing the scale.

How-to #3: Learn to play scales from any position on the fretboard. Know your gypsy jazz guitar inside and out. Once you learn the finger positions for a scale, practice playing the scale starting from the different notes.

How-to #4: Learn the music theory behind the scale. Know the notes, the tones and where the scale can be played in an improv.

How-to #5: Learn to use the scale in a musical way. Many jazz guitar players don't know where a tune might fit into a short improvisation. Mastering this area definitely will take some work, finding out what works and what doesn't.

Jazz Guitar Lesson: Chord/Scale


People can play music, but there are many people who don't know how to feel their way around a fretboard. They get lost without a music sheet and you and I both know that these players can't perform a solo at all. Instead of focusing on which jazz guitar amp to buy, work on honing your craft and working more closely with mastering the scales. Once you've thoroughly learned this technique, you'll be playing improvisations and solos like you've always dreamed of doing!

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