Learning and practicing scales is an important part of learning how to play jazz guitar.

One of the most effective ways to learn chords, scales and licks is to apply them into a musical situation.

The guitar scale exercise in this article is a fun way of practicing scales in a musical and interesting way.

This guitar scale exercise can be applied to any chord progression or combination of scales in the practice room.

To begin with, the guitar scale exercise is applied over a major ii-V-I chord progression in the key of C.

A popular substitution which is used over the V chord in this example is tritone substitution.

To outline this chord sequence the following scales will be used


D-7 – D Dorian Scale

Db7 – Db Mixolydian

Cmaj7 – C major scale


Most jazz guitarists tend to practice scales from the root upwards as seen in this example.


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The 1 guitar scale exercise every guitarist should know has helped students break out of this by voicing leading the scales from different degrees.



Guitar Scale Exercise Example 1


The first example is great for initially learning scales.

Once scales for chords can be played fluenty from the root, practice voice leading them.

This guitar scale exercise shows how you can practice scales by going to the nearest available note of the next chord scale.

This exercise is the basis for the 1 scale exercise every guitarist should know as it smoothly connects between the chord changes.

Connecting scales smoothly is particularly effective in jazz for longer flowing lines.

There are countless variations for this one guitar scale exercise which will be discussed throughout the article.


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Guitar Scale Exercise Example 2


The next example shows how a line can be created by adding a few embellishments to the scale exercise.

A triplet has been added in the first bar to add some rhythmical interest.

Note that this triplet does not affect the rest of the line because the 6th note of the scale is still on beat 2.

In the last bar, the major scale starts on the second degree so that the last two notes of the Mixolydian scale form an enclosure.

The line in C major is also more arpeggio based to break up the scales in the rest of the lick.


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Guitar Scale Exercise Example 3


The next guitar scale exercise is applied to a short ii-V-I.

When practicing this guitar scale exercise, you do not have to start the first scale on the root.

This example starts on the 7th of the Dorian scale.

A chromatic passing note is added in the pickup to create more rhythmical interest.


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Guitar Scale Exercise Example 4


The final example shows how the 1 guitar scale exercise every guitarist should know can be used in situation with dense harmony.

The chord progression used in this example is a III VI II V in the key of C.

There are no rhythmic tricks added to this example. It is the exercise in its original form and already sounds like a legitimate rhythm changes lick.


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I hope that you have enjoyed playing and working through each these jazz guitar scale exercise examples.

Personally, I tend to use the exercise to navigate over trickier progressions such as ii-V’s that are move in semi-tones or rhythm changes.

But you can use them over any tune that you are working on.

What do you think of this jazz guitar scale exercise?

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.



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