Essential scales - arpeggios

Classical Guitar technique: studies, scales, arpeggios, theory
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Paul Hammer

Essential scales - arpeggios

Post by Paul Hammer » Thu Sep 17, 2009 7:14 pm

I am a self-taught 63 year old, who wants to improve his playing.

I have a large book of scales/arpeggios (bought from a charity shop) for grades 3 to 8.

I know scales are essential - but I have never bothered with them.

Are there 4-5 scales/arpeggios one could do to really improve one's playing? Or, is is best to slog through all of them.

However, unless I live to 90-100, the latter is not an option.

Thank you wonderful people

Paul






If so . Which ones?

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Bernhard Heimann
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Re: Essential scales - arpeggios

Post by Bernhard Heimann » Sat Sep 19, 2009 7:30 pm

Hi Paul!

The answer to your question is not quite easy, since you didn't give us
a hint to what level your playing (as a luthier not a beginner, I suppose :wink: ).
Working through a thick volume of scales and arpeggios will probably be no fun, take a lot of
precious time and not end in the desired success. Some kind of teacher might be helpful
to choose the best exercises to improve your playing - and be the best time saver for you.
Posting a video of your playing might also help to find your strengths and weaknesses,
but there's no such thing as a real, live teacher - if only for a couple of lessons.

Bernhard :)

bastian8021

Re: Essential scales - arpeggios

Post by bastian8021 » Sun Sep 20, 2009 6:01 am

Hi!

Of course one can practice every scales and arpeggio possible but there are also essential ones that can improve your technique.
In my opinion here is a small list, that can help you keep your fingers ready for the repertoire:

Arpeggios:
pima and pami and pimami, you can change the bass string you play with p

Scales:
Take a E-major Scale first over 1 octave than 2 and then 3 octaves. Try different fingerings, positions and rhythmicsations.

Good luck!

pmiklitz
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Re: Essential scales - arpeggios

Post by pmiklitz » Sun Sep 20, 2009 8:20 am

Paul Hammer wrote:I am a self-taught 63 year old, who wants to improve his playing.

I have a large book of scales/arpeggios (bought from a charity shop) for grades 3 to 8.

I know scales are essential - but I have never bothered with them.

Are there 4-5 scales/arpeggios one could do to really improve one's playing? Or, is is best to slog through all of them.

However, unless I live to 90-100, the latter is not an option.

Thank you wonderful people

Paul

If so . Which ones?

Hi Paul,

don't bother practising academic scale patterns, as they never appear in any pieces anyway. I would practice a basic chromatic scale with different RH fingerings (im, mi, am, ma, ia, ai) as that will involve all the fingers and will take only a few minutes a day (10 to 20 should be fine). I would also practice chromatic octaves in the first position, as these will help to develop finger independence, stretching ability and strength.

If you just practice all the basic arpeggio patterns (pima, piam, pmia, pmai, pami and paim) using e.g. Study 2 from Carcassi's op. 60, you will see great improvement in your RH dexterity. If that Study is too difficult, choose a simple chord pattern, so you can concentrate on the RH.

Devote the rest of your time to playing pieces and practice the arpeggios and scales that appear in them specifically.

Hope that helps,

Peter
Dringt durch des Aberglaubens Nacht, die Euch zu finstern Köpfen macht. Christian Fürchtegott Gellert (1715 - 1769)

Jakesplanet

Re: Essential scales - arpeggios

Post by Jakesplanet » Sun Sep 20, 2009 11:42 am

pmiklitz wrote:don't bother practising academic scale patterns, as they never appear in any pieces anyway.

.....

Devote the rest of your time to playing pieces and practice the arpeggios and scales that appear in them specifically.

Hope that helps,

Peter

I agree with Peter, scales and arpeggios can quickly and easily become boring, it is much better to practice something that can be made to sound nice, particularly if time is limited.

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woodsprite
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Re: Essential scales - arpeggios

Post by woodsprite » Sun Sep 20, 2009 3:37 pm

The answers provided to your keen question were also very helpful to me as I also am older and wondered about scale studies. Thanks for asking the question.
R.D. Morin, Las Cruces, NM ... love every minute I spend at learning this wonderful instrument...

Scott_Kritzer
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Location: Portland, Oregon

Re: Essential scales - arpeggios

Post by Scott_Kritzer » Sun Sep 20, 2009 7:44 pm

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but most players and teachers of classical instruments find scales and arpeggios essential for training. I find that to be the case for classical guitar as well. Scales essential for timing, (synchronization between the hands), regardless of whether you use them in repertoire). [NOTE: they're are one position scale forms that I use in most of my rep]

Since MOST of what we do with the right hand is either alternation or sympathetic motion (represented in arpeggios), practicing both is wise.

Also, when applying concepts such as left hand thumb placement, planting, etc,, it's nice to do those with exercises that you've become extremely comfortable with such as scales and arpeggios.

I have practiced both with and without the above and I can say that my playing suffers without....

Thanks,

Scott
Classical Guitarist Scott Kritzer

pmiklitz
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Re: Essential scales - arpeggios

Post by pmiklitz » Sun Sep 20, 2009 8:44 pm

Scott_Kritzer wrote:I hate to be the bearer of bad news but most players and teachers of classical instruments find scales and arpeggios essential for training. I find that to be the case for classical guitar as well. Scales essential for timing, (synchronization between the hands), regardless of whether you use them in repertoire). [NOTE: they're are one position scale forms that I use in most of my rep]

Since MOST of what we do with the right hand is either alternation or sympathetic motion (represented in arpeggios), practicing both is wise.

Also, when applying concepts such as left hand thumb placement, planting, etc,, it's nice to do those with exercises that you've become extremely comfortable with such as scales and arpeggios.

I have practiced both with and without the above and I can say that my playing suffers without....

Thanks,

Scott
Hi Scott,

I totally agree that both scales and arpeggios are essential and I practice them myself every day. However, I don't think that you need to practice 2 and 3 octave scales with academic fingerings (especially if you have limited practice time or are a recreational player), as you can achieve the same goals, e.g. LH/RH synchronisation, with more practical fingerings and we seem to agree that the single position scales you mentioned are perfect examples.

Certain technical exercises are inevitable, but they should be customised according to age of the player, available practice time, etc. The ultimate goal for somebody of Paul's age should be making music and playing/practising the pieces that he likes and I believe he can achieve that without torturing himself unnecessarily. Hence my advice was not meant to deny the value of practicing scales and arpeggios in general, but give Paul a guideline customised to his needs and situation.

Best wishes,

Peter

Murdick

Re: Essential scales - arpeggios

Post by Murdick » Sun Sep 20, 2009 9:31 pm

Peter says, "don't bother practising academic scale patterns, as they never appear in any pieces anyway. "

This is for the most part true except for the Shearer scale patterns which can be used in pieces. In fact, he wrote them for that reason.

pmiklitz
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Re: Essential scales - arpeggios

Post by pmiklitz » Mon Sep 21, 2009 7:01 am

Murdick wrote:Peter says, "don't bother practising academic scale patterns, as they never appear in any pieces anyway. "

This is for the most part true except for the Shearer scale patterns which can be used in pieces. In fact, he wrote them for that reason.
Hi Murdick,

I don't actually know the Shearer method books, but that sounds like a good approach to scale patterns.

Cheers,

Peter
Dringt durch des Aberglaubens Nacht, die Euch zu finstern Köpfen macht. Christian Fürchtegott Gellert (1715 - 1769)

JohnRoss

Re: Essential scales - arpeggios

Post by JohnRoss » Mon Sep 21, 2009 5:27 pm

Paul Hammer wrote:Are there 4-5 scales/arpeggios one could do to really improve one's playing? Or, is is best to slog through all of them.
If you slog through them, you probably won't get much benefit from them. The idea is to make music - scales are tunes, and uncomplicated ones in melodic terms, so making them musical should theoretically be a breeze. Learners don't find this the case, of course, because they don't think of scales in terms of music but as exercises they need to do, hence all the (bad) advice you are being given to not practise scales at all.

Of course, to make music you need to dominate the mechanics, first, and in that sense it is so much which scales you do that matters, as how you do them. Denian Arcoleo had a highly illuminating post a few weeks ago in which he talked about note preparation (I can't find it, but I remember it being so lucid I thought he must have been annoyed at the time). Anyway, since then I have approached my own scales in a different way. Specifically - don't play any note until your mind and your fingers (both hands) are ready to play at least the following note. If the two notes are on different strings, this is straightforward. If the coming note is ascending on the same string, make sure the required LH finger is available and over the fret. If it is descending on the same string, fret it, it's less to think about when the time comes to actually play the note. The scale thus becomes almost a series of two-note chords (the important exception to this is position shifts, which makes it even more crucial that these are perfectly executed).

Paul Hammer

Re: Essential scales - arpeggios

Post by Paul Hammer » Mon Sep 21, 2009 5:33 pm

Thanks to all for interesting and helpful answers.

I first came across the chromatic scale in Cappriccio Arabe by Tarrega, but - as said - scales are not often found in guitar music.


I can handle grade 6-7 pieces, and can make a stab at Julia Florida and one or 2 other piece by Barrios.

I had a few lessons which helped to eradicate bad habits and bad timing/rhythm, but I left because of expense and distance from teacher.

I am now also concentrating on pieces which I find tricky - e.g. Cavatina (naff, I know) and Granada; . the pieces show up my various weaknesses (LH, RH and barre.); and mastering them will hopefully bring my playing up a notch.

I have ticked E major in my 1978 grades 3-8 book.
There are several chromatic scales in there. There are also some barre scales - which would be good for me.
And I will find the Carcassi Op 60.

Thanks again. I need to digest all that’s been said - and investigate a few things - like Schearer. I suppose the final answer (for me) lies somewhere between Scott’s and Peter’s answer.

What a wonderful forum!

Thanks

Paul

Olarte

Re: Essential scales - arpeggios

Post by Olarte » Mon Sep 21, 2009 8:44 pm

JohnRoss wrote: If you slog through them, you probably won't get much benefit from them. The idea is to make music - scales are tunes, and uncomplicated ones in melodic terms, so making them musical should theoretically be a breeze. Learners don't find this the case, of course, because they don't think of scales in terms of music but as exercises they need to do, hence all the (bad) advice you are being given to not practise scales at all.

Of course, to make music you need to dominate the mechanics, first, and in that sense it is so much which scales you do that matters, as how you do them. Denian Arcoleo had a highly illuminating post a few weeks ago in which he talked about note preparation (I can't find it, but I remember it being so lucid I thought he must have been annoyed at the time). Anyway, since then I have approached my own scales in a different way. Specifically - don't play any note until your mind and your fingers (both hands) are ready to play at least the following note. If the two notes are on different strings, this is straightforward. If the coming note is ascending on the same string, make sure the required LH finger is available and over the fret. If it is descending on the same string, fret it, it's less to think about when the time comes to actually play the note. The scale thus becomes almost a series of two-note chords (the important exception to this is position shifts, which makes it even more crucial that these are perfectly executed).
Very well said JohnRoss,

I don't understand why people are so averse to scales. I too find if one learns to appreciate them as music, they can be a pleasure to work with and a great way to work on many aspects from good stable fingering, to coordination to smooth transitions between positions.

I usually spend at least 30 min on 3 or 4 scales and by the time I'm done I'm all warmed up and confident to go on to play other music.

Also Great masters and teachers like Ana Vidovic and Eric Christensen still do their scales every day, and have shown me very specific ways to explore them work on the various aspects of guitar playing. For example Eric has me stressing the note before each position shift to compensate for the natural tendency to play the note after the shift louder. Once I get used to this, he then wants me to back off on the extra stress on the pre-shift note and by then the shifting will be smooth and un-noticeable.

Jakesplanet

Re: Essential scales - arpeggios

Post by Jakesplanet » Tue Sep 22, 2009 11:54 am

A nice way to tackle arpeggio's is to take a few of Giuliani's Op.1. every day. Always keep note of the arpeggios that are found to be most difficult, and keep going back to them.

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Anderson
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Re: Essential scales - arpeggios

Post by Anderson » Tue Sep 22, 2009 7:16 pm

I must have the opposite problem of many students in that I love to practice scales, argeggios and other technical exercises to the detriment of other types of playing practice...

Anyhow, if anyone wants the Shearer shifting patterns arranged similar to the Segovia scales publication, I would recommend Christopher Berg's "Mastering Guitar Technique: Process and Essence". It doesn't contain all the patterns in the Shearer Scale supplement, just the "long" ones (like Segovia.) It's not as daunting as the Shearer scale supplement tome and It also has a chapter on essential arpeggios, drawn from Giuliani with modern updates. If you want to go nuts with arpeggios, then Berg's supplement "Giuliani Revisited" has just about everything you might encounter.

I would be curious to hear from Scott why you choose to teach traditional Segovia scales over the Shearer patterns, given that you are a former student. I've found the squeeze shifting to be more fluid once practiced.

Thanks,
Brice

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