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Advanced Guitar Scales: Horizontal Playing

In this lesson on guitar scales we'll talk about horizontal playing.

When we first start learning guitar scales, we usually play the scale vertical on the neck, from the lowest to the highest note in a particular position. This is a necessary step, but don't limit yourself to that because it's hard to see the connection between the different positions that way.

Playing horizontally is a more advanced method of playing guitar scales and means we start left on the guitar neck and advance to the right or the other way round. This can be done on two adjacent strings or three or four or with a skipped string, the possibilities go as far as your imagination goes. I'll help you on your way with some examples.

In this guide we work with the C major scale, but remember that C major has the same notes as D Dorian, E phrygian, and so on (if you have a problem remembering this, check out this tutorial on modes).


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Playing Guitar Scales on One String

This is a very good ear training exercise. Think like a sitar player and play all guitar scales on any of the 6 strings. Don't think about where to place your fingers too much, but pick a scale and work with your ears. This simple example is the major scale played on the high e string. Also try other strings, other modes, the altered scale, diminished scale, ...


Guitar scales on one string


Playing Guitar Scales on Two Adjacent Strings

This first example shows you how to play the scale of C major on the top two strings:


Guitar scales on two strings


The next scales tab shows the major scale on strings 2 and 3:


Guitar scales on two strings 2

I'm not going to give you the tabs for the other strings, you can figure that out yourself. The examples I showed you are very straightforward, use your imagination to make these exercises a little more exciting. Here's an example of the same technique, but with some variations:


Guitar scales on two strings variation

Instead of using adjacent strings, you can also skip a string:


Guitar scales with skipped string


Instead of playing the scales melodically (note by note) you can also play them harmonically (the notes together, like a chord):


Guitar scales played harmonically


Playing Guitar Scales on Three Adjacent Strings

Same principle as above, but now we use three strings instead of two:


Guitar scales on three strings


Try to use this technique on all guitar scales you know and you and your fingers will have a much better understanding  of the fretboard.



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