Philosophies for Learning to Play the Guitar at 60: Scales

Image courtesy Wiki Commons

Philosophy #7

7. Practice and memorize scales. Scales are the key to chords and melodies.
In his book about the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team, The Boys of Summer, author Roger Kahn provides insight into George “Shotgun” Shuba’s bat swing which was famous for producing hard line drives and was said to be “…as natural as a smile.” The backstory on that “natural” swing, according to Shuba, was that for a time in his life, each night before he went to bed he performed hundreds of swings with a 44 ounce bat. Many thousands of swings later he had developed that “natural” swing.

Think of scales like that as you work on them to develop your ear, your finger and hand speed and your knowledge of the fretboard.

Philosophies for Learning to Play the Guitar at 60: Warm Up

Philosophy #6

Warm up. Ever walk the halls of a college campus or music conservatory where students are in individual rooms singing or playing instruments? What strikes many experiencing this for the first time is that rather than songs, a lot of what is heard are scales and other musical drills.

Just as a chef prepares with mise en place (everything in place), and just as an athlete limbers up, begin every exercise session with warm-ups such as scales, moving up, down and across the fretboard, repeating chord changes and so forth. It’s tempting to skip this. Don’t. Warm-ups gently bring your mind and hands back into the world of the guitar, and they provide a good time to check mechanics such as good posture, proper hand positioning, and striving to hit notes so that each one rings true. Mindful warm-ups are vital to making playing the guitar second nature. It’s helpful to write down routines.