Single String Scales

There are many ways to play scales on a guitar neck. The main goals should be to learn the fingerboard inside and out, and develop technique. In this column I would like to talk about single string scales. The idea is simple - just play the notes to any given key on only one string.

I have included tab of the whole guitar neck in C major. An easy way to get started is to pick a string and tremelo pick up and down that string stopping on the notes in the key. You can also do any pattern you want and asend and desend down the string.

My favorite approach is to improvise on one string for a couple minutes and then improvise on 2 nonadjacent strings. Single string scales will go a long way to increase your alternate picking, shifting skills and knowledge of the fingerboard. It's also important to play three note per string scales too. When you combine both in your practice routine, the guitar can become one 24 fret sweet spot instead of a confusing mystery. Keep in mind that the only way to truly know a scale is to be able to improvise without thinking about it.

Think of this as a roadmap - now start driving!


Mike O'Malley's instrumental power trio is called No Walls and their latest CD is entitled "World Abroad". He has been playing guitar for almost 30 years and graduated from Music Tech in Minneapolis in 1988.

O'Malley currently has 45 guitar students that range in all ability levels and styles.

Mike O'Malley

Send comments or questions to: