problem with scales

Do you hate scales?

Do you love ‘em?

…Or are you like me and have a love/hate relationship with them?


Well, I’ll probably bug a few guitar teachers here, but there is a big fact about scales.

They are often very overrated…

In fact, you never need to use a scale in your playing ever again.

I’m kidding, of course.

(Although I have tried using a no-scale approach to playing lead guitar and writing melodies before – it was interesting and was a big test of my aural skills).


Being serious though…

The biggest problem I see with scales is like something from the movie Seven (starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman).

The bad guy goes around killing people for committing one of the seven deadly sins.

Well, at one point he kills someone who is overweight by force-feeding him until his stomach bursts.

I know, grim stuff.

Well, when it comes to scales, I’ve seen many a guitar teacher, tuition books, and YouTube tutorials force-feed their students scales…

And often to the point that they feel like their brains will explode.

Either way, it’s not fun.

And life is short.

You want to make it all count.

Make everything you learn relevant.


I can’t tell you how many hours I wasted learning all these scales and modes – Major, minor, melodic minor, harmonic minor, Phrygian dominant (this is actually a cool scale), Dorian, Mixolydian, and more…

Yes, they all helped my playing in some small way, but, and here’s the big but…

When I was learning, I only really wanted to play simple rock, grunge, and punk.

Then a little later, 60s and 70s acoustic pop, folk, Travis picking, and blues…

Guess what?

None of those scales were used in any of those genres (with the exception of blues to a certain degree).


Yes, learning the scales was useful but…

There were a million other things I could have been practising and perfecting instead


Things like “Core Fundamental Technique”, better rhythm, training my ears, building a repertoire of five solid songs, learning how to jam with others, improving chord changes, and more.

The simple fact is, there is a “pecking order” of things you should learn.

For most people, scales are not, or should not be, near the top.

So don’t let anyone tell you, you have to learn a tonne of scales.

Often one or two scales will be enough.

…And if you do want to learn scales, there is one I teach all my students.


It’s a fun one to jam.

It will help you improve your technique.

It’s pretty easy to learn.

It will help you make more sense of music theory and the fretboard…

And it’s a fretted scale meaning there are no open strings, which in turn means you can move it around the fretboard to change the key (much like how you can move barre chords around).

I’m teaching this lesson and all the useful nuts and bolts of it…

Including most importantly, how to use the scale (which shockingly, most people never do – they just give you the scale and let you work out how to actually make music with it for yourself).


This lesson, and the other new ones, will be out on May 1st in the Dan Thorpe Acoustic Academy, which you can find out more about below:

The Dan Thorpe Acoustic Academy


Keep up the practice.

Dan Thorpe


P.S. If you join the academy by the end of the month, you’ll get TWO books of mine posted out to you.

#1 – Guitarists Get Theory

#2 – Essential Guitar Technique

The paperbacks for these are not available anywhere else, but I’ll send them to you as a free welcome gift.


P.P.S. This post was originally taken from Dan Thorpe’s private email list. To get blog posts like this sent to you which are full of great tips to make fingerpicking, strumming, and learning guitar more enjoyable (especially if you are over 40) join Dan’s list. It’s 100% free, HERE.

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