To go from simply playing scales to actually playing lead guitar, it is helpful – mandatory, actually – to begin playing those scale patterns with a series of exercises. These exercises are actually more complex ways of playing the scale patterns. Doing this teaches you how to use the notes of the scale pattern, but make it sound not quite so "scale-like." It’s the intermediate step between practicing scales and playing actual lead guitar. Don't skip this step, you'll be wasting time.
Using the following practice exercises – not just with the scales and patterns illustrated here, but with ALL the patterns – will pay huge dividends.
Learn these exercises as shown, then, after you become comfortable and fluent with them, apply them to all the diatonic and pentatonic patterns (and try them on the arpeggio patterns as well).
Working with all the various scale patterns using these exercises will not only improve your manual dexterity, but will help to drill the scale patterns deeper into your memory. And besides that, while working on scale patterns can sometimes seem a bit dry, it becomes more fun to challenge yourself with these various exercises.
Scale Practice Exercises 1 & 2 Guitar Lesson Video
I'll use the F minor pentatonic pattern – the main pentatonic shape beginning at the 1st fret – for exercise 1.
This exercise is played in groups of three notes, and rhythmically, as triplets (counted one-trip-let, two-trip-let, three-trip-let, four-trip-let).
Play the lowest note in the pattern, then the next highest note, then your first note again. So you've played a note, the next highest note, then the original note again – you've used only two different notes. The exercise then repeats, beginning each group of three notes on the next higher note in the scale pattern.
After you've played it once through beginning at the 1st fret, slide up a fret and – using the same main pentatonic pattern – play it again. Then again at the 3rd fret, 4th fret, 5th fret, etc. Remember, repetition is the key to mastering the guitar – or any skill for that matter.
This is a very basic exercise, you've got to know this one.
I'll again use the F minor pentatonic pattern – the main pentatonic shape beginning at the 1st fret – for exercise 2. I'm doing this just to get you going with the main pentatonic shape at the lowest fret on which it can be played without open strings. When I practice these exercises, I start there, then move up one fret at a time until I've played the exercise at every fret I can reach. You should do the same.
For Exercise 2 we'll descend the pattern from the highest note, using the same grouping of three notes. However, this time we'll play the highest note first, then one note lower, then back to our original high note.
The second and subsequent groups of three will follow that pattern: play a high note, then one note lower, then the high note again. And each time we'll start the group of three notes one note lower in the scale pattern.