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Intermediate Exercises:

So now you know all your major and minor scales. Now what do you do with them? Well here's some scalar pattern exercises that have done wonders for my chops both physical and mental. The fingerings are up to you. You should really try to work out as many fingerings as you can without going nuts.
Try each of the exercises in a single position. Then all 12 possible single-position fingerings. Often playing horizontally across the finger-board rather than vertically (i.e. in position) will be the best solution.
For the triad based exercises, also try them using the same fingerings that you would if you were playing the triad as a chord, ie. each triad uses 3 strings. This will obviously mean several position shifts will be involved.
If possible, try the exercises on a single string or using groups of 2 or more strings, contiguous or non contiguous. The interval based exercises work especially well using groups of 2 strings across the fretboard.
Try them with fingerings that do use finger stretches and also with fingerings that specifically avoid the use of any finger stretches.
Try them picking every note with alternate picking or reverse alternate picking or some form of economy picking. If you finger the triad based exercises with 3 strings per chord it lends itself really well to sweep picking. Try the exercises without picking every note but using some hammer-ons, pull-offs and slides. Maybe even a bend here or there.
Try using only 3 fingers on your fretting hand. Try 2 fingers, Django did it. Try 1 finger just to see what happens.

Get the sound of these patterns in your head. You won't be able to play them with any dexterity until you can hear them. Sing them out loud while you're playing them. See if you can sing them without playing them.

The suggestions for further work are always:
to play the patterns in several octaves and/or across several octaves eventually using the entire range of the guitar
to transpose the patterns to all 12 keys
to work the same shapes out with the jazz minor scale, the harmonic minor scale and the harmonic major scale (1 2 3 4 5 b6 7)

Some of these patterns may find their way into your improvised solos note for note, but that is not really what we are trying to do here. We are merely trying to develop your intervalic agility on the guitar. I expect you to encounter pretty much every little fingering snafu imaginable and I hope that you will have the perseverance to find your own elegant solutions to them. There are solutions. These things are all playable on guitar. I also expect you to be exposed to a large number of the possible intervalic sounds available in our Western 12 tone scale.

And if what you are trying to learn is how to play jazz on the guitar, remember that this stuff here should not be the primary focus of that goal. To play jazz well all you really need to know is how to play tunes. Learn to play some tunes first. Anything else you study should just have the purpose of allowing you to play tunes better. I think these exercises will help expand your chops both as physical exercises and as ear training, but if you don't actually know any tunes then you really don't know how to play anything and you likely won't find any uses for the sounds you're learning here.

Good luck.


Hopefully there will be more to come in the not-too-distant-future. 

NEW - January, 2012

NEW - September 28, 2021
This is a warm-up exercise that Mick Goodrick showed me back in the day.
It's the only warm-up I've ever done.
It's just octaves played in Position V, using the correct fingerings dictated by the rules of being in Position V.
Pay close attention to the notated fingerings.
String numbers use circled numbers, and each instance of a circled number applies only to that note.
Fingers use non-circled numbers.
"1s" indicates a 1st finger stretch.
"4s" indicates a 4th finger stretch.
Pay attention to the durations too.
Use a metronome.
Start with a real slow tempo, 80bpm or less.
Mute each note, creating silence, on the exact metrical position of each rest.
You may need to figure out a way to mute any open strings that are ringing out sympathetically.
Attack each note at the exact metrical position of the written note.
Play both exercises with strict alternate picking. (Or finger-style.)
Beat 1 is a down-stroke.
Beat 3 is an  up-stroke.
Then practice both exercises with reverse alternate picking.
I.e. Beat 1 is an up-stroke.
Beat 2 is a down-stroke.
This will be a good work out for both hands.
[Note: Everything that can be played in Pos. V can be accomplished with the thumb not needing to move much if at all if placed properly at the back of the neck, definitely not hanging over the top of the neck.
As a matter of fact, moving your thumb is an indication that you've just shifted to a new position.
So try to do all the indicated finger stretches, w/o shifting position.
STRETCH the finger instead.]

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1998 J. M. Goldstein