Do I need to Learn Scales to Learn Guitar?

This is just a quick post that will hopefully answer a question that I get asked all the time. The short answer is: “Yes.” A slightly longer answer would be: “Yes. Definitely.”

Rather than try to explain to you why you need to learn scales, I thought I might just talk about the importance of having a positive approach to learning. The value of some things, like learning scales (or learning guitar for that matter) may only become apparent AFTER you have learned them. Any attempt I make to explain why you should learn scales, will probably only make sense to musicians who have already studied scales.

To the beginner or novice I would encourage you to make a choice to truly learn guitar. If you are fortunate enough to be taking guitar classes, then don’t leave anything off the table: Learn scales. Learn to read music. Learn how train your ears and your voice. Learn how to train the finer muscle movements of the hand. Learn music theory. Learn visualization techniques. Learn how to hear music in your mind’s ear. Learn to play with a pick. Learn to play with your fingers. Etc…

Too often I meet beginners who are in such a hurry to learn guitar. As if learning guitar is a phase that can be completed, and shouldn’t actually take that long. Typically a lot of beginners feel that anything other than learning the one or two songs they want to learn is a waste of time. This belief only serves to narrow their focus to a point that it actually prevents them from successfully learning any songs. Learning scales, theory, and other forms of training are in fact brilliant shortcuts that help musicians acquire amazing techniques and other skills that help us memorize lots of musical material with minimal effort in (you guessed it) a reasonable amount of time.

By far the best thing you can do is adopt a positive attitude toward learning. Be open to all aspects of music. You don’t have to play scales up and down the neck like a super shredder. For most musicians, that is not what guitar playing is about. But you won’t get very far if you one foot out the door. Please, come all the way in. Have a seat. Relax and let’s learn what guitar is all about.

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