Scales in Thirds, Sixths and Octaves

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Scales in Thirds, Sixths and Octaves

More often than not we work on scales using one note at a time. These scales offer a good apparatus to practice a variety of techniques and help us understand the fingerboard. Now, we will look into scales in octaves thirds and sixths.

These scales compound the difficulty because they have two notes at a time and require more finger independence in the left hand. The right hand has to balance the pair of notes and we are no longer using strict alternation. Finally, they will work on your knowledge of the fingerboard as you need to be processing two notes at a time rather than one.

Neat eh?

Because of these challenges, we don’t often play the scales as fast as single note versions and we might start with just one octave to focus on the other new elements.

Left hand dances

I want you to be listening for a legato (connected) transition between each pair of notes as we go through the scale. This means that you should take is slow, slow enough that you can see what the fingers are doing and refine their movements if need be. I have provided a fingering here for the C major scale in thirds but instead of following the fingering I have provided, I want you to figure out, to understand why those fingerings help the flow of the scale. You need to think o available finger, where you have come from and where are you going. These principles are covered in Level 2 Fingering Principles.


Left hand preparation is a core element of classical guitar technique, and these scales are fantastic opportunities to practice in preparation for repertoire. When you have one pair of notes being held down you need to consider where the next two notes are and prepare your fingers accordingly. If it is possible, you should move your fingers into position over the frets where they need to be. If that isn’t possible you need to get the available fingers at least moving in the direction of where they need to be.

What you  don’t want, is for your fingers to be tucked away into your hand or sticking out from the fingerboard. This is a waste of energy and means they have to travel a longer distance to get to their destination. Less distance increases accuracy and speed.

The Right Hand

Many of my students here in New York are probably sick of me harping on about alternation, I am quite strict with beginners. So, they will be happy to come across these scales as we are going to repeat the right hand finger pairs as we go through the scales!

These scales can be played with simultaneous pairs of notes, or split pairs of notes. To start off with I recommend playing the notes at the same time. This will work on your finger independence and you can hear the legato connection as it forces you to move the fingers at the same time. If you practice them in split pairs you don’t have to get both fingers in place at the same time, and you should take advantage of this fact. What I mean by this is you should place the fingers sequentially, one at a time so that the movement of the left hand is smoother.

2015-06-28T04:26:04+00:00 0 Comments

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