Playing Scales for Classical and Finger-Style Guitar
4.8 (11 ratings)
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Playing Scales for Classical and Finger-Style Guitar

Improve your technique and learn how to become a better musician.
4.8 (11 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
264 students enrolled
Created by Brian Riggs
Last updated 4/2015
Current price: $10 Original price: $195 Discount: 95% off
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  • 1.5 hours on-demand video
  • 2 Supplemental Resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • Play Major and minor scales in all keys all over the guitar fretboard.
  • Have specific practicing strategies for learning how to get the most out of your scale practice.
  • Learn how to improve your classical and finger-style technique for both hands.
View Curriculum
  • Students will need a guitar (preferably acoustic) to practice on, and a computer or device with internet access
  • You don't need to know how to read music for this course, PDF files of the exercises in guitar tablature are provided.

This course will teach how to play scales in all keys all over the fretboard, and will focus on developing good technique so you can improve your playing. This course is more of a technical, practical kind of course, so I don't go into the theory of how scales are built (although you can always message me to ask any theory-related questions, I'm always happy to talk about all that stuff with anyone who's interested. Playing scales is the single best thing you can do to improve your technique and your over-all guitar playing. If you only do one kind of technical exercise as part of your practicing routine, make it scales (whether or not you enroll in this course) We'll start by looking at some scale shapes that will get you playing all over the fretboard, then we'll look at left-hand technique, followed by right-hand technique. I think the most important section is the one on practicing strategies, this will help you make scale playing interesting (which makes it more likely that you'll actually stick with it). hand As always, the course is laid out so that you can follow the lectures in order and it should make sense and have a logical progression, but you can skip around if you like and work on a topic that's of particular interest to you. The course is mostly made up of video lectures showing my hands from a variety of angles, and there are PDF files with the musical examples written out in guitar tablature (no note-reading is required).

Who is the target audience?
  • Anyone who is looking to get better at playing scales on the guitar should take the course.
  • This course doesn't talk about playing with a pick at all, so if you're looking for picking exercises this course isn't for you .
  • This course focuses on the technique of playing scales, so if your'e looking for the theory of how scales are put together, this course isn't for you.
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Curriculum For This Course
23 Lectures
1 Lecture 01:36

This lecture is an introduction to the course, where I talk about the basic structure of the course. The next section has the scale shapes, then I go through left hand technique, right hand technique, practicing strategies, and the course finishes with a short "bonus" section on chromatic octaves.

Scale Shapes
6 Lectures 26:29

This lecture will cover the Major scale forms to play a C Major and D Major scale. If you want a challenge, you can move the scale form up a half-step to play a D-flat Major scale, or move it a half-step above the D Major scale to make an E-flat Major scale. Make sure that you're really solid on these shapes because they'll form the basis of a lot of the stuff we'll be doing in the course.

Major Scale forms starting on the 5th String-2 octaves

This lecture covers the 3-octave Major scale form, where the scale starts on the 6th string. This shape is most commonly used on G and A Major, but you could start on the 2nd fret of the 6th string to play a F-sharp Major scale, or start on the 4th fret to play a G-sharp Major scale.

Major Scale forms starting on the 6th String- 3 octaves

This lecture will show you how to play a 3 octave F Major scale. Classical guitarists use a unique fingering for this scale, partly because this formation allows you to not use any open strings.

F Major Scale- 3 Octaves

This lecture shows how to do a 2- octave minor scale, using the melodic form of the scale. The melodic minor form is where you raise the 6th and 7th notes of the scale while you're going up, and then lowering those notes back to normal (normal= the same way that you do a natural minor scale) when you're going down. This can make things a little more challenging, but if you can do the scale this way, then you've covered all your bases and there's no scale form you can't handle.

Minor Scale forms starting on the 5th String- 2 Octaves

This lecture continues with minor scales that use the melodic form and in this lecture we'll start on the 6th string and do a 3-octave scale. With the A minor especially, we'll go pretty high on the fretboard, all the way to the 17th fret. In the left-hand technique section I'll talk about how to approach that kind of playing from a technique point of view.

Minor Scale forms starting on the 6th String- 3 Octaves

This lecture will show you how to play a 3-octave E (melodic) minor scale. This scale is kind of like the F Major form, it's a unique form that allows you to avoid open strings (except for the first note) and shows you how to move around the entire fretboard.

E Minor Scale- 3 Octaves
Left Hand Technique
4 Lectures 26:13

This lecture deals with left-hand formation. This means you'l learn how to set-up and position your left hand so that you will be able to play scales and scale-like texture in the most relaxed, efficient way possible. That being said, being relaxed and ready to move is more important than straining and trying to make your hand look perfect. If you follow these guidelines you'll be ready to tackle any scales that come your way.

Left-Hand Formation

This lecture deals with left hand movement. This lecture focuses on the actual finger movements and looks at the small joint motions that you'll need to do. The next lecture will look at the big joint motions where you move your wrist, elbow, and arm.

Preview 06:02

This lecture teaches you how to approach shifting, which is the way that guitarists move from one area of the fretboard to another. It's really important to keep your big joints relaxed and loose, making sure to never lock any of your joints.

Left-Hand Shifting

This lecture teaches you how to do vibrato on the guitar using your left hand. You'll learn how to do the technique as well as how classical guitarists do vibrato differently than rock guitarists.

Left-Hand Vibrato Technique
Right Hand Technique
5 Lectures 24:16

This lecture will teach you the 7 most commonly used right hand scale fingerings. They are index/middle; middle/index; middle/ring; ring/middle; index/ring; ring/index; and ring/middle/index/middle. Feel free to work on the patterns that think will help your playing the most.

Preview 04:33

This lecture talks about the basics of right-hand fingering when playing the guitar. If you're interested in working on this section, then don't skip this lecture, everything in the right-hand technique section will be built on this.

Principles of Right-Hand Technique

This lecture will teach you how play free-stroke. You might see a book or a piece of sheet music that says "tirando," which is the Spanish term for free-stroke. Free-stroke is the kind of right hand stroke that you're probably already doing most if not all of the time, the next lecture will talk about rest-stroke.


This lecture will teach you how to play rest-stroke on the guitar. Sometimes called by the Spanish term "apoyando, " rest-stoke is an accented stroke that gives a louder, more projected sound as well as a different kind of tone color. You'll probably only use rest-stroke occasionally, but it's a great thing to work on for technical development.


This lecture shows you how to add accented notes into your practicing so that you can get the most out of your practicing time. I present several ideas for practicing patterns, feel free to add your own ideas to keep things interesting.

Accented Notes
Practicing Strategies
3 Lectures 17:45

This lecture will teach you some strategies for incorporating rhythm ideas into your scale playing. Rhythm is a potentially huge topic, so this lecture will give just a very brief jumping-off point to get you started thinking about rhythm. Don't feel bound by the ideas presented here, feel free to make up your patterns.


This lecture deals with meter. A lot of times meter and rhythm get mixed up. Meter deals with how notes get organized. For example, in this lecture you'll learn how 6 eight notes can be arranged into 6/8 meter or 3/4 meter. Meter allows us to take the same group of notes and make them sound different.


This lecture shows you how to use dynamics to make your playing sound more interesting. Dynamics refers to how loud or soft you playing. You want your playing to always have a sense that it's going somewhere (or that i came from somewhere). My experience being around other guitarists in music school and the freelancing scene is that everyone takes dynamics for granted because it's not flashy or technically difficult to have dynamic interest in your playing, but you don't want to do that because from the listener's point of view (or point of hearing, if you don't like mixed metaphors) dynamics makes your playing so much more enjoyable and interesting.

Bonus Section- Chromatic Octaves
1 Lecture 04:41

This lecture will show you to play chromatic octaves in first position on the guitar. This is a great "character-building" exercise. Playing these chromatic octaves will help you develop strength, flexibility, and independence in your left-hand fingers. Also, people seem to be impressed when you play this for them, so, there's that. Make sure that you hold down the notes for their full value and then switch to the next notes right away so there's no break in the sound.

Chromatic Octaves
1 Lecture 01:28

This is the conclusion lecture. I feel like I say this all the time, but you want to feel like this a point of departure, not arrival. Feel free to revisit any of the lectures that you may think would be helpful. On the one hand, you should be able to immediately take a lot of the things that you've learned here and apply it your playing, on the other hand, music (like fashion) is never finished, so have fun as this stuff works it's way into your thinking.

B minor melodic and E Major scales
2 Lectures 00:00
B minor Melodic (and alternate fingering)
1 page

E Major- 3 octaves
1 page
About the Instructor
Brian Riggs
4.8 Average rating
126 Reviews
3,100 Students
9 Courses
Guitar Teacher

My name is Brian Riggs and I am a classical guitarist and guitar teacher from Chicago, IL. I have a degree in classical guitar performance from the Chicago College of Performing Arts, and I've played in master classes with some amazing guitarists, most notably Christopher Parkening at his class at Montana State University.

I want to share what I've learned from those experiences with as many people as possible; Some of my most satisfying musical experiences have been seeing students make progress and become musicians in their own right. I've taught thousands of lessons in person and I've had the great experience of helping people fulfill their musical goals and realizing their potential as guitarists.