Chromatic scales play a huge part in building a guitarists finger strength, speed, agility and co-ordination and their importance should not be underestimated.
The chromatic scale consists of 12 half step or semi tone intervals and comprises of every note in the common musical scale.
The Chromatic Scale
As you can see, there’s not much to learn as it includes every note on the fret board.
As a beginner, I used to think there wasn’t much point in practicing chromatics as after spending 5 minutes playing them, I concluded they were so easy that they were probably not worth bothering with. I never realised the importance they play in training your mind and fingers to be able to cope with the much more difficult and strenuous tasks a guitarist encounters as he or she progresses up the skill ranks.
If I had spent a little more time and delved a little further into the subject, I would have realised that once you get passed the first couple of obvious ones they become a complete nightmare, and to master them, your brain must be trained to work in perfect harmony with your fingers, and at high speed.
The great thing is, once you get to grips with them, which doesn’t take long, you’ll find your playing really starts to gain a fluidity and your timing, co-ordination, agility and finger strength will become much stronger and more synchronised with your thoughts and movements
The exercises shown below start of with some very simple chromatic runs and build to provide almost every four finger combination possible.
These exercises should be performed using alternate picking, and ideally you should use a metronome set at a pace you feel comfortable with at first until you get used to the patterns. This should then be gradually increased bit by bit over the next few weeks as you gain finger strength and speed.
Set your metronome to tick once or twice a bar and make sure you are able to comfortably strike the notes on each beat before you increase your speed. There is no point trying to play as fast as you can if your timing is out. Just be patient and get each exercise right before you move on.
If you do not own a metronome, Google ‘on line metronome’ and you will find many free ones to choose from.
Feel free to improvise with these exercises as much as possible, play them anywhere you wish. Take them as far up the fret board as you like and back down again.
Notice the string skipping technique in exercise 2. It’s a good idea to try and apply this to each of the more difficult chromatic exercises as you become more confident in your practice.
Try and memorise the patterns from as many exercises as you can, and when you’ve got them sussed, play as many combinations as you can every day for 10 – 15 minutes before you start your main guitar session.
Once you have got a few of them under your belt and have practiced them regularly for a couple of weeks, you should notice quite an improvement in your playing, and instead of being a chore, they should become quite fun.
This next exercise involves string skipping. As you progress through these exercises, try and implement the string skipping technique in all the other chromatics as you become more advanced and start to improvise your own patterns and routines.
This is where the exercises start to become slightly more tricky and really start to test your finger strength and co-ordination.
Our next section contains more chromatic exercises using different combinations starting with your 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers.
You may think that once you’ve got the hang of chromatic exercises 1 to 7 there is no point in repeating the same sort of exercises with fingers 2,3 and 4, but it is important you get used to these other combinations as most riffs, licks and solo’s don’t conveniently start on your first finger.
Although similar, you will find the next set of chromatic exercises more challenging and you’ll need to get used to combining them with the exercises above to achieve the best results and increase your speed and agility to great levels.