First things first, what are chromatic (scale) guitar exercises?
The simplest definition would be that chromatic (scale) guitar exercises are all exercises in which you’re playing four consecutive notes on one string and then you’re either shifting your hand to play another set of four notes on the same string or move on to the next string.
Let me just give you the simplest example possible of a chromatic guitar exercise.
As you can see, the exercise instructs you to start by playing four consecutive notes on the E6 string, then do the same on the A5 string, and then return and play the notes backwards.
This exercise is not very useful though, and I will share something more meaningful in a moment, but first let’s talk why it’s worth to spend your time on these kind of exercises.
Why chromatic (scale) guitar exercises are worth the time
These exercises are great for improving your left and right hand coordination. This isn’t a problem for slow and easy tunes, but if you want to play a really fast solo then having good coordination between your left hand operating on the fretboard and your right picking hand is a must.
Also, it improves your alternate picking (up, down, up, down, and so on) skills. If you want to be able to play those fast solos you have to master alternate picking. Usually, you can play twice as fast when you’re doing alternate picking than by just doing standard (downward) picking.
Essentially, it’s all about getting comfortable with your guitar. You won’t reach any level of mastery if you don’t challenge yourself to things that don’t seem easy at first.
How to do chromatic exercises
First of all, it’s good to have a metronome, so you can keep your tempo constant. If you don’t have a real metronome you can find an online version that will do just as fine. (This one, for example.)
Now the exercises. Start by doing a linear exercise on a single string.
This is for the E6 string (click to enlarge):
For each set of four notes use your four fretting fingers (1, 2, 3, 4). Then shift your hand to the next set. The set in the middle is where you start playing the sequence back.
Once you’re done with the E6 string shift to the A5 string, and repeat the process. Don’t forget about alternate picking.
This next exercise is a little different, actually it’s the most popular chromatic exercise out there (click to enlarge):
In this exercise, you practice your skills on all strings starting on the E6. Remember that each note is fretted by a different finger, and that you’re doing alternate picking.
Once you have this exercise mastered you can reverse it, simply start from the E1 string instead of the E6. Also, you can shift it up the fretboard and start on the 5th fret, or the 9th fret, or wherever you like.
These kind of exercises can really improve your skill big time. I know I’m guilty of not spending enough time practicing them myself. I have some catching up to do, so I’m cutting this post short. Feel free to do the same and grab your guitar too. 🙂