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Learning Classical Guitar Scales (Aaron Shearer's Method)

Updated on December 6, 2010


When I first started digging into Classical Guitar I became interested in scales. Some of my favorite passages in classical music involve soloists zipping up and down the range of their insturment with total control.  As an example, check out this video of Wilhelm Kempff playing a piano sonata by Beethoven:

Look at him go! When the guitar is used in popular music it is mostly used to play chords or a simple melodies. Are there such fast and furious pieces written for the guitar at all? The answer is yes! Check out this recording of Pavel Steidel playing a Caprice by Legnani:

Aaron Shearer to the Rescue

So how could I learn to play like that? To zip all up and down the neck in any key, with total control?  Aaaron Shearer, one of the titans of 20th century guitar music, came to the rescue. Shearer created the first conservatory program for the classical guitar in the U.S., and that program has since been used as a model for other conservatory programs. Towards the end of his career he wrote a book called "Scale Pattern Studies for Guitar".

When I discovered this book my musical life changed forever. Shearer systematically presents every scale in every position on the instrument. Each scale is presented in eighth notes, triplets and sixteenth notes. And then come several sight-reading exercises for that key in that position.

The effects on my playing were immediately apparent. Using a metronome and simply going thru the scales taught me to play in time in a way that I was never able to do before. It was immediately obvious to me why scale playing is a fundmaental part of learning to master any classical instrument.

After learning to play the scales in time I was then able to focus on tone. Whether I was getting a better tone with i (my index finger) or m (my middle finger) immediately became apparent. And after that, I began to focus on phrasing the scales.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn to master the classical guitar.


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      Derdriu 6 years ago

      Ari Lamstein: What a concise analysis which serves as an effective role model for book reviews in general and which is fortified in particular with the helpful supporting evidence of two effective videos!

      Thank you, voted up, etc.,


    • 6 String Veteran profile image

      6 String Veteran 6 years ago

      Great article (recently referred to this, btw). And it's astounding that Shearer was so committed to guitar instruction that he continued to teach after he no longer could play due to having developed tendonitis.