As you begin to expand your repertoire you will be exposed to more and more key signatures. You might start noticing that some keys are more common than others and some styles of music use some keys more than others. Also certain instruments are more commonly played in certain keys than others. For instance Bb instruments tend to prefer the flat keys whereas stringed instruments tend to prefer sharp keys. If you want to be a versatile musician, it is important to master each key signature to the full extent of your instrument.
- Practice saying and playing each scale.
- Practice them in fourths (C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb/F#, B, E, A, D, G)
- Practice them in fifths (C, G, D, A, E, B, F#/Gb, Db, Ab, Eb, Bb, F)
- Practice them in whole steps ascending and descending (C, D, E, F#/Gb, Ab, Bb, C and Db, Eb, F, G, A, B)
- Practice them in minor thirds ascending and descending (C, Eb, F#/Gb, A; Db, E, G, Bb and D, F, Ab, B)
- Practice them in major thirds ascending and descending (C, E, Ab; Db, F, A; D, F#/Gb and Eb, G, B)
- Practice them chromatically ascending and descending (C, Db, D, Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, Ab, A, Bb, B)
- Practice them in tritones ascending and descending (C, F#/Gb; Db, G; D, Ab; Eb, A; E, Bb and F, B)
Once you’ve absorb the keys and the sound of changing from one to another it is important to add the element of time to the routine.
Practice the previously mentioned exercises while playing each scale for 4 bars in eighth notes or quarter notes at various tempos while always moving by step ascending and/or descending. Then do it for 2 bars, then one bar, then half a bar.
Try analyzing a piece you like and find what keys the piece explores.
In a basic blues in the key of A for instance, the key would be D major for the first bar, G major for the second bar, then back to D major for two more bars. Then it’s G major for two bars, D major for two bars, A major for one bar, G major for one bar, D major for one bar and then A major for one bar.
Once you’re familiar with each major scales for the tune try playing through each scale in quarter notes and changing keys at the right time while doing only stepwise motion ascending and/or descending. Afterwards try it in eighth notes.
Practicing the Major Scale Key Signatures on the Guitar
On a stringed instrument like the guitar, scales need to be practiced in every position and on every individual string. Here are all the major scales in the open position to get you started.