Hi all, does anyone know about "The Segovia Scales?" They're a set of major and minor scales for guitar, in all keys, that go uuuuup and dowwwwwn the neck (at least two octaves in length), sometimes by different routes. They're great studies for right hand fingering, position changes, and overall fingerboard knowledge. I'm wondering if there's anything like that in the classic banjo lit. If not I may have to write them myself - I need to become more comfortable with low-C tuning.

On a related note, I was on a job in Baltimore the other night, playing bass guitar, and I looked down during a solo and realized i was basically using classic banjo right hand technique, albeit with a thumb pick. All of which could get me drummed out of the bass army, but it works great in a quiet duet setting!

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Hi Jocko, good to see you back.

Segovia Scales? I once knew someone called Segovia Shoes ;-)

I have not come across scale exercises like you describe for Classic Style, but I am not much of a researcher. From what I remember Parke Hunter had a couple of exercises based round scales in his Banjo Studies Tutor (available from the TUTOR BOOKS page).

Maybe others will be able to comment and suggest?  I like throwing in a few scales as warm-ups.

Keep us informed!

The ones in the Banjo Studies are good, Joe Morley's tutor also has a lot of nice scale-based exercises, including scales in chords which are very helpful as a lot of CB is based on three-note chord shapes on the treble strings.

Thanks you guys! Yeah the Morley studies look fascinating, though it's a bit late to break out the old banjo, I'll have to hang on until tomorrow...

I was thinking roughly something like these examples, running all the major and minor keys. I differ from most teachers in that I always teach scales within areas of the fingerboard, starting and ending on the lowest root, which is a better way to be able to access them for improvising. Segovia suggests running the scales using different RH finger combinations in strict alternation: is that logical for the garden-variety CB-ist (open string shifts notwithstanding)? Say, using i-m-i-m; t-i-t-i; t-i-m-t-i-m etc?


A better way than *what*?  

And what would be an example of scales that are not in "areas of the fingerboard"? I'm not picturing where else they can be (they can't be on one point of the fingerboard and they can't be in areas of something other than the fingerboard…so I'm a bit lost here). 

Jocko MacNelly said:

I always teach scales within areas of the fingerboard, starting and ending on the lowest root, which is a better way to be able to access them for improvising. 

I love this sort of exercise for practice of alternate fingering and of shifting up and down the fingerboard!

Jocko is it too much trouble to indicate your suggested RH fingering? The convention in CB, as you undoubtedly are aware, is thumb =  +     1st finger =  .    and 2nd finger =   ..

The reason I ask is that we recently had a discussion on the alternate fingering used in CB scales and there was some disagreement regarding which finger to start with. I have added the RH fingers I would use for the first section. (and changed a couple of indications to suit my way ..noted in red). 

..The trouble with my way is that although the way I was taught to move across the strings it frequently picks the first beat of the bar with the weakest finger!

I would like to see how you do it...  scribble on a copy as adding the  "+ 's and . 's " to the score is  pain in the rear !!

Hi Jody, I should have been clearer (an hour or so of tapping out scales in Finale will do that to ya! :o). A better way than playing from do- (as in "do, a deer...")-to-do, in one, two or three octaves. A better way at least for my jazz bass and guitar students to start visualizing the whole fingerboard, digesting large and small patterns, and discarding the notion that a given scale "starts on" a given note. Not that regular scales are bad or anything. And I should have said "a specific area of the fingerboard," in the sense of setting a parameter. For instance, on electric bass, there are seven ways to play a major scale without shifting position - 3 notes per string. Anywhere you are on the neck, in any key, you're "in the airspace" of one of those patterns. Similarly, you can play all seven patterns within 5 frets. This is only one way, but the point is to get some kind of flow in bass line construction and soloing. Of course our mighty banjo doesn't work itself out that mathematically (for which thank God!), but I guess the "area" I was playing with here was low-C to high-G, for no other reason than to make it all work out in 4/4! But again, I'm approaching it as an improviser, so I'm finding useful those little recurring 4- and 5-note patterns. 

Jody Stecher said:

A better way than *what*?  

And what would be an example of scales that are not in "areas of the fingerboard"? I'm not picturing where else they can be (they can't be on one point of the fingerboard and they can't be in areas of something other than the fingerboard…so I'm a bit lost here). 

Jocko MacNelly said:

I always teach scales within areas of the fingerboard, starting and ending on the lowest root, which is a better way to be able to access them for improvising. 

Well I was wondering about that myself Ian! I teach my classical guitar and bass guys to be able to use "strict alternation" instinctively, usually for single note passages, that would be (. .. . ..), just like walking. Glides are great, and sometimes preferable, but you want to be able to NOT glide so you have control of your phrasing. This is made somewhat difficult, especially in descending scalewise patterns, by the fact that most of the time single notes will be in "rest stroke" (where the plucking finger contacts the string behind the one just played). So that's what I thought you guys could tell me: is it theoretically possible (for example), say when you're doing (. + . +), to do that in strict alternation without the idea of a weak or strong finger? And those pesky Segovia scales have 7 combinations: (. ..) (.. .) (.. ...) (... ..) (. ...) (... .) and even (. .. ... ..). I'm finding on banjo I tend to gravitate toward (+ . .. + . ..). Could one prescribe RH fingerings for banjo the same way (without the ring finger of course, life being short enough as it is)? Again, this doesn't take into account all those fun things you can do with the fifth string, but i guess there could be one set of scales where you ignore the fifth string and another "fun" set, with all the banjo-ey stuff. 

thereallyniceman said:

I love this sort of exercise for practice of alternate fingering and of shifting up and down the fingerboard!

Jocko is it too much trouble to indicate your suggested RH fingering? The convention in CB, as you undoubtedly are aware, is thumb =  +     1st finger =  .    and 2nd finger =   ..

The reason I ask is that we recently had a discussion on the alternate fingering used in CB scales and there was some disagreement regarding which finger to start with. I have added the RH fingers I would use for the first section. (and changed a couple of indications to suit my way ..noted in red). 

..The trouble with my way is that although the way I was taught to move across the strings it frequently picks the first beat of the bar with the weakest finger!

I would like to see how you do it...  scribble on a copy as adding the  "+ 's and . 's " to the score is  pain in the rear !!

by the way, I much prefer the CB convention of + . .. over the various other ones!

Jocko MacNelly said:

Well I was wondering about that myself Ian! I teach my classical guitar and bass guys to be able to use "strict alternation" instinctively, usually for single note passages, that would be (. .. . ..), just like walking. Glides are great, and sometimes preferable, but you want to be able to NOT glide so you have control of your phrasing. This is made somewhat difficult, especially in descending scalewise patterns, by the fact that most of the time single notes will be in "rest stroke" (where the plucking finger contacts the string behind the one just played). So that's what I thought you guys could tell me: is it theoretically possible (for example), say when you're doing (. + . +), to do that in strict alternation without the idea of a weak or strong finger? And those pesky Segovia scales have 7 combinations: (. ..) (.. .) (.. ...) (... ..) (. ...) (... .) and even (. .. ... ..). I'm finding on banjo I tend to gravitate toward (+ . .. + . ..). Could one prescribe RH fingerings for banjo the same way (without the ring finger of course, life being short enough as it is)? Again, this doesn't take into account all those fun things you can do with the fifth string, but i guess there could be one set of scales where you ignore the fifth string and another "fun" set, with all the banjo-ey stuff. 

thereallyniceman said:

I love this sort of exercise for practice of alternate fingering and of shifting up and down the fingerboard!

Jocko is it too much trouble to indicate your suggested RH fingering? The convention in CB, as you undoubtedly are aware, is thumb =  +     1st finger =  .    and 2nd finger =   ..

The reason I ask is that we recently had a discussion on the alternate fingering used in CB scales and there was some disagreement regarding which finger to start with. I have added the RH fingers I would use for the first section. (and changed a couple of indications to suit my way ..noted in red). 

..The trouble with my way is that although the way I was taught to move across the strings it frequently picks the first beat of the bar with the weakest finger!

I would like to see how you do it...  scribble on a copy as adding the  "+ 's and . 's " to the score is  pain in the rear !!

This is interesting, despite it having been discussed before. We still have no resolution of the question of whether the "strong" first beat should be played with a strong finger!  As I said in my previous post in my fingering of the C scale I start with the RH 1st (weak) finger, and as I said in a previous discussion this is because when changing from the 4th string across the strings it flows better when done Thumb, then 1st finger on the next string.

This  Thumb + on the lower string  then first . on the next is how it was taught in the early tutors.

Here is Parke Hunter:

Here is Grimshaw:

Here is Morley:

Here are the scales I learnt from (NB not all scales start with a specific RH finger.. it is the order  of + and then .   at the CHANGE OF STRING that matters):

And amazingly , this very poor copy of an early BMG magazine actually has Morley explaining the reason!

I LOOOOVE this!! :o)  The interesting thing is that these scales seem to facilitate the string change by using a "higher" finger, tough my tendency, in a passage starting on a downbeat, would be to "lead with the thumb." When I'm "in the trenches" what I find myself naturally doing is (+ . + .), and using .. for ascending string changes. I would love to see if I can get a reliable . or .. glide descending. If you could see old guitar scores from my student days - I would painstakingly go through some Bach piece and assign EVERY NOTE a RH finger (p i m a for thumb index middle and annular), which is not so bad, except i went out of my way to make string shifts work out to higher or lower fingers, resulting in some very involved (and ultimately unmusical) fingerings. That's probably a big part of the reason I'm looking for a "mindful" but less worked-out way of proceeding in this new arena. Thanks for all these fascinating examples Ian, and I can't wait to read the Morley article!

I am a bit perplexed by all this. I have just now studied my right hand as I change from one string to another at slow, medium, and rapid speed using thumb then index, thumb then middle (from the second to first string) , and index then thumb.  I find it makes no difference in comfort or ease of execution. Here is why: When my thumb strikes a string the movement of the thumb does not end on the top side of the string (on the side towards the sky). It moves to the earth side of the string, as if it had moved *through* the string. It is already very close to the next string and it stays there until it is needed. If the thumb plays the penultimate note on a string it remains on the lower side of the string as the index plays the last note on that string.  When thumb plays the first note on the next string it already very close to that string and ready to strike it. For example if I play a C major scale starting on the low string with the thumb, after I have played the E natural, the thumb remains nearly touching the third (G) string as the index strikes the F note. I don't see the problem.

I also don't find that the index is weaker than the thumb. It does have less mass and therefore produces a sound that is —less massive, at least when plucking upward. But that may not be entirely due to the finger diameter. The upward movement is not aided by gravity whereas the downward thumb movement has the force of gravity to help it. The poor index finger has to rely on muscle. In a battle between the muscle of an index finger and the power of gravity, gravity always wins.

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