Jun 27th, 2007
This lesson does not have tons of practical application, but I thought it was important to clear up some confusion on the chromatic scale just for the sake of increasing your understanding of how the chromatic scale differs from the partial chromatic scale.
What is the chromatic scale?
First, let’s define a chromatic scale. A chromatic scale is a scale that each note goes up or down one half step from the previous note. So since there are 12 notes, the chromatic scale must have 12 notes because we are only moving a half step, so we are only going up or down one note at a time. That means we are playing every note! Now you can play a chromatic line (lick) and just use notes from a chromatic scale. So if you play 4 notes in a row and each note goes up one half step or each note goes down one have step, that is a chromatic line, or lick.
Practicing with the chromatic scale
Many guitarists practice what they think is the chromatic scale. They will play something like the tab below and go up and down the strings and then move up one fret and repeat it all the way up the neck. (This happens to be a great warm-up, finger strengthening, and speed building exercise if practiced with a metronome).
Now there is no problem with practicing this, in fact, I highly recommend it, but the problem is that this is not a true chromatic scale. If you look at the notes I labeled below you will see that in a few places the notes don’t go up by a half step, they go up by a whole step. And even though those notes appear later on in the scale (see the green underlines) they still do not appear in chromatic order. Thus it is not a true chromatic scale. This is called the partial chromatic scale.
The actual chromatic scale
But below are two ways you can play the actual chromatic scale. The scales below are truly chromatic because all 12 notes are played in a row ascending or descending. If you name the notes as you play you will see that they are all in order. Or you can take my word for it .
Like I said, this doesn’t have that much practical application because players rarely, if ever, play an entire chromatic scale all the way through. But this is still a good piece of knowledge for you to have under your belt and you can apply it when playing chromatic lines that span over two strings.