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Major and Minor Bass Guitar Scales -- Bass Books and Music

28 April 2016

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Learning Bass Guitar Scales

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BASS PLAYER’S GUIDE TO SCALES AND MODES
See our Scales and Modes category here.

Bass guitar scales are fundamental to playing the instrument, whether or not the player specifically studies and practices them. So best to be direct about this: scales for bass guitar will develop any bass player’s technique and ear and they should be tackled straight on. You must work on scales, as well as their varied forms called “modes.” Consult study books and practice playing to bass guitar scale charts so you learn scales, remember them, recognize them and can play them anywhere on the neck.

A scale (from the Latin for “ladder”) is simply a sequence of notes that ascend or descend over one octave. They can be in any key and different modes, but as a practical matter, they largely define the note set we will be playing in any given song. Knowledge of scales, then, makes a song easier to learn and play well, and is absolutely critical to improvisation.

Learn Bass Guitar Scales and Modes

Bass guitar scales represent structure and patterns in our music, and starting to learn those patterns makes it suddenly easier to recognize, understand and apply them. So the big step is the first one: once you begin learning scales and modes, it gets rapidly easier to learn more.

Here’s an example of two basic scales, C Major and G Major, and how they are represented on the printed page. The top of the staff is the notes in standard notation, below that is the tablature indication of which fret and string will produce each note, and the bottom numbers are suggested fingering.

SCALES ON BASS, C MAJOR AND G MAJOR




Scales can be modified into different forms to give different tonalities and structures. Here are two simple examples, the bass guitar pentatonic scale and the blues scale.

PENTATONIC SCALE AND BLUES PROGRESSION ON BASS




Memorizing all the scales for all the modes in all the keys may sound daunting, but the bass guitar fretboard provides a simplifying structure. Learn the basic patterns, and they will be repeated up and down the neck for the various keys.

SCALES AND MODES ON BASS




Books on Bass Guitar Scales

You can find plenty of bass guitar scale PDFs on the Internet, and a good book on the subject will have bass guitar scale charts to study. We have several such books at BassBooks.com; check out our Scales and Modes category here. Following are three books we especially suggest you consider.

THE BASS PLAYER’S GUIDE TO SCALES AND MODES

by Stuart Clayton

This excellent reference manual presents all the scales and modes used by a bass-guitar player, as well as their construction. The student is encouraged to understand the content of each scale, in addition to memorizing its fretboard pattern. Popular bass grooves illustrate the role of each scale. 142 pages, written in both standard notation and TAB, audio tracks downloadable from the publisher’s website. $41.99

Click here for more details and to order THE BASS PLAYER’S GUIDE TO SCALES AND MODES.


BASS PLAYER’S GUIDE TO SCALES AND MODES
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SCALES AND MODES FOR ELECTRIC BASS

by Dana Roth

As its title implies, this comprehensive book presents major, minor, pentatonic and blues scales, in all keys, plus Mixolydian, Dorian, Lydian, Phrygian and Locrian modes. Each page includes a fingerboard diagram, and a bass riff is presented to exemplify the sound and structure of each scale and mode. 104 pages, written in both standard notation and TAB. $16.99

Click here for more details and to order ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SCALES AND MODES FOR ELECTRIC BASS.


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SCALES AND MODES FOR ELECTRIC BASS
FRETBOARD ALCHEMY FOR 4-, 5- and 6-STRING BASS

by Scott Hubbell

This wide-ranging study of scales, modes, and arpeggios cuts away a lot of the fluff to bring scale theory up to date in a simplified, no-nonsense form. The focus extends to fingering, functional harmony and more. 96 pages, written in both standard notation and TAB. $20.00

Click here for more details and to order FRETBOARD ALCHEMY FOR 4-, 5- and 6-STRING BASS.


FRETBOARD ALCHEMY FOR 4-, 5- and 6-STRING BASS

Bass Scale Length

Another use of the term “scale” when talking about Bass Guitars refers to the length of the instrument’s neck. You will see references to long-scale bass guitars, medium-scale bass guitars and short-scale bass guitars. An electric bass (or, really, any stringed instrument) is designed with a particular “speaking length,” the distance over which the strings will vibrate in creating their tone. Because a string’s pitch depends on its mass, tension and length, different scale lengths provide some choices in the compromises that affect tone quality and fingering pressure.

For electric basses, a 34-inch scale length (measured from bridge to nut) was the original standard and remains the most common. Many five- and six-string basses stretch this out to 35 inches. The 34-35-inch range is considered long scale. A medium-scale bass will use a 32-inch scale length, and instruments with a 30-inch scale length are considered short scale. A shorter scale length generally makes an instrument physically easier to play, which may aid beginners, though this could be a dangerous crutch; everyone should first learn the instrument on a standard long scale if at all possible.

Study Those Scales!

Like eating vegetables, practicing scales on bass guitar may seem dreary to the beginner but it’s a healthy habit to get into. All the great songs and classic riffs we love are made up of notes from a scale. The more knowledgeable we are about bass guitar scales, the better we will be at hearing, understanding and playing great bass lines.


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