Learning bass guitar scales as a beginner isn’t nearly as difficult as you may think. If you understand that a scale is essentially a group of notes with a specific pattern, you can easily map out a pattern on the fretboard and memorize it. With these fundamental learnings, even the scales with seemingly difficult names become simple to play! Today, we’ll discuss the  Major, minor, major pentatonic, minor pentatonic and blues scales.

Let’s discuss a few bass guitar scales that you can master as a beginner: 

The Major Scale 

The most prevalent and essential bass guitar scale is the major scale. Many songs are written in major keys, with various major scales used to set a mood. When you listen to a major scale, it has an upbeat and happy vibe to it.

All major scales employ the same interval formulas, whether you’re playing a C or G Major scale on bass. The “steps” between each note, either whole or half, are called intervals. So while a single octave has eight notes, there are seven steps between each of those notes.

The major scale’s formula is as follows:

Whole step- Whole step- Half step- Whole step- Whole step- Whole step- Half step

Let’s now take this formula and apply it to the G Major scale. A wide variety of popular tunes feature the G Major scale on bass. You’ll be able to hear it and identify it in some of your favorite songs once you know what you’re looking for. Beginning with G as the root note, the G Major scale employs the formula above to connect the following notes:

  • G is the root (1st) note
  • A is the second note: (Whole step)
  • B is the third note (Whole step)
  • C is the fourth note (Half step)
  • D is the fifth note (Whole step)
  • E is the sixth note (Whole step)
  • F# for the seventh note (Whole step)
  • G is the eighth note (Half step)

It’s helpful to know where to put your fingers on the fretboard, and using tablature is one of the simplest methods to visualize this. Tablature, also known as “tabs,” is a system of lines and numbers that shows you which notes to play.

The lines on a tab chart reflect the strings on the bass, with the bottom line representing the lowest-toned string to read tablature (E). The highest line on the chart reflects the highest toned string (B). The numbers on a tablature chart indicate which fret you should place your finger on to play the right note on a specific string.

The Minor Scale

In stark contrast to the Major scale, the Minor scale has a darker and more mysterious tone. When you hear the minor scale in a song or by itself, it usually has a sorrowful and depressed tone. As a beginner, learning to play minor scales will help you recognize and produce music with a broader spectrum of emotions.

Like the Major scale, the Minor scale has a formula that applies regardless of the root note used as the beginning point. 

The formula for the Minor scale is:

Whole step- Half step- Whole step- Whole step- Half step- Whole step- Whole step

Let’s put that formula to the test with the C Minor scale. In the blues and jazz genres, the C Minor scale is frequently used.

Here’s how to play the C Minor scale using the Minor scale formula.

  • C is the root (1st) note.
  • The second note is D.
  • Eb is the third note.
  • F is the fourth note.
  • G is the fifth note.
  • A is the sixth note.
  • Bb for the seventh note
  • C is the eighth note.

If you learn that formula, bass tabs will assist you in learning to play the C Minor scale and place your fingers correctly.

The Major Pentatonic Scale 

While the Major and Minor scales are among the most important for musicians to learn, other scales will add more depth to your work and expand your musical knowledge and appreciation.

The Major Pentatonic scale is one of many various categorizations of scales. The Major Pentatonic scale has only five notes, unlike the Major and Minor scales, which have seven (actually eight if you count the root note twice). 

The Greek word “penta” means “five,” which is how this scale got its name. The Pentatonic Major scale is used in a variety of musical genres. For example, the Pentatonic Major is just as likely to be heard in a heavy metal song as in a traditional blues song.

The Pentatonic Major scale formula replaces the standard Major scale formula by removing particular notes. For example, the 4th and 7th notes are removed from the formula, leaving only five notes. Thus, your root note will always be the same in a conventional Major or for a Pentatonic Major scale, but the Pentatonic Major scale shall include five notes: G, B, A, D, and E.

Bass Guitars

Let’s look at how the G Major scale compares to the G Major Pentatonic scale on bass:

Scale in G major:

  • G is the root (1st) note.
  • A is the second note.
  • B is the third note.
  • C is the fourth note.
  • D is the fifth note.
  • E is the sixth note.
  • F# for the seventh note
  • G is the eighth note.

Scale in G Major Pentatonic:

  • G is the root (1st) note.
  • A is the second note:
  • B is the third note.
  • Missing 4th note
  • D is the fifth note.
  • E is the sixth note.
  • Missing 7th note
  • G is the eighth note.

The Minor Pentatonic Scale 

The Minor Pentatonic scale has five notes just like the Major Pentatonic scale. The Minor Pentatonic scale, like the standard Minor scale, has a sadder and more dramatic tone than its Major Pentatonic counterpart. In jazz, blues, and hard rock/heavy metal, the Minor Pentatonic scale provides a mysterious, depressed tone. 

A Minor Pentatonic scale is built using a formula that includes several steps. It flattens the 3rd and 7th notes of a given standard scale and removes the 2nd and 6th notes.

Let’s look at the differences between the C Minor and C Minor Pentatonic scales for bass:

Scale in C minor:

  • C is the root (1st) note.
  • The second note is D.
  • Eb is the third note.
  • F is the fourth note.
  • G is the fifth note.
  • A is the sixth note.
  • Bb for the seventh note.
  • C is the eighth note.

Pentatonic Scale in C Minor:

  • C is the root (1st) note.
  • Missing 2nd note
  • Eb is the third note.
  • F is the fourth note.
  • G is the fifth note.
  • Missing 6th note
  • Bb for the seventh note

It’s easier to play a Minor Pentatonic scale if you understand the musical theory behind it.

Bass guitar Scale in Blues

If low-end grit is your thing, you might gravitate towards learning to play the blues. The blues scale formula varies on the minor scale and/or pentatonic major and whether it’s played on a six-string guitar or a four-string scale.

The blues scale differs from other scales with the addition of a sixth note, known as “the blue note.” This extra chromatic note is responsible for the distinctively soulful tone of this essential scale.

You’d use the following formula to create a blues bass guitar scale:

Whole step and a half step, then a whole step, a half step, a half step, a whole step, a half step, and, lastly, a whole step

Let’s use this formula to play a blues scale in the key of A:

A Blues Scale in Minor:

  • A is the root (1st) note.
  • C is the second note.
  • The third note is D.
  • D# for the fourth note.
  • E is the fifth note.
  • G is the sixth note.

The A Minor Blues scale is one of the many scales you’ll hear within the blues genre. While musical theory helps us to understand what gives a genre its distinct sound, it is ultimately the application and passion behind a song that places it firmly in one genre or another. 

Mastering scales is an essential element of learning bass guitar. They’ll assist you in honing your craft and deepening your understanding of the elements that give each genre its distinct personality. In addition to improving finger speed and agility, playing scales can help you improve, and, eventually, you’ll be able to perform and compose basslines in all of your favorite songs. 

If you want to put into practice everything you learned above, sign up for a FREE trial music class with BYJU’S FutureSchool where you can learn with a dedicated instructor in a live 1:1 setting. For more music resources, be sure to check out the BYJU’S FutureSchool blog.

The music materials discussed in this blog are not a part of the free trial class. They are available only after the successful completion of the required prerequisite courses.

Reference links:

https://www.talkingbass.net/top-5-easy-bass-scales-beginners/
https://www.fender.com/articles/play/bass-guitar-scales-for-beginners
https://onlinebasscourses.com/lessons/theory/bass-guitar-scale-formulas/
https://ebassguitar.com/the-5-easy-scales-for-beginner-bass-guitar-players-yt122/
https://www.pmtonline.co.uk/blog/2020/06/05/5-essential-bass-scales-easy-bass-scales-you-should-know-pmt-college/

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