In this bass lesson I’m going to show you the 5 easy scales for beginner bass guitar players.
If you’re in the early phases of learning the bass guitar these are the 5 scales I suggest you learn first.
Ever since writing my book ‘The Complete Guide To Music Theory for Bass Guitar Players many students have asked me to create videos to demonstrate how I approach using scales in practice.
A scale is essentially a group or ‘pallet’ of notes that create a distinctive musical colour. When teaching scales I always look to associate bass lines, songs or grooves with each scale. This makes scales far easier to understand and use in the real world. Watch the video lesson and i’ll show examples exactly this.
First we'll start off with The Major Scale, Minor Scale & Dominant Scale - these work over the 3 most common types of chords you’ll see in pop and rock music. Then we’ll look at the Major & Pentatonic scales - these are fantastic for creating grooves, riff and fills.
Let’s get stuck in!
Backing Tracks For This Bass Guitar Lesson
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Scale 1 - The Major Scale
The major scale is the backbone of all Western Music and it’s the number one scale all beginner bassists should know. Here’s what you need to know:
The Major Scale contains 8 notes and has a ‘happy’ sound to it.
The Major Scale will work over any Major Chord.
The intervals of the Major Scale are Root, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th & octave
I recommend fingering it 2-4 | 1-2-4 | 1-3-4 using the one finger per fret system.
Scale 2 - The Natural Minor Scale
There are quite a few variations of the minor scale. The Natural Minor scale is the most common version you’ll find in Pop & Rock music. Here’s what you need to know:
The Minor Scale has a sadder more melancholy sound to it.
The Natural Minor Scale will fit over a minor chord.
The intervals of the Natural Minor Scale are Root, 2nd, flat 3rd, 4th, 5th, Flat 6th, Flat 7th & Octave.
I recommend fingering it 1-3-4 | 1-3-4 | 1-3 using the one finger per fret system.
You may also hear this scale called ‘The Aeolian Scale or Mode - it’s the same thing.
Scale 3 - The Dominant Scale
The ‘Dominant’ is the next most important scale to understand and the great thing is it’s very similar to Major Scale. Here’s what you need to know:
The dominant scale is used extensively in Funk music and Blues… hence I often think of it as ‘The Funk Scale!’!
This scale works perfectly over a 7th chord Eg: C7.
The intervals of the scale are Root, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, Flat 7th & Octave
I recommended the Fingering 1-3-4 | 1-3-4 | 1-3 using the 1 finger per fret system
You may also hear this scale called ‘The Mixolydian scale or mode - it’s the same thing.
Scale 4 - The Major Pentatonic Scale
Pentatonics are very handy scales for bass guitar players and are often the backbone of so many classic bass lines and riffs. Here’s what you need to know:
The Major Pentatonic is great for creating Rock ‘N’ Roll Style riffs and fills over major or 7th chords.
As the name suggests it only has 5 notes.
The intervals Root, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th (and Octave)
The fingering I suggest is 2-4 | 1-4 | 1-4 using the one finger per fret system.
Major Pentatonic - Forward Position
Here is another way to play the major pentatonic scale. I use this in the video lesson and it allows you to add slides and hammer ons / pull offs which always sound good.
Scale 5 - The Minor Pentatonic
The minor pentatonic scale is a classic and essential if you love Rock music! It’s perfect for creating powerful rock bass riffs and fills. Here’s what you need to know:
The intervals of the minor pentatonic scale are Root, Flat 3, 4th, 5th, flat 7th and octave.
I suggest the following fingering: 1-4 | 1-3 | 1-3
The shape it creates on the fretboard is commonly known as the ‘box shape’. This a pattern which falls really nicely under the hand.
Bonus Scale - The Blues Scale
As a bonus, I’ve given you one more scale which is heavily connected to the Minor Pentatonic - the Blues Scale. It adds one more note the ‘Flat 5’ which as the name suggests gives the scale a ‘bluesy’ sound. Give it a go!
Lesson Wrap Up
A good understanding of scales will put you in a great position to start creating and improvising your own bass lines. This lesson is the perfect place to start if you’re confused by the hundreds of scales that exist.
If you can get a solid understanding of how these 5 easy scales for beginner bass guitar players work, you’ll be in a good position to start playing a large proportion of pop and rock music.
If you want to take the contents of this lesson deeper and understand music theory make sure you check out the Ultimate Music Theory Bootcamp inside the Bass Lab PLUS Membership program.
Here you can learn music theory and how it relates to the bass guitar right from the ground upwards!
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All Bass Lab PLUS courses are easy to understand and simplify complex ideas so bass players in the early phases of learning can make rapid progress and achieve results that impress their friends and family fast.
Good luck and get stuck in!James