Are you looking for a quick reference to help you learn bass guitar scales? A Bass Scales Chart is an invaluable tool for any player, as it offers a visual representation of various musical scales on the bass fretboard.
As a bassist, having this chart at your fingertips can drastically improve your playing and make learning those tricky new chords and notes much easier.
To get you started, we have created a free printable Bass Guitar Scales Reference PDF – so now there’s no excuse not to take your skills to the next level!
Use the links below to navigate to the scales and chords you want to learn about.
Each part has links to videos, other articles and resources to help you on your way!
How to practice Bass Guitar Scales?
As a beginner, the best way to play bass guitar scales is to try to udnerstand the theory behind them first.
Granted you might find this a little boring but it’s worth taking the long approach because it will help you explore the instrument much quicker and more deeply in the long run.
If you simply learn to play a C major scale without understanding the theory behind it, then you are limited to that one scale. And you can’t learn any new ones until your teacher shows you some new bass guitar scales.
However, if you learn the theory behind a minor scale, for example, then you learn how they work in principle.
And this means, instead of patiently waiting for your next lesson so your teacher can teach you a new scale, you can explore the neck on your own.
You can learn to build a minor scale in any key you like which is far more interesting in the long run!
The Major Scale
The major scale is probably the most useful scale to know in Western music. It’s the scale that all other scales are compared to and, for this reason, learning it is a key component of music theory.
The major scale is made up of a chain of tones (two frets up or down on the bass guitar) and semitones (one fret up or down).
The chain of semitones and tones (known as the major scale’s “tonal structure” starts with a root note and then goes as follows.
Root – tone – tone – semitone – tone – tone – tone – semitone.
Do this pattern up one string from any fret on the bass guitar and you’ll have a major scale.
The Natural Minor Scale
Just like the major scale, the natural minor scale also has a unique tonal structure and is also one of the most important bass guitar scales you can learn.
The natural minor scale’s tonal structure is:
Root – tone – semitone – tone – tone – semitone – tone – tone.
Just as with major scales, if you play this pattern from anywhere on the bass guitar you’ll get a minor scale.
The Major Pentatonic Scale
You can think of the major pentatonic as a reduced version of the major scale. It takes five notes from the major scale (hence the name “pentatonic” major scale) to which combine to give a general sonic impression of the full major scale.
The notes of the major pentatonic are:
Root – major 2nd – major 3rd – perfect 5th – major 6th.
Many major scale patterns that make up a lot of bass lines and riffs are often built from the major pentatonic scale.
The Minor Pentatonic Scale
The minor pentatonic is a reduced version of the natural minor scale and is also made up of five notes borrowed from the minor scale.
These notes are:
The root – minor 3rd – perfect 4th – perfect 5th – flat 7th.
Many also add the octave to the pattern when playing.
This pentatonic scale is used for bass lines and riffs in so many different genres of music that it is almost too hard to count.
The minor pentatonic scale is so common that you’ll find it in
The blues scale is a variation of the minor pentatonic scale.
The pattern is:
The root – minor 3rd – perfect 4th – flat 5th – perfect 5th – flat 7th.
It has a very distinctive sound due to the use of its “blue” note which is the added flat 5th.
Because it has more than five notes, it’s not strictly classed as a pentatonic scale but, because it’s so close to one, many of the blues scale’s scale patterns are almost identical to the minor pentatonic.
Bass Scale Patterns
One of the biggest differences in how most bass players learn scales is that most of them learn scales as patterns or than as a sequence of notes rather than really getting to grips with the theory.
Patterns are great and they are a handy tool for visualizing the notes on the neck. However, they can’t be all that you learn so try to learn both ways and make sure you’re a well-rounded musician.
That all being said, let’s now look at some of the ways that learning patterns can help you master your scales and chords.
Is There More Than One Scale Pattern For Each Scale?
One great thing about bass guitar is the variety of ways you can play and practice the same scale.
Because bass strings have different notes at different places on the neck, there are several shapes that a bassist can use to play any given scale.
Being aware of this provides immense flexibility when it comes to playing bass. Music theory knowledge definitely helps as well, but having experience and familiarity with multiple bass scales shapes can also benefit your bass playing in many subtle ways.
So when learning any new bass scale, don’t be afraid to explore the neck further, you may find interesting variations!
What are the 4 bass chords?
There are four main chord types that bass players should become familiar with: major triads, minor triads, diminished triads and augmented triads.
The Major Chord
A major triad consists of two notes that are three semitones apart and then a third note that falls four semitones away from the second note – these chords have an uplifting, bright sound.
The Minor Chord
Minor chords have a similar structure – two notes three semitones apart and then a third note four semitones away from the second note, but they create a softer sound.
The Diminished Chord
Diminished chords differ from major and minor as they have an interval of three semitones between each of the notes in their stacked thirds, creating a very dark tone.
The Augmented Chord
Finally, augmented chords have an interval of four semitones between each note in order to provide tension and suspense to your bass line when playing!
What’s A Bass Arpeggio?
An arpeggiated chord is a broken chord, where the notes of a particular chord are usually played in sequence, one by one instead of all at once.
This creates an interesting sound and can be used effectively to add texture to any piece of music.
Bass players tend to use arpeggios more often than other instruments as they commonly use them when playing things like riffs, licks and walking bass lines.
Arpeggios can create subtle and complex musical phrases which can make your song or piece stand out from the rest!
Are bass scales the same as guitar scales?
Yes! In fact, they are exactly the same. Whilst the fretboard shapes might be a little different due to the guitar’s tuning, the notes are exactly the same for each scale.
Is there a pentatonic scale for bass?
Yes, there is. It’s the exact same scale as on any other instrument. You should always remember that the notes, rather than the instrument, make the scale. This means any scale is possible on the bass.
What is the Dorian scale for bass?
This a mode. It’s best to think of modes as being a kind of “sub-scale” of a parent scale. You can learn more about modes in this article.
What bass scales to learn first?
It’s best to learn the common basics. They aren’t flashy choices but knowing the scale patterns for the major and minor pentatonic scales is important. You should also learn the full major and minor scales, the chromatic scale and the minor blues scale.
Is 4 string bass guitar good for beginners?
Yes, it is. Whilst it’s not any harder to learn than the five or six string bass, much of the material on the market that’s aimed at the average beginner bass guitarist is written for four string bass.
For this reason, a four string is a great bass to start with.
How do you memorize bass scales?
It’s best to learn the theory behind a scale (like c major) rather than just trying to memorise the notes by rote.
If you can comprehend the theory behind the scale then it’s much more likely to stick in your memory.