Bass Guitar Scales: The Ultimate Guide

The Blues Bass Guitar Scale

Just like the name implies, this scale is the King of the Blues world.

This bass guitar scale is a great substitute for the minor pentatonic scale, and provides us with a great sense of ‘movement.’

This movement comes from the addition of a sixth note in the minor pentatonic scale (A String – 9th fret in the example) – we call this a ‘b5’ (Flat 5) because it is the note that occurs before the V.

c-blues-bass-guitar-tab

The b5 provides a “pulling” sensation not found in other bass guitar scales because of the “walk up” from the IV note to the V note.

This additional note can provide us with a great sense of groove, and is an excellent note to use in transition.

easy-riffs-on-guitar

Skill Tip: The b5 note should never be “landed on,” only “played through,” meaning that we should always play another note in the scale after it.

Cream’s Sunshine of Your Love has a great bassline that makes use of this b5 note.

You can play along to it using the TAB below:

bass-guitar-scales

Another great song that uses the Blues scale is Vulfpeck’s ‘Dean Town’listen for the bassline at 3:20 to hear a ‘walk-up’ from the IV note to the V note!

Click Here to jam this scale over a backing track! (C Pentatonic Blues Scale – 8th fret)

Note: We attached a jam track with a bass already in it in this section so you can follow along more easily!

Try making use of all three Minor bass guitar scales on this track so you can get a reference for what you like to hear!

The Right Way to Practice Bass Guitar Scales

There is no ‘right way’ in particular to learn music, but there definitely is a right way to practice.

  • Developing good habits in your practice regimen can make learning music infinitely easier, and can help you realize your goals a lot sooner.
  • Practicing your bass guitar scales in both ascending (up) and descending (down) order will help you to memorize note placement as well as finger placement.
  • Practicing scales in this way also helps us to develop better muscle memory.

learn-bass-scales

Muscle memory is exactly what it sounds like – Your muscles’ ability to remember physical movements.

  • Do you always hold your pencil the same way? That’s muscle memory, and it’s the reason that musicians can play some pretty amazing lines of music (like Victor Wooten, here)
  • Singing notes as we play them is another great technique to throw into your practice regimen when rehearsing your bass guitar scales.

Even if you’re just starting out, making an attempt at matching your voice to your instrument is a great way to sharpen both your ears and your playing!

Bonus Skill Tip: Keep a journal near your bass and keep track of what your practice every day. Write down what you played, how long you practiced for, and keep a log of any breakthroughs or reflections you might have had that day.

This is a great way to keep track of both your progress and your growth.

bass-guitar-scales

Avoiding Bad Habits with Bass Guitar Scales

It’s very easy to get comfortable practicing bass guitar scales (or music in general) in our favourite comfy chair or couch, and it’s usually more relaxing to practice this way. 

However, too much ‘comfort’ can lead to bad posture, bad habits and back pain.

Here’s a quick five-point checklist to help you stay productive and avoid long-term issues like wrist and back pain, as well as Tendonitis

  • Sit toward the edge of your chair when practicing, and keep your back straight
  • Always stretch your hands, arms, wrists and fingers before practicing!
  • Take it slow – Over-exerting ourselves during practice can lead to joint and wrist pain.
  • Listen to your body – If you’re starting to experience pain in your hands, wrists and forearms, it’s probably time for a break!
  • Do some Yoga. Seriously, Yoga is fantastic for any musician, regardless of what instrument you play.

bass-guitar-relaxation

How to Have Fun with Bass Guitar Scales

Running up and down a scale over and over again can get quickly get exhausting, not to mention repetitive.

Finding ways to “have fun” with these scales is important to help keep us focused on practicing and improving our skills as bassists.

  • Once you’ve gotten the shapes under-hand, it’s time to bust out of the “scale box.”
  • Try mixing up the order of the notes that you’re playing to create a melody!

This is an excellent way to help you not only memorize your bass guitar scales, but also aid in developing your ear!

Experiment with timing as well to develop a sense of what you like in a bass guitar groove!

Before we finish, give this little groove a spin.

This bass riff starts off in the minor pentatonic scale, and finishes in the blues scale.

See if you can spot where the change happens!

Play all notes with even timing, then try and play with different time values to find a groove that you like!

bass-guitar-riff

Skill Tip: Count out loud whenever possible to help you maintain a good sense of timing.

As the bass player, it’s your job to hold down the groove and rhythm with your drummer, so try to focus on timing as often as you can! Tapping your foot will help with this as well!

bass-guitar-tabs

Where do go from here?

Here are some other great ways to keep improving your skills on bass guitar!

Inspiration. Live music is the best way to get new ideas and be inspired!

learn-guitar-fast

Recommended Resources

If you want to continue developing your skills on bass guitar, check out these other free bass guitar resources from the National Guitar Academy!

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