How to Play Scales on Bass Guitar

Scales are some of the most important building blocks for any instrument. They tell you which notes are most important in any given context. Later, you’ll learn about the other notes. As always, however, we have to start at the beginning, and that means basic scales. Here’s a list of scales for bass that you can learn here. Click on any link to learn that scale in a variety of keys. When other material/lessons are available to help you expand your scale knowledge and skill, those lessons have been included as well.

You’ll see this in a lot of lessons, because it’s so important, and because the first page visited by newcomers is often an individual lesson. But since you’re here, I’ll offer you some tips for getting the most out of your scale practice.

Start slowly – learn the notes in order, up and down. Don’t even attempt to play in time; just work on putting the correct finger on the proper fret. Once you can do that, play the scale at a very slow tempo, using good, long quarter notes or half notes. Many students find it useful to use a metronome or simple drum beat to help them keep time. The key is to play at a tempo slow enough that you can play every note perfectly and no faster. Practice the scale at that tempo until you can…

Play it ten times row – perfectly – Here’s the key: whether you play the scale correctly or incorrectly, your fingers and brain are learning. Play too many wrong notes, and your brain actually learns the wrong scale! That’s why it’s so important to cement the fingering before increasing tempo. And the best way I’ve ever heard to do that (it was super-guitarist Steve Morse who led me to this, by the way) is to play it perfectly ten times in a row. Then, and only then, can you…

Increase tempo slowly – For beginners, I recommend increasing tempo by just two beats per minute at a time. Yes, that means it takes a while to build speed, but you’ll be laser-accurate as you do so.

It’s best to practice a scale for several days in a row before skipping it or putting it into regular rotation for review. Start with a single key until you feel very comfortable with it. Then, add one key at a time, until you’re practicing all of them. Rotate through all of them so the scale feels comfortable in every position on the neck and you can play them without really thinking about them.

As always, have fun, and…

Aim high – Play low


Major ScaleMajor Pentatonic Scale Minor ScaleMinor Pentatonic Scale

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