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Master Major Scales for Bass Guitar in 300 Words (And Some Pictures)

Scouring the Internet, I kind of taken for a loop by the lack of simply straight-forward approach to scales and music theory for music and bass guitar. Many of these concepts, I’ve found are strongly pattern-oriented and so few outlets make notice of how apparent these patterns really are and how it can take so much of the pain out of learning these musical concepts.

So this post series is my attempt to do that: a bare bones, plain English attempt to explain this concept of scales. In this first one, I’ll break down major scales on bass guitar.

Music theory has many patterns and and there are 2 big ways you can look at and musical scale. Both are totally correct and one is not more “right” than the other:

1. By the shape, the physical pattern that the notes make on the fretboard and/or

2. By using the Circle of 5ths and seeing the actual notes relative to the key associated with it.


Using Shape Patterns, this is the major scale SHAPE. If you make this shape ANYWHERE on the fret board, you will have played a major scale:

major scale


The red dots show the root – or First note – and the Octave. The blue dots show the other notes in the scale: 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th.

– – –

If you work better knowing the notes and the patterns that come with that, then consider turning attention to the pattern of the Circle of 5ths:

Step 1: Identify a root note and the key associated with it. In this example, we circled a G and the key is the key of G major. G major has 1 sharp: F#:

cof 1



G A B C D E F# G

Which, on the fret board looks like this:

major scale 2


Look familiar?


Let’s try another example to hammer home this whole pattern thing home. Lets take Eb major:

cof 2

1. What is the note we’re starting on? Eb

2. What is the key? Eb major

3. What notes are changed? Bb, Eb and Ab

4. What is the major scale?

Eb F G Ab Bb C D Eb


What’s that look like on the fret board?

major scale 3

Starting to see the pattern? Try out some examples for yourself! Part of music theory is seeing the patterns that are present in music. Once you see these patterns, I promise that “Aha!” moment will hit you and you’ll see your learning and awareness skyrocket.




 P.S. Stay tuned for Saturday, when I’ll cover Part 2: Minor Scales. So if this was at all helpful to you, be sure to check back on Saturday around 9am!