Knowing a few simple bass guitar notes can help you develop your bass scales which will form the foundation of your bass guitar playing. As a novice you can get one of the best bass guitar for beginners but you still need to understand all of the notes on the bass to be able to play. For each scale we cover here we will learn a shape and then cover that octave to form a bass scale. Every scale combines some natural notes as well as sharps and flats that can form a bassline for many songs.
Every note for scales we are covering here will help you play bass guitar and then you can add in alternative patterns so that you truly understand how every scale work. All of the scales you will see on this page use the C as your root note so it’s easy to compare them to each other and find out what makes each of them unique.
Understanding Musical Notes
The great thing about playing the bass guitar is that once you understand the basic chord patterns and scales they will never change no matter what key you play in. Making sure you memorzie the order your bass notes go in can help you take on the scales we have mentioned below. You may also want to work on your bass chords as well because these can help strengthen up your left hand so that you become a really versatile bass guitar player.
Order of Notes
The very first thing you should do when you pick up your bass is learn how to play the sequence of musical notes. On your bass every note that includes the sharps and flats sit one fret or half a step away from the next one. It’s okay if you can’t read sheet music as this isn’t as important as it would be for classical musicians although having some basic musical theory knowledge will be helpful.
Once you understand the order that the notes go in on your guitar you will know what finger to place and what string to strum when trying to play chords, scales and songs. The order of the notes on a bass guitar go as follows:
C C# Db D D# Eb F F# Gb G G# Ab A A# Bb B C
Other Basic Skills
Bass players need more than just knowledge of the notes on the fretboard to be able to play the instrument properly. To be a well rounded player you have to understand the most important chords and scales involved as well. Here’s a quick overview of the skills we think you will need before you move on to the next section. If you need more help remember to invest in bass guitar lessons as these can provide you with everything you need to know about playing your instrument well.
- Basic chords and triads – Most bass chords consist of three notes and you can take these from the main scales on the bass. You will use a root note which is your first, then a third and fifth to create your chord. You can easily find the right notes to make up a triad by playing a scale up the fifth note and then skip every other note that is featured in the scale to create a chord.
- 7th chords – A seventh chord is the next step up from a traid and uses the seventh note of a scale. If you listen to a seventh chord played you will notice that it is slightly more complex than the triads we’ve just mentioned. However, these four note chords are used a lot in contemporary music so it’s another skill you will want to learn.
- Scales – Most songs will use a scale of some sort at least once during the composition. Another term for a scale is a mode so if you ever see someone talking about modes, they’re just being fancy and they mean scales. Understand the scale you are playing in before jumping into a song. You can usually determine this by looking at the key. A scale provides a perfect bass line for a song and can then be built on with melodies from other instruments such as acoustic guitars and drums.
- Solo scales – A solo scale is a scale that you play on your own without any sort of any other accompaniment. These kinds of solos usually come when you are playing along with traditional melodies that come from instruments such as saxophones. It’s rare that you will be asked to play a solo as a bassist but at least you will be prepared if the situation ever does arise.
The best way to learn any of your basic skills and scales is to follow diagrams where you can see the notes clearly. Below we have provided you with five basic scales we think you should learn as a beginner bassist. If you don’t understand how to read music yet make sure to look on our website and find out how to read each of the diagrams we’ve provided.
1. The C Major Scale
We’ll start out with the simplest of the scales with the C major scale. This is made up of natural notes that go C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. This is the most important scale you will use if you want to play bass guitar for Western music. The C major scale also forms the basis for the key of all tunes you play.
Once you know the scale off by heart and your fingers can move through it easily you can move the pattern up or down your guitar. This helps you feel much more comfortable playing it at any point on your guitar.
If you need some extra help remembering this scale then play it both ways up and down your bass guitar. Move it up one fret and then repeat it again. Do this all the way up the bass guitar’s neck and then work your way back down. Scales may not seem like the most fun activity to begin with but they are so important to form the basis of your skill so you can play bass guitar well moving forward.
2. The C Major Pentatonic Scale
This scale uses five natural notes on your bass guitar. It’s a bit more of a stripped down version of the bass guitar scale we just went over. The notes to play the major pentatonic scale has two notes missing so it goes C, D, E, G, A, C. This makes it different from the major scale because ti doesn’t have a fourth or seventh. A scale like this can be used in bass lines where a scale has to be used in a more careful way to match the time signature. You can play a chord like this with the first, fourth and fifth chords of your bass guitar too to make you more of a well-rounded bass player. This is a great foundation for solo work and improvising as a bass player.
3. The Natural Minor Scale
Here we will be using a combination of natural notes along with a few flat notes too, even though the scale is referred to as the natural minor scale. You can find the minor scale when you play the major scale and start out from the 6th degree. An example of this would be playing your C major scale from the A using the sixth which would then creat a natural A minor scale.
The notes for the natural minor scale from C go as follows: C, D, E flat, F, G, A flat, B flat, C. Knowing this song will provide you with one of the perfect bass lines and all the notes you need to play in a minor key.
4. The Minor Pentatonic Scale
This scale uses five notes again and is ideal for beginners because you can play in the minor key without hitting notes that clash horrible together. You will be playing the natural minor scale but missing out the second and sixth notes to create this scale. The bass notes you will be using are C, E flat, F, G, B flat, C.
5. The Blues Scale
You can recognize the blues scale as being a variation of the minor pentatonic scale but it contains one more note than it. This note is referred to as an augmented fourth or as a diminished fifth. A note like this is a chromatic note that leads into your fourth and fifth so that the music has a bit of tension with a release at the end. Even though the blues scale sounds like it’s out of key, the chromatic note works to bring the two degrees of the scale together and lingers long enough so that the scale does sound right. You will need to use the notes C, E flat, F, F sharp/G flat, G, B flat, C.
We hope you find our introduction to bass notes and scales article helpful. We always would encourage you to learn your basics first because this will build a solid foundation for you to become a truly great bass player. Taking in all of the knowledge we have provided for you here is a great start. Remember if you are struggling you can reach out to the musical community who are happy to answer any questions. With an instrument such as a bass it may be advised to invest in some lessons too just to start you off on the right foot. As always, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave your thoughts below. Happy playing!