A Major Scale on Bass

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A Major Scale on Bass

The A major scale is a good major scale to get familiar with early on. It is one of the more common keys for songs and musical pieces, especially when guitars are involved.

The key of A major has three sharps in it. The notes of the A major scale are A, B, C♯, D, E, F♯ and G♯. All the open strings except the G string are part of the key. This makes it nice for bass guitar, the more so because the root is one of the strings (and a low one at that).

The F♯ minor scale has all the same notes (it is one of the modes of A major), making it the relative minor of A major. If a song's key signature has three sharps, chances are it is in A major or F♯ minor.

This article goes through how to play an A major scale in different hand positions on the fretboard. You may find it helpful to read about bass scales and hand positions first, if you haven't already.

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A Major Scale - Fifth Position

The lowest place where you can play a complete A major scale is with your first finger over the second fret. This corresponds to fifth position in the hand positions of the major scale. It is shown in the fretboard diagram above. Start by playing A on the fourth string using your fourth finger on the fifth fret, or by just playing the open A string.

Next, play B, C♯ and D using your first, third and fourth fingers on the third string. You can play the D using an open string instead, if you want. On the second string, play E and F♯ with your first and fourth fingers. You use your fourth finger instead of third so that you can shift your hand back on fret for the next notes. With your hand shifted, play G♯ and A on the first string with your first and second fingers.

You can avoid that shift altogether if you like by taking advantage of the open strings. Position your hand with your first finger over the first fret for the whole scale. Now, play the A and D with open strings and play the B, C♯, E and F♯ with your second and fourth fingers. If you want, you can still use your first finger for all the notes on the second fret (except on the first string), to avoid stretching your hand too much down here where the frets are widely spaced.

You can play a B above the top A in this position as well, or go down to a low E (using the open E string) below the bottom A.

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A Major Scale - First Position

The next place you can play an A major scale is with your first finger over the fourth fret. This corresponds to the first position of the major scale. Begin by playing A and B with your second and fourth fingers on the fourth string. You can use the open A string instead if you want.

On the third string, play the C♯, D and E with your first, second and fourth fingers. You can also use an open string for the D. On the second string, finish by playing the F♯, G♯ and A with your first, third and fourth fingers.

If you want to keep going, you can play B, C♯ and D with your first, third and fourth fingers on the first string. You can also play a low G♯ with your first finger on the fourth string.

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A Major Scale - Second Position

Shift up and place your hand so your first finger is over the seventh fret. This is second position for the A major scale. In second position, you can't actually play the scale from a low A up to a high A. The lowest note you can play is B, with your first finger on the fourth string.

After that, play C♯ and D with your third and fourth fingers, or play the D as an open string. Next, play E on the third string with your first finger and F♯ with your fourth finger, not your third. This is so that you can move your hand back one fret as you go up.

With your hand moved back, play G♯ and A on the second string with your first and second fingers. You can keep going up the scale to a high E.

As with fifth position, the shift in the middle can be avoided. Position your first finger over the sixth fret from the start. On the fourth string, play B and C♯ with your second and fourth fingers, then play the open D string. On the third string, play E and F♯ with your second and fourth fingers. From there, you can continue the same way as before.

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A Major Scale - Third Position

The next position, third position, is with your first finger over the ninth fret. Like the last position, you can't play the scale from A to A, but you can play up from a low C♯.

Play C♯, D and E with your first, second and third fingers on the fourth string. The D could also be played as an open string. Next, play F♯, G♯ and A with your first, third and fourth fingers on the third string.

If you want to keep going, you can play B, C♯ and D on the second string with your first, third and fourth fingers, followed by E and F♯ on the first string with your first and third fingers.

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A Major Scale - Fourth Position

Finally, we get to fourth position. Put your first finger over the 11th fret. Here, we can once again play a complete scale. Start with the A under your second finger on the third string.

Play up the scale using the exact same fingerings you used in first position on page three, only shifted one string up. This time, you are playing it an octave higher, so you can't substitute open strings for notes. The top note you can reach is an A, but you can play down to a low E below the bottom A.