Bass Scales - Major Scale

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Bass Scales - Major Scale

Perhaps the most basic, familiar sounding scale you can play is the major scale. It has a happy or content mood to it. Many scales you will learn are based around this scale. It is one of the foundations of western music, and one of the most useful bass scales to know.

The major scale uses the same pattern of notes as a minor scale, but the root is in a different place in the pattern. As a result, every major scale has a relative minor scale with the same notes, but a different starting place.

In this article, we will go over the hand positions you use to play any major scale. If you aren't familiar with bass scales and hand positions, you should brush up on that first.

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Major Scale - Position 1

This fretboard diagram shows the first position of the major scale. To play in this position, find the root of the scale on the fourth string, and then put your second finger down on that fret. In this position, you can also reach the root with your fourth finger on the second string.

Notice the "b" and "q" shapes that the notes of the scale make. Looking at these shapes in each position is a great way to remember the fingering pattern.

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Major Scale - Position 2

Slide your hand up two frets to get to second position. The "q" shape is now on the left, and on the right is a capital "L" shape. The root is found on the second string with your second finger.

You have probably noticed that this position covers more frets than you have fingers. Really, second position is two positions in one. You play on the first and second strings in one place, and you shift your hand up one fret to play the fourth string. The third string can be played either way.

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Major Scale - Position 3

From second position, slide your hand up three frets to reach third position (or two frets, if you were playing on the fourth string). Here, the root of the scale is found on the third string with your fourth finger.

The capital "L" shape is now on the left, and on the right is a new shape, resembling a natural sign.

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Major Scale - Position 4

Fourth position is two frets higher than third position. The shape from the right side of third position is now on the left, and on the right is an upside-down "L" shape.

In this position you can play the root in two places. One is on the third string with your second finger, and the other is on the first string with your fourth finger.

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Major Scale - Position 5

The last position is two frets up from the fourth position, or three frets down from first position. Like second position, this one covers five frets. To play on the third or fourth strings, you'll have to shift your hand up one fret. The second string can be played either way.

The root can be found on the first string under your second finger. Once you've shifted up a fret, it can also be found on the fourth string with your fourth finger.

The upside-down “L” is now on the left, and the “b” from first position is on the right.

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Bass Scales - Major Scale

To practice any major scale, you should practice playing it in all five of these positions. Start at the root and play down to the lowest note in the position, and back up. Then, go all the way up to the highest note, and come back down to the root. The tempo of your notes should be as steady as you can make it.

Once you're comfortable with each position, shift between them. Try playing multi-octave scales, or just take a solo. Once you know the patterns for a major scale, you'll have an easy time learning a major pentatonic or minor scale.