E Major Scale on Bass

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E Major Scale on Bass

As a bass player, one of the most useful major scales for you to learn is the E major scale. This is a natural choice of key for guitarists (six-string or bass) because the root note is the lowest string.

The key of E major contains four sharps. Its notes are E, F♯, G♯, A, B, C♯ and D♯. In addition to the lowest string being the root, the third string is also a member of the scale.

These same notes are also the constituents of a C♯ minor scale. For that scale, you simply start on C♯ instead of E. It is the relative minor of E major. There are also other scales with the same notes, the modes of the E major scale.

Let's take a look at how to play an E major scale in different places along the fretboard. If you haven't yet read about bass scales and hand positions, it may help.

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E Major Scale - Second Position

Let's begin at the bottom of the fretboard. Put your first finger over the second fret. This is the lowest position in which you can play a complete E major scale, although it is actually second position in the hand positions of the major scale. It is shown above in this fretboard diagram.

First, play the open E string, the lowest note your bass can play. Next, play F♯, G♯ and A on the fourth string using your first, third and fourth fingers. Alternatively, you can play G♯ with your fourth finger, followed by the open A string.

On the third string, play B and C♯ using your first and fourth fingers. Using your fourth finger for the C♯ lets you adjust your hand back one fret, so you can smoothly move up to play D♯ and E on the third string with your first and second fingers. In this position, you can continue up the scale to a high B.

If you want to avoid that shift in the middle, you can have your first finger over the first fret the whole time. Play the low F♯ with your second finger, play the G♯ with your fourth, and use the open A string. Then, play B with your second finger. After that, it's all the same.

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E Major Scale - Third Position

The next position, third position, is a couple frets higher, with your first finger over the fourth fret. In this position, the lowest note you can play in a G♯, using your first finger on the fourth string. Next, play A with your second finger, or with the open string. Then, play B with your fourth finger.

On the third string, play C♯, D♯ and E with your first, third and fourth fingers. Similarly, you can play F♯, G♯ and A on the second string with your first, third and fourth fingers. Finally, B and C♯ are played on the first string with your first and third fingers.

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E Major Scale - Fourth Position

Shift up two frets to get to fourth position. Here, we can again play a complete scale from E to E. Play the first E on the third string with your second finger on the seventh fret. Next, play F♯ with your fourth finger.

On the second string, play G♯, A and B with your first, second and fourth fingers. Move up to the first string and play C♯, D♯ and E with your first, third and fourth fingers.

In this position you can also play down below the first E, going down as far as a low B.

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E Major Scale - Fifth Position

To get to fifth position, put your first finger over the ninth fret. Under your fourth finger on the fourth string is the first E. On the third string, play F♯, G♯ and A with your first, third and fourth fingers.

On the second string, play B with your first finger and then play C♯ with your fourth finger, not your third. As in second position, this maneuver lets you smoothly shift your hand back one fret. Now, you can play D♯ and E on the first string with your first and second fingers.

You can also play an F♯ above that top E with your fourth finger. In the original hand position, you can play a D♯ and C♯ below the bottom E with your third and first fingers on the fourth string.

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E Major Scale - First Position

At last, we come to first position, a few frets above fifth position. Put your first finger over the 11th fret. The first E is played with your second finger on the fourth string, followed by F♯ with your fourth.

On the third string, play G♯, A and B with your first, second and fourth fingers. Finish the scale with C♯, D♯ and E on the second string with your first, third and fourth fingers. If you want to go higher, you can play F♯, G♯ and A on the first string with your first, third and fourth fingers.