Minor Pentatonic Scale on Bass

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Minor Pentatonic Scale on Bass

six string bass guitar
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One of the most important bass scales to learn is the minor pentatonic scale. This scale is simple and easy. You can use it to make good sounding bass lines or shred things up on a solo.

What is a Minor Pentatonic Scale?

Unlike a traditional minor or major scale, a minor pentatonic scale has five notes, rather than seven. This not only makes the minor pentatonic easier to learn and play, but also helps it to "fit in" with more chords and keys. It's harder to play a wrong note when you have no weird notes in the scale you're using.

In the following pages, we'll look at how to play any minor pentatonic scale in different positions along the fretboard. If you are unfamiliar with hand positions in bass scales, you should review that first.

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Minor Pentatonic Scale - Position 1

The first hand position to look at is the position in which the root of the scale is the lowest note you can play. It is shown in the above fretboard diagram. Find the root on the fourth string and position your hand so that your first finger is on that fret. The root of the scale can also be found under your third finger on the second string.

Notice the shapes made by the notes of the scale. On the left is a vertical line, all played using your first finger, and on the right is a line of three notes with the fourth note a fret higher.

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Minor Pentatonic Scale - Position 2

The second position of the minor pentatonic scale is two frets up from the first. In this position, the only place where you can play the root of the scale is with your first finger on the second string.

The shape that was on the right in first position (the line of three with the fourth note up a fret) is now on the left and the same shape rotated around 180 degrees is on the right.

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Minor Pentatonic Scale - Position 3

The third position is two frets higher than the second position. Now the root can be played by your fourth finger on the third string.

Again, the shape that was on the right in the last position is on the left in this one. On the right is a vertical line of notes played by your fourth finger.

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Minor Pentatonic Scale - Position 4

To move to the fourth position, slide up three frets from third position. The vertical line of notes that was under your fourth finger should now be under your first finger. On the right side the notes make a jagged line, with two under your third finger and two under your fourth finger.

The root of the scale can be played either with your first finger on the third string, or your third finger on the first string.

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Minor Pentatonic Scale - Position 5

This is the last hand position for the minor pentatonic scale. It is two frets higher than the fourth position, or three frets lower than the first position. On the left side is the jagged line of notes from the right side of fourth position, and on the right side is the vertical line from the left side of first position.

The root of the scale is under your first finger on the first string, or under your fourth finger on the fourth string.

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Bass Scales - Minor Pentatonic Scale

Play the notes of the scale up and down in each of these five positions, starting on the root of the scale. Play down to the lowest note in the position and back up again. Then, play up to the highest note and back down to the root. Keep the rhythm consistent as you go.

Once you get comfortable playing the scale in each position, try shifting between positions while playing it. Improvise solos in the scale, ranging all over the fretboard.

You can use a minor pentatonic scale anytime you are playing in a minor key or over a minor chord. It's a great way to make bass lines that are simple and sound good, or to take a bass solo. Knowing this scale will make the blues, major pentatonic and minor scales easy to learn.