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Scale Work – A Program For Getting Around Your Bass With Confidence

Kevin Guin

Bass Edu

Scale Work – A Program For Getting Around Your Bass With Confidence

For many bass players, asking them to go fully academic for any substantial length of time is like asking them to head straight to the gallows.

But when a player wants to break through to new territory on their instrument the best way is to slow things down and tackle the fingerboard and musical materials with renewed determination and commitment. 

Working with scale material and learning to get around the fingerboard with confidence is an activity that many of us think is simply too academic. But it absolutely does have something very important for the development of any bass player. 

The problem for many of us is that in professional situations the sound of scalar approaches using half or whole step intervals can easily put you into amateur territory. And that is a very difficult problem to overcome. 

Managing scale material presents one of the perennial problems for all musicians – how to sound like you are playing music instead of theory. 

Although it is beyond the scope of this article, the first step in avoiding the trap that scale materials present to the musician is to play them very well. Even playing scale material can sound musical if dynamics and solid rhythmic feel are added into the mix. 

In comparing pentatonic sounds with major scale sounds it is easy to hear the built-in advantage of playing our favorite pentatonic riffs. The scales themselves have less notes and produce an automatically less conjunct sound, ie, the lines have wider intervals. Yes, you can still sound like you are a music store hack. But try adding in any common pattern mix-up with pentatonics and you will get an upgrade to an undeniably more modern sound. 

The video lesson today presents a three-part method to learn all of your major scales in one position, in multiple positions and also on one string. 

The first part of the study is to play the major scale on one string from the root note G on the 5th fret up to the ninth degree (the 19th fret A) and back down using three distinct positions. To put it with less words: From the root up to the ninth and back on one string. 

Click to download the lesson materials – any questions, please visit me online at

To start, practice with no metronome and also concentrate on becoming more accurate with position switching.

A massive increase in position-switching skills is one of the great advantages when learning to play on one string. At first you will also want to say the note names out loud a couple of times.  

Simply play in this manner until the pattern is learned and some confidence is gained. Then repeat the process from the G at the 3rd fret. At that point you will start taking it through the Cycle (Circle of Fifths/Fourths):

G, C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, B, E, A, D. 

Most players who have never previously done scale work will want to stick with this one-string major scale activity for a couple of months every single day or as much as you pick up your instrument. Doing this one-string activity for thirty minutes a day is a nice shot in the arm for your skill level! 

Again: all major scales played on one string from the root up to the ninth and back several times, taking care to work on position switching aspects, and then repeated from the same root on a different string and THEN all of it taken through the Cycle.

And whatever you do, don’t forget to say the note names at least once up and back when you start in with each new location on the fingerboard. That is a huge part of learning your instrument like a boss! 

The second part of the routine is to identify the three positions used to play each major scale.

You will take each of the three positions and “fill out” that particular hand position. 

For hand positions on the fingerboard, I recommend that you study the video presentation and also use the pdf download chart.  Use my positioning first and then modify as necessary. 

The third part of the exercise is to repeat the first part of our study for each of the modal patterns of the major scale – back to back and through the Cycle.

You can also “fill out” those positions as well, and if you do, that would be a fourth part in the whole project. 

The value in this process is extreme. Yes, it is a very academic project to undertake. But it will only take a matter of months to reach a substantial level of mastery.

A rank beginner can expect possibly up to six months of time every single day to complete the entire Scale Work study. More experienced players will need maybe as little as two months if they are determined in the practice room. 

As you go through the study you will find your ease of execution of anything that you play to be increasingly noticeable.

With that will come a solid confidence for being able to develop any musical material to a professional level much more quickly. 

That’s how it’s done ladies and gentlemen!

I truly hope that all of you find enjoyment in your musical practice and that you can find other like-minded friends and professionals to join in with you.

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