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Transitioning to a Six-String Bass

Transitioning to a Six-String Bass

Bass Edu

Transitioning to a Six-String Bass

Transitioning to a Six-String Bass

Interested in transitioning to a six-string bass? Read on!

Hi fellow bassists. It has been some time since I have written a regular column for a bass magazine and I want to thank Raul for giving me the opportunity in Bass Musician Magazine.

So many of my 4-string students eventually ask the question, “Is it easy to transition to 5 or 6-string bass? And which would you suggest?” Having played a six-string bass for a very long time, I immediately say, go for the gusto and pick up the six! With that being said, I would like to show you an easy way to get started.

In ex. #1 we have the D Major scale in 2 octaves with an additional 3rd above.

You can easily finger this scale by starting on the 3rd fret of the B string which is a “D” with your 2nd finger. Go slowly at first. A question arises with which way to go when I hit the “C#” in the 2nd octave.

You have 2 choices:
1-Use the first finger on the first fret of the “C” string or
2-Use the pinky stretched on the 6th fret of the “G” string

Either way, that’s a lot of territory to cover in one place, so my suggestion is to use both ways! I would then play it in every key up and down the neck.

Ex 2 is that same D Major scale in 3rds.

My philosophy, my concept of scales is based on looking at the Major, Minor, Augmented, Diminished et al in two-octave patterns using 3rds. If you are playing in a trio with drums and sax and the sax starts to solo, it is important for you as the bassist to articulate the chords, so if you think about them in 3rds, you are articulating the chord. Now does this always work? No, but it has served me well all of these years.

The benefit again is twofold:
1-You can play the scales up and down as written and
2-You can play them in 3rds articulating the choirs derived from that scale.

Now don’t forget to play them up and down the neck in all keys.

Ex 3 creates triad patterns on each of the scale degrees both up and down.

As I say to my students, as you play these patterns, and all patterns, scales chords, etc. open your ears to the sounds of each intervallic relationship and how your fingers lie on the fretboard as you produce those sounds. This is a great way to begin the process of improvisation. More on that in future columns.

Ex 4 is another exercise utilizing the 1, 3 and 6th of the scale.

It has a unique sound and since the fingering is a bit different, it helps you as you learn the notes on the neck.

Well, that’s it for now. Enjoy practicing!

Check out my book, The Bassis for Transformation: Patterns for All Bass Clef Instruments at

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