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Pacman's sure-fire scale practice method

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Pacman, Jun 11, 2002.


  1. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2000
    Location:
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I’d like to share with you the method I believe is the best way to not only practice scales, but to learn the fingerboard of your bass, and really start getting your ears together. This is the method taught to me by my teacher and I want to share it with all of you. This method applies to all electric basses, regardless of the number of strings. For the examples, however, we’ll use the 4-string configuration. Additionally, all examples will be in the key of C major, but it is very important to practice these exercises in all keys once you’ve gotten the concept down.

    One of the problems I think many people run into with scales is that they practice them from root to root. That is, 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 and then maybe 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1. While this is a perfectly acceptable way to learn and practice scales, it’s not a) practical or b) musical. I say practice your scales from the lowest note on your bass to the highest. Let’s begin with C major. I’ll spell out a C major scale and show the note “function” or number beneath:

    C 1
    D 2
    E 3
    F 4
    G 5
    A 6
    B 7
    C 8(1)

    So in C, the lowest available note in the 4-string is the open E string, which we can see is the 3rd of the scale. Start with the E and play E (the 3rd) F (the 4th) and G (the 5th) on the E string. Continuing the C major scale on the next string, play A (the 6th) B (the 7th) and C (the root). Still going up, play the open D (the 2nd) E (the 3rd) and F (the 4th). On the G-string play G (the 5th) A (the 6th) and B (the 7th). Come back down the scale the same way. I find that it helps if you say or sing the note function (number) as you play it. This gets the sound of each note in your head. It’s far more important to understand what the 3rd of a major scale sounds like, for instance, than to recognize an E when you hear it.

    The second “box” will start with the lowest F on the 4 string. Continuing in C major, you’d play F, G, and A on the E string, B, C, and D on the A string, E, F, and G on the D string and A, B and C on the G-string. Remember to sing or say the scale numbers to really get the sound of the harmony in your head.

    The third “box” starts on the low G. G, A, and B on the E string. C, D and E on the A string. F, G and A on the D. B, C and D on the G-string. Continue moving these “boxes” up the neck in this manner. I generally practice this up one octave from where I started and then come back down again. If you do this, you’ll notice patterns emerge (hint: there are only 3. Ever. No matter what.)

    You can (and should) practice any and all scales and modes in this fashion. My suggestion is that once you’ve gotten this concept down you practice all your “C” scales and modes on one day, the next day all of your “C#” scales. Then your “D” scales, etc, etc. If you practice in this manner, your knowledge of keys will grow equally and even the tough keys won’t bother you.

    Thanks for reading.
     
    superHEAVYfunk and rtav like this.
  2. thrash_jazz

    thrash_jazz

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2002
    Location:
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Disclosures:
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Thanks for sharing that Pacman - I've been looking for more effective ways to practice scales, and this looks one of the best I've come across! :cool:
     
  3. theJello

    theJello

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2000
    You are really just going through all the modes right? Each "box" relates to a mode. The only difference is that you are just playing every note possible in that position. Is that what you are saying? Sorry, I read through it kind of fast.
     
  4. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2000
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    Omaha, Nebraska
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    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Well, yes and no. Yes, in that you're starting the scale on each note. But you've got to think of these exercises as still being in the original scale. This way, when you're playing in C major, you're thinking of the function of C major harmony. You should do these exercises with the modes too. The idea is to understand what each scale sounds like, to be able to use it, not just play it 1-8 and 8-1.
     
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  6. stephanie

    stephanie

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2000
    Location:
    Scranton, PA
    Wow, yeah, thanks for sharing that Pacman. :) My teacher taught me scales in that same way - lowest note to highest and back down. Chords (arpeggios) like that too. It's really helped me.
     
  7. Jason Carota

    Jason Carota Gold Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2002
    Location:
    Lowell, MA
    Ah, very cool. I think I will add this to my normal practice routine.
     
  8. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Supporting Member

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    Apr 1, 2000
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    My pleasure, everyone.
     
  9. beermonkey

    beermonkey

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2001
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    CaN yoU tAB thIs OuT fOr mE?






    :D
     
  10. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Supporting Member

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    why i oughta.....

    :D
     
  11. lump

    lump

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2000
    Location:
    St. Neots, UK
    Thanks, Jon. I posted over in the other thread too. When I play, I always think of notes names, not positions on the fretboard (i.e. the note A, not E string, 5th fret). Your method sounds like good mix between standard scales and thinking in key/chord. I'm definitely going to give it a shot.
     
  12. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Supporting Member

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    Dec 11, 1999
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    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"
    There are a few books out there including Gary Willis' Fretboard harmony, a MI Book (name escapes me), Joel DiBartolo's Serious Electric Bass that deal with this method. I've seen it referred to my a few different names, I use the phrase Scale Forms.

    Mike
     
  13. Johnny BoomBoom

    Johnny BoomBoom

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2001
    Location:
    Glasgow, Scotland
    Thanks Pacman - thanks to you and some other guys on this forum, I just may start improving as a bassist!:)
     
  14. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Supporting Member

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    Cool! I wish I'd had a resource like this when I was starting out!

    Maybe I'll get off my ass and write a lesson on connecting the boxes - that's where it starts to get interesting!
     
  15. K-Frog

    K-Frog

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2002
    Location:
    Camden, AR, USA
    Mike D., I think the MI book is "Bass Fretboard Basics" by Paul Farnen. I have it and it's a great book.

    Pacman, thanks for the practice tips. I find that after 15 yrs of playing, I'm just beginning to actually learn how.
    K
     
  16. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Supporting Member

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    Hey, me too!
     
  17. td1368

    td1368

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2001
    Location:
    Philadelphia
    Pacman thanks for the tip! When you talk about the box it sounds like a two octave scale pattern?

    FWIW learning two octave scales really helped me bust out of rote playing of the typical 8 note scale pattern without learning the actual notes.

    For real fun I try playing scales with my eyes closed. I found that slows me down enough so I can think about the next note I'm playing.
     
  18. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Supporting Member

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    If you're playing a 5 string, yes it's two octaves. It's an ocatve and a half if you're playing a 4, and it's two and a half if you're playing a 6. The real lesson is learning to play all the notes available to you in any given position - rather than stopping at the octave or the root.
     
  19. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Supporting Member

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    Dec 11, 1999
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    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"
    A great 2 octave pattern is to play 1 note per finger and use all 4 fingers on a particular string before switching strings. Here is a G major scale on a 4 string. The technique can easily be transferred to a 5 or 6 string

    note: G A B C D E F# G A B C D E F# G
    str: E E E E A A A A D D D D G G G
    fret: 3 5 6 7 5 7 9 10 7 9 10 12 9 11 12

    I hope this makes sense

    Mike
     
  20. BIg O

    BIg O

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2002
    Location:
    Kitchener, ON, Canada
    i LUv tHEse 4uMS!!

    Mike, I've been looking for an exercise to extend my range on single strings, I think trying this with all modes/scales will really help!

    --------------------
    :D Hey Pacman - always looking for new practice exercises - good exercise - great thread.
     
  21. CS

    CS

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 1999
    Location:
    UK
    A cellist taught to use four notes on each string but always play the first two with the forefinger so it would start (fingers 1-4)

    fret 3 5 7 8
    finger 1 1 3 4


    Edit for diplomacy
     

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