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Bass Scales to play over chords

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by KiDD QuE, Nov 9, 2012.

  1. KiDD QuE

    KiDD QuE

    Jun 10, 2012
    Austin Tx
    Does anyone know of any good websites that explain what scales to play over what chords, and what scales for certain keys? I know the penatonics, but what are other scales that are useful for funk, soul, and RnB?
  2. repoman


    Aug 11, 2011
    Kinderhook NY
  3. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    There are a zillion scales, however, I normally deal with the following seven - and use the Major scale box pattern for all of them.
    [b]Major Scale Box. 
    G|---2---|-------|---3---|---4---| 1st string
    E|-------|---R---|-------|---2---|4th string
    Visualize the major scale box.  Place the R over the root note of 
    your chord or scale (on your fretboard) then play the box's 
    scale degrees.  If you want the Natural Minor scale flat the 3, 6 & 7.  
    If you want the major pentatonic visualize the major scale box and 
    leave out the 4 & 7.  Look below for the scale formula on the rest. [/b]
    • Major Scale = R-2-3-4-5-6-7 Home base
    • Major Pentatonic = R-2-3-5-6 Leave out the 4 & 7
    • Natural Minor Scale = R-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7 Major scale with the 3, 6 & 7 flatted.
    • Minor Pentatonic = R-b3-4-5-b7 Leave out the 2 & 6.
    • Blues = R-b3-4-b5-5-b7 Minor pentatonic with the blue note b5 added.
    • Harmonic Minor Scale = R-2-b3-4-5-b6-7 Natural minor with a natural 7.
    • Melodic Minor Scale = R-2-b3-4-5-6-7 Major scale with a b3.
    Let the major scale be your home base then change a few notes and you have something different. No need to memorize a zillion patterns. Let the major scale pattern be your go to pattern - then adapt/adjust from there.

    Now as to what scale over what chord. Major scale over major chords and one of the minor scale over the minor chords. The major or minor pentatonic normally works best as your chord may not stay active long enough for the full 7 note scale. Now your question about what scale to use for what key. To cover that to where you would understand it would best be handled on another post. For now lets just say; normally if you have a major key you play a major scale and if you have a minor key you use a minor scale over that. Now as to which one, C, Dm, F#, Bb, etc. The vocalist usually dictates which key you will play the song in. Long story best left for another post. Let's move beyond scales and talk a bit about using chord tones in our bass lines............

    Generic Notes - for your bass line.
    • The root, five and eight R-5-8-5 are generic and fit most any chord. Remember the diminished chord has a flatted 5.
    • The 3 is generic to all major chords. So R-3-5-3 will fit under any major chord.
    • The b3 is generic to all minor chords. And R-b3-5-8 will fit under any minor chord. Why the 8? Well the 8 is just another root in the next octave.
    • The 7 is generic to all maj7 chords. Yep, R-3-5-7 fits nicely.
    • The b7 is generic to all dominant seventh and minor seventh chords. G7 = R-3-5-b7 or Gm7 = R-b3-5-b7.
    • The 6 is neutral and adds color, help yourself to 6’s. Love the sound of R-3-5-6 with a major chord.
    • The 2 and 4 make good passing notes. Don’t linger on them or stop on them, keep them passing.
    • In making your bass line help yourself to those notes, just use them correctly.
    Roots, fives, eights and the correct 3 & 7 will play a lot of bass.

    Hope that put some light in the tunnel.
    miniroar likes this.
  4. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Southern New Jersey
    I would like to offer some advise. It seems that some people scratch the surface of theory, are not happy with the results, and then dismiss it as a negative thing. To me, the purpase of theory is to learn it so well that you don't have to think about it. In the begining, things might sound forced, but KEEP WITH IT. The same way when we learn a foreign language, we sound strange and stumble alot with native speakers.

    I find that the internet is a blessing and a curse. There is so much WRONG information out there that it is actually counter-productive. I would suggest to anyone wanting to learn theory to get a teacher or take a class at the local college. They can help one weed through all the nonsense on the internet.
  5. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    First point - a hell of a lot of the music you mention will be using those pentatonics, anyway (with the occasional addition here and there).

    Second point - learning scales to "play them over chords" sort of misses the point and is unlikely to help you advance your playing in the way that you want, imo. It's pretty boring just playing ascending and descending scales over chord changes (I know you knew that already).

    My advice, based on your question, would be to keep your learning focused mainly (but not necessarily exclusively) on more TUNES rather than purely on scales. Learn the chord sequences. Learn the original basslines. Make up some bass of your own to fit the tunes you're learning. Immerse yourself in as much music as you can. Stick with stuff you like at first if that's what you want to do, and maybe branch out later when you want to broaden your musical horizons. Knowledge of scales and other theoretical aspects comes into its own when used to analyse and understand how the music works, rather than dictate to you what to play. Acquiring this knowledge is a good thing and it can really inform your musical development, whenever you decide to invest time in it (which could, of course, be right now). But always keep your focus on playing the music.
  6. MrFrancis


    Oct 30, 2012
    Brooklyn, NY
    Very well said sir
  7. KiDD QuE

    KiDD QuE

    Jun 10, 2012
    Austin Tx
    I totally agree with you, I just need to play more things and jam with more people
  8. xroads


    Nov 6, 2012

    Excellent summary, thanks a lot!

    From years of playing, I apply everything that is written here intuitively; your text is just a good synopsis.
  9. Or you don't learn scales and instead focus on learning chord tones first.
  10. hgiles


    Nov 8, 2012
  11. AleemRadunzel


    Jul 8, 2009
    i just had to say thank you SOOO MUCH. the only theory i knew before this is roots octaves 5ths (which i know from being a kid in bands) and that if your roots 5th fret on the E string you can use either the 4 OR the 3 exclusively.

    this is because its the 3rd in major or a flat 3rd in minor. i now totally get it as 8 notes now instead of 12. which while i knew i didnt understand at all.

    thank you so much

    only took me 16 years :rolleyes:

    im gonna soak this in..
  12. deelgee


    Jan 18, 2012
  13. Dredmahawkus


    Nov 4, 2012
    Just a quick question say you are playing G minor scale. You start on G A Bb C D Eb Then what regular F? Or Gb G?
  14. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Good question. The answer is F. I think the following will help.
    http://www.guitar-chords.org.uk/chords-key-g-minor.html That site tells us that the vii chord is VII in a minor scale and the ii is now the diminished. See how the chord functions change between the major and minor key.

    The following chart may help.

    Major Scale Chart
    C D E F G A B...............Notice the C scale has no Sharps
    G A B C D E F#.............and the G scale has one, the F#
    D E F# G A B C#...........and the D scale keeps the F# and
    A B C# D E F# G#.........adds the C#. Then the A scale keeps
    E F# G# A B C# D#.......everything and adds the G#. See how
    B C# D# E F# G# A#.....it builds on it's self.
    F# G# A# B C# D# E#
    C# D# E# F# G# A# B#
    F G A Bb C D E.............Look what happens with the flat scales
    Bb C D Eb F G A...........F has one the Bb, then the Bb scale keeps
    Eb F G Ab Bb C D.........it's self and adds the the Eb. Same thing
    Ab Bb C Db Eb F G.......the sharp scales did...
    Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C
    Gb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb F
    Cb Db Eb Fb Gb Ab Bb

    Memory pegs:
    See God Destroy All Earth By F#irey C#haos. Order of the scales with sharps.
    Fat cats go down alleys eating birds. Order of the sharps.
    Farmer brown eats apple dumplings greasily cooked. Order of the scales with flats.
    The key signature is showing three sharps. What scale has three sharps? C has none, G has one, D has two, A has three. Which sharps? Fat = F#, Cat = C# and Go = G# so the A major scale has three sharps, F#, C# and G#.

    Natural Minor Scale Chart
    A B C D E F G ................Notice how the 6th column of the
    E F# G A B C D................Major scale becomes the 1st column
    B C# D E F# G A..............in the minor scale and how the 7th
    F# G# A B C# D E............column of the Major scale is now the
    C# D# E F# G# A B..........2nd column in the minor scale. And
    G# A# B C# D# E F#........yep, the 1st column in the Major scale
    D# E# F# G# A# B C#......is now the 3rd column, etc. etc.
    A# B# C# D# E# F# G#....Ask your self why? Hint, think relative minor.
    D E F G A Bb C
    G A Bb C D Eb F
    C D Eb F G Ab Bb
    F G Ab Bb C Db Eb
    Bb C Db Eb F Gb Ab
    Eb F Gb Ab Bb Cb Db
    Ab Bb Cb Db Eb Fb Gb
  15. sensei_steve

    sensei_steve Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2009
    Reisterstown, MD
    MalcomAmos, Nice! Succinct and very well said!
  16. Dredmahawkus


    Nov 4, 2012
    Thanks a ton Malcolm!! That's going to be my next month or twos practice! All I have down so far is C Major and minor.
    I learned one song in a month on bass since I decided I wanted to play it. And I haven't wanted to learn another till I learn all the scales and chords. I think I am more interested in understanding music.
    I am 39. I sure wish I started this 25 years ago!

    It's also harder to learn when you work 12 hours a day and get 2 hours to practice!
  17. Jon Moody

    Jon Moody Commercial User

    Sep 9, 2007
    Kalamazoo, MI
    Manager of Digital Brand Development and Product Development at GHS Strings
    + one million.

    Theory is sooooo expansive and vast that having someone teach you directly is so valuable. I had a theory teacher in college that would go over the "book definition" of what we were learning, but then break it down into a practical musician standpoint, when he'd say "When I write a song, this is how I incorporate this idea" or "When soloing, this is what this concept will do for you." He made the concept of tri-tones (and the idea that you can really play whatever note you want over something) really stick, more than any book would've ever done.