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Horizontal Approach to Scales

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Bassman8416, Nov 17, 2010.

  1. Bassman8416

    Bassman8416 Supporting Member

    Oct 18, 2004
    Long Island,New York
    Hey Folks
    I was wondering if there are any books that subscribe to a horizontal approach to scales. I play a 5-string bass tuned E-A-D-G-C. I recently took a lesson with a very good player that felt I am boxed in by my across the strings vertical approach and that if I played in a more horizontal(linear) method, my playing would open up and be more creative, so he suggested I practice scales, heads, and melodies this way.
  2. Can't offer much advice, but I hope some people do as I am in a very similar rut. I have been forcing myself to practice my scales in both manners in the hopes that I cna open up my playing a bit. So far it's working, but any tricks and tips would help.
  3. AgostoMortal

    AgostoMortal Supporting Member

    Jun 28, 2005
    Miami, South Florida
    play always 3 notes per string, before moving on, never break the 3 note groups. This was you can play 5 groups in 1 position on a 5 string to play a 2 octave scale OR (keeping the 3 note group) shift 3 times on 1 string before moving to the next. (3+2 groups) OR any other combination of groups (1+4, 4+1, 2+5) you decide when to do the shift, its a great way to unlock the neck, once you have master this you don't even think, but thats a different story.
  4. Funny you should say that, I have been playing a lot of bluesy stuff lately and taught myself to play a blues scale in just this manner. It has helped immensely. I will definetly integrate this technique more often, since for some reason if I play I don't follow the same idea.
  5. fonnet


    Jan 6, 2008
    My 2 cents, just to point out that working only ascending or ascending and then descending is a huge lock maker. Working only descending scale, taking marks on the G string is a good way to make the scale comfortable overall.
  6. Bassman8416

    Bassman8416 Supporting Member

    Oct 18, 2004
    Long Island,New York
    That sounds cool!
  7. dpbass66

    dpbass66 Supporting Member

    May 20, 2010
    Here are some of my scale practicing approaches. I posted this elsewhere, so I copied and pasted here.

    One great exercise I did early on in my bass education (ive been playing 30+ years) was to learn my scales as follows:

    1) think of a scale (ie C Major)
    2) figure out the lowest note on your bass that exists in that scale (ie ona a 4 string bass low "E")
    3) play the scale starting on that note (in this case "E") all the way up to the last note on the finger board that exists in the scale and back down. Try to think of the note names as you play, you reap huge benefits in fingerboard knowledge.
    4) no metronome... play slowly, if you get stuck stop and think about where you are going, what note you want next and where it is.
    5) once you can do this fluidly (without stopping) with the particular scale you are working on, then add the metronome
    6) add-in different scale patterns, play the scale in intervals of 3rd, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, 7ths...play with different meters, rhythms, styles..skies the limit..

    This is a no excuses "pattern buster" exercise that really requires you to know the scale and its fingering and it forces you to get the sound of the scale in your head. I know some would argue that this is really an "E" phrygian scale, and this is true, but you want to think and hear C Major. Ive had students play a backing track (say using Band In Box) playing a repetitive C Major groove to this, which really makes it musical and de-emphasizes the Phrygian sound, while emphasizing the C Major sound. If you are working on one of the modes of the major scale, for example, then think that mode sound in your head or, again, play a backing track with that mode sound.

    Another exercise is to play the chosen scale, starting on the root this time is OK to start with (not necessary), but start with different fingers. So, try and play a C Major scale from the 8th Fret on the E string but starting with your pinky...where do you go? what is the next logical fingering? where do you have to shift to?

    Last exercise is a variation of the first: lock yourself into one position on the fretboard, say first finger is at 5th fret on the E String (note is A). without moving from that position play all 12 major scales. Again a pattern buster, you really cant do this without actually knowing your scales and how they sound. You'll need to shift up or down one fret, so you arent literally "locking" yourself into a position, per se.

    You can do these exercises with any scale (obviously) and to take it further you can do it with arpeggios, and patterns of arpeggios. To really get crazy, start playing a walking bass line, say a blues, and force yourself to stay in one position on the bass (within one fret, more or less)...no shifting around. This is only for academic purposes, of course you'd never play this way since it would likely sound unmusical....ie the note "G" sounds different all over the bass, but these exercises will definitely get you to know your scale notes AND sounds.

    I actually think of scales as "sonorities", or a particular kind of sound, not JUST a group of notes that make a pattern on my fingerboard. It is MOST important to understand the sound of a particular scale and to have the ability to create that "sonority" on your bass at any given moment. Also, I think that ultimately playing a scale (or sound) is not a visual thing it is a tactile/aural thing. You kind of know you want the E major sound and your brain connects that sound to a "feeling" on the fingerboard. To me the major, various minor, diminshed, augmented, etc. all have a different sound AND feeling on the fingerboard. Admittedly, this connection is established after years of practice (for most mortals ;)).

  8. ^ Wow, that sounds extremely effective. But hard though. I can play smoke on the water, I'm ready to be a rock star! Nikki Sixx can't do all that stuff anyway ;)

    (Seriously though, I copied and pasted that to a word document and printed it off to take home. Great stuff)
  9. A simple approach to getting vertical is just to get totally vertical - practice your scales all on just one string. It won't be fast, clean, or efficient, but it'll help you see ways to fluidly shift from one scale position to another.
  10. 251


    Oct 6, 2006
    Metro Boston MA
    Yes, yes, yes & all of the variations in between to play 2+ octave arps & scales to the 9th. Worth the practice time, leading to easy position changes & angular lines many players can't/don't play.

    Playing melodies on your C & G strings will also open up chord melodies by building chord tones around/below the melody notes.
  11. srayb


    Oct 27, 2010
    I think I remember Jaco once saying in a tutorial that he would do scales and just take out a different note each time. It's more difficult than it sounds! :)

    You have to put control back in your head instead of your fingers, which often get used to doing patterns without thinking about it.
  12. Skitch it!

    Skitch it!

    Sep 6, 2010
    Cool, I agree, but for the part indicated, for instance just an e.g. 5 fret fingering on a 5 string gives you 2 octaves in one position, Gary Willis has been using this for a long time along with Jaco before him, range without the shifting for walking lines isn't an unmusical thing, 2 octaves in one position covers a lot, especially at 120+bpm ; )
  13. dpbass66

    dpbass66 Supporting Member

    May 20, 2010
    Yes I totally agree. In real life playing (not practice) economy of motion rules the day. I think thats what Willis and Jaco mean. You dont want to be needlessly shifting all over the bass. My tome was all about learning the fingerboard/scales/sounds. What you do on a gig channels all that stuff in a very unique way, which is too much to get into now. :D
  14. Skitch it!

    Skitch it!

    Sep 6, 2010
    Me just being fussy :D Your tutorial is great stuff, I hope you don't mind if I provide my students with a copy of that sheet ;)
  15. dpbass66

    dpbass66 Supporting Member

    May 20, 2010
    go for it....!!! Believe me those ideas are not original!
  16. Skitch it!

    Skitch it!

    Sep 6, 2010
    Maybe not original but nicely condensed and remembered, you'll be credited for it, no worries :)
  17. Rudreax


    Jun 14, 2008
    New York, NY
    Just an idea, not directly related to the OP, but if you also want to improve your reading skills you can write out the exercises and work on playing them while following the notation once you get to the point where you can start playing with the metronome. This will force you to learn and remember the notes on the paper and teach you to play without having to look down at the fingerboard all the time.
  18. TripleDouble

    TripleDouble Guest

    Aug 5, 2008

    John Abercrombie is the man.
  19. Art Araya

    Art Araya

    May 29, 2006
    Palm Coast, FL
    absolutely! practice horizontally and vertically.

    play the scale forwards and backwards on one string, play it in intervals (3rds, 4ths, 5ths,) on one string, play the scale in sequences on one string, play all of the modes on one string, improvise diatonic melodies on one string, add articulation devices to the above exercises like slurs, trills, hammer ons, etc...

    This will free you up from playing everything in one position on the neck and introduce all sorts of new possibilities into your playing.

    Pretend that your bass had only one string - a Unitar. Now play it.
  20. Skitch it!

    Skitch it!

    Sep 6, 2010
    A guitarist friend recently mentioned the one string approach to improv especially as a good visualization of harmony and breaking out of the usual tonalities and great for chromaticism too, first I heard of it, but he rates it well (he's played pro for 20+ years, cool ; )

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