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How Important Are Scales?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by fingerguy, May 15, 2019 at 12:31 PM.

  1. fingerguy


    Aug 2, 2016
    I'm serious, how important for a bass player is scales?

    Any good videos that break them done or book or etc? I know there is many but what is the best ones to follow?
    JimHouchin and EatS1stBassist like this.
  2. Scottgun


    Jan 24, 2004
    South Carolina
    For musical knowledge, they are important. Not as important as chords. As Jeff Berlin puts it,

    This is why a popular study book is Chord Studies for Electric Bass

    download (4).
  3. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    They're an element of musical theory. It's like learning a language and asking if prepositions are important. It depends how well you want to learn the language.
  4. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    More like nouns and verbs.
  5. MattZilla


    Jun 26, 2013
    learn a ton of songs you like, learn the melodies and harmonies. Transcribe them all if that helps your memory. The scales are all in there.
    Kro, Liam Wald and LBS-bass like this.
  6. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    If you don't know the 15 major scales and 15 minor scales (and their key signatures) then drop everything and memorize them now. They are that important. If you learn 1 scale per day, you can learn them all in a month. :)
    DrMole, Whippet, rohi and 4 others like this.
  7. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    If you wanted to get from New York City to San Francisco, how important would a map be? That's how important scales are. Even more important is knowing how to use them. ;)
  8. sevenyearsdown

    sevenyearsdown Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    For the majority of popular music I would recommend at least knowing Major, Minor, and 7 - both scales and chord tones. That much will get you by for 80% of popular music played in this country. Of course then you have to understand how to apply the information as well.
    srayb and Nevada Pete like this.
  9. fingerguy


    Aug 2, 2016
    Thanks for the replies; helped me decide what I am going to do.
    JC Nelson and Groove Master like this.
  10. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    +1....then... move swiftly on to CHORD TONES... as these are what the bassist plays 90% of the time.

    Chord Tones Are Primary | Bass Chord Patterns | StudyBass
  11. CapnSev


    Aug 19, 2006
    Coeur d'Alene
    +1 on the chord tones. I learned on scales, and wish I would have learned on chord tones instead. They’re far more useful in contemporary music, and I feel like they’re easier to learn. Scales are probably more thorough.

    When it comes to scales, pick up the Bass Grimoire. It’s the bass scale bible.
  12. Susqmike


    Nov 15, 2011
    Just learn modes and their relationships...
    basslifter and Liam Wald like this.
  13. MVE


    Aug 8, 2010
    Knowing and understanding the major scale is the basis of all verbal and written communication between musicians.

    When you hear someone say something simple like, “Its just I, IV, V in G” they are talking about the chords that are rooted from the 1st, 4th, and 5th notes of the G Major scale.

    When you hear someone call out some crazy complex sounding chord like, “Its a diminished 7th” they are really just saying to flatten or sharpen specific notes of a major scale. (In this case, 1st, flat3rd, flat5, and a double flat 7.)

    So, yeah, you need to know the major scale in order to communicate on even the most basic level.
    martinc, Penphoe, rodv66 and 8 others like this.
  14. Budbear

    Budbear Supporting Member

    Nov 13, 2004
    Staten Island, NYC
    Bass scales? They can't swim without them.
  15. 57pbass

    57pbass Supporting Member

    I played for many years with very limited knowledge of the scales. I was able to get by okay. I studied with a great teacher for a few years and he drilled me on the scales often.
    He emphasized that I learned the shapes of the scales as well. This was an important element of the learning experience.
    I have since incorporated The Nashville Number System into my playing and this has helped me tremendously. If I did not know the scales this method is somewhat useless.

    You should absolutely learn the scales and don’t be intimidated by the process.. it’s not too complicated. You just need to dedicate your time..
    The fretboard makes so much more sense to me now.
    Last edited: May 15, 2019 at 11:13 PM
  16. singlemalt

    singlemalt Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2007
    White Salmon, WA
    You’ll never know how much that bass weighs without a scale.

    It’s the first question people ask.
  17. Nevada Pete

    Nevada Pete Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2016
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    One thing about scales you don't always hear is that they are a great way to learn the notes on the fret board. It's real good to become so familiar with the fret board that you can grab any note without thinking, totally reflexively. Working your way through the major and three minor scales in 12 keys is a wonderful way to get there. (Note: There's a reason why I said 12 keys). It's also real good to be able to find your anchor points and play without having to look at your left hand too much. Scales are also a great way to achieve that. So scales are very useful tools when practicing. You could say scales are necessary tools to have in your tool box, if you want to master your instrument. I haven't mastered the electric bass. Working on it.

    Verbally calling out the notes names note by note on the scale you are practicing is ideal. This helps you go SLOW so you can work on intonation and proper fingering, plucking, picking, etc. It's also very good to have the scale in musical notation in front of you. Then you enhance your reading skills while practicing your scales!

    If you haven't arrived there already, I think you will find your playing will skyrocket when you have the notes on the fret board totally under your fingertips. Like everybody is saying, learning your diatonic triads and diatonic seventh chords in 12 keys is also ideal, and their inversions. It's fun to bang those out one after the other and is always great warm up.

    Now that I know about it here on TB, I like Pacman's Sure-fire Scale Practice Method:


    Scales are wonderful, and great fun! Good luck with your scales!

    Edit: Good grief! I just read this back. Like 57pbass said, don't be intimidated. Bass is a transposing instrument. Once you learn the patterns, they stay the same through all the keys. It's not really that hard. Go for it!
    Last edited: May 15, 2019 at 3:51 PM
  18. BergerHead

    BergerHead plastic phantastic Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2018
    Basel, Switzerland
    Choose a song you know well, study its chords and them inversion's pattern all over the neck and glue them into the song (this may sound a bit strange at first), but the understanding of scales is hidden in it. If you got that, choose another song a.s.o. a.s.o.
    Scottgun mentions Jeff Berlin's statement on it, go on and you'll soon play fitting scales all over the neck.
  19. StatesideRambler


    Jul 1, 2015
    There are many reasons for learning scales, among them learning your fretboard thoroughly, better understanding of the relationships among “chord tones” and intervals, the fact that the ability to comfortably play more than one fingering of a chord eases learning new tunes, et al.

    How many ways can you play a given scale? How many A flats are on your fretboard? How do you ascend/descend from one A flat to the next? Always the same one or two ways? If an ascending figure is getting too high can you smoothly transition to playing the line lower? Can you readily play inversions of the written chords to give the song a lighter or darker sound for that arrangement or to avoid doubling someone else’s part? Can you play in “horn keys” or only “guitar keys”? Do you want to?

    I love Diatonic Major and Minor Scales for Electric Bass by
    Damon Mazzocco. I got it at jazzbooks.com. If you want to work on making your hands more nimble and coordinated this book with its narrow focus offers some challenging work because it’s going to help you break your dependence on the same-old-same-old fingerings. I think of it as Segovia Scales for bass.

    A free source of valuable information on scales is the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Handbook. It’s downloadable as a free PDF at jazzbooks.com. I call it a Doctor of Music course in 56 pulp pages. Scales begin on page 12. It is overwhelming so don’t get it with any intention of playing it through; it’s a reference.

    OK, that’s more than enough words for now. HTH
  20. Smooth_bass88

    Smooth_bass88 Groove it

    Knowing your scales is music 101. If you're even remotely serious about being a decent musician, you should learn the basics.
    Groove Master and sevenyearsdown like this.

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