Scales all along the neck

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by RoyBatty_1984, Jun 14, 2020.

  1. RoyBatty_1984


    Jun 8, 2020
    Hey, guys, I got this kinda complex (for me) question that needs answering: been playing for about 17 years and I never paid attention to the whole scales and modes thing before. I know the basic construction of a major scale, natural, harmonic and melodic minor, intervals in such scales, etc., all to a rather elemental degree, but most of the time I focused on ear training (as in learning advanced songs by ear) and proper technique, which I find is rather OK atm.
    Now, with all the available time I have with the whole quarantine thing, I set myself a goal of learning scales and really getting familiar with the whole layout of the neck,so I started with a C major scale, and playing that and its modes all along the neck and strings (I play a 5 string), so as to be able to link them and play them as a single run up and down the neck, saying out loud the notes in every step. So far so good.
    The question is the following, How would I go about doing this for all the other major scales ie. C#, D, D# E, F, etc.? Do I just shift the shapes by the corresponding number of frets? Would the general shapes change for each scale? Would the different shapes eventually superimpose? Is thinking about it in shapes is the wrong way and I should focus on the construction of each scale and its modes specifically? If so, I would have to learn all 12 scales and modes in major, natural, harmonic and melodic minor (so 48 individual patterns all along the neck)? Is that really the way it goes or am I missing something? Seems like a daunting task, if any.

    Sorry for the long post, don't even know if it makes sense. Cheers!
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2020
  2. Papageno


    Nov 16, 2015
    If you know the intervals in the scales (by this I mean, if you can hear them and sing them) then you know all there is to know about scales. Names of notes are useful to communicate with other people and get written information, but you can play without knowing them.

    If you like don't like books and prefer to learn by ear that is perfectly OK: play the tonic of the scale you want to learn, then sing the scale starting from that note, and then find on your fingerboard the notes that sound like what you are singing. Do this on one single string, 2 strings, 3 strings, etc., paying attention to the patterns that emerge. If you don't know the sound of the scales, then that is the first thing to learn (you may find mp3 or YouTube videos of scales quite easily).

    If you prefer books, then check the sticky threads in this subforum and you'll find many suggestions. Print a chart of the fingerboard and go for it.
    RoyBatty_1984 likes this.
  3. jchrisk1


    Nov 15, 2009
    Northern MI
    I'm going to link you to this thread.
    Basic theory Question
    It's being discussed here, in great detail.

    You could also look into
    It's a very good free site.
    RoyBatty_1984 likes this.
  4. There are 15 major scales and 15 minor scales. If you learn just 1 scale a day (that's just 7 notes a day), you can learn all the scales in 1 month, and then you never ever need to practice scales, ever again. 30 days of practice, then you're set for life.

    What do I mean when I say "learn" a scale? I don't mean, take the pattern you learned yesterday and move it up 1 fret! Rather, "learning" a scale means this to me: A versatile baseball player who can catch, throw, run, hit for average, and hit for power is called a "five tool player." For musicians, the "five tools" are reading, writing, hearing, singing, and playing. So if you can read all 30 scales, write all 30 scales, hear all 30 scales, sing all 30 scales, and last but not least play all 30 scales on your bass, then in my opinion you are a versatile bassist and an expert on the topic of scales. :)

    Your homework assignment for Day 1 is to read, write, hear, sing, and play the C Major scale, no sharps, no flats, CDEFGABC, over the full range of your instrument. Can you do it? Do you have the "five skills" for the key of C Major? Great! Tomorrow, learn the next key.
  5. Papageno


    Nov 16, 2015
    Excellent advice here.
    Yet, to me, unless you count enharmonically equivalent scales as different (eg. F# vs Gb) there are only 12 different scales, not 15. The point about enharmonic keys, is to be able to think of them one way or the other equally well. So lets start wth the key of B#... ;)
    RoyBatty_1984 likes this.
  6. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    the best scale practice method I have seen put forth in this forum is Pac-Man's sure fire scale practice method
    you don't play a pattern in a different spot, you methodically play (and explicitly name) every note in the key in every possible spot on the neck, for all 12 keys.
  7. If you are a one- or two-tool player, then sure, F# major and Gb major are "the same." But if you want to be a five-tool player, then you'll want to know the difference between reading and writing F# major vs. Gb major, B major vs. Cb major, and C# major vs. Db major. Enharmonic keys may sound the same, but they are different to read/write. :)

    The reason why I say 15 major scales. and not some other number, is because those are the exact 15 that can be written without double-flats or double-sharps. Your example of B# Major technically "exists" as a theoretical construct, but is not used in practice and doesn't count toward the common list of 15, because it would require several awkward double sharps.

    A really simply way to explain "why exactly 15 and not some other number?" is this: C Major (no sharps, no flats) plus 7 flat keys (ranging from 1 through 7 flats) plus 7 sharp keys (ranging from 1 through 7 sharps) = 1 + 7 + 7 = 15

    Last edited: Jun 17, 2020
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  8. Papageno


    Nov 16, 2015
    Thanks for this. I happen be quite fluent with reading and writing the enharmonic keys, but I am sure many others will benefit from your input.:)
  9. Malcolm35

    Malcolm35 Supporting Member

    Not saying this a solution you may want to adapt, but, once I start doing scales I see them as scale degree numbers, aka 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 -- and play the needed spelling.

    Major scale 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
    Minor scale 1-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7

    For this to work I think in A, B, C's and 1, 2, 3's. Find the root or tonic using note name, but, then I think in 1, 2, 3's for the rest of what I need.

    Course you need to know the spellings, i.e. Lydian uses the major scale, but sharps the 4th scale degree. Dorian is the natural minor scale with a natural 6 scale degree --- in parallel modes where the "key" stays the same and the notes change.

    Then the ole bass line of R-5-8-5 works with both major and minor chords. Then the correct 3 and 7 will help identify major or minor. Once you get the spellings down it's a piece of cake.
  10. kevindahl


    Aug 21, 2006
    The college I went to called them white note scales. I have no idea who or why they called them this. When you practice your scales it helps to play on all of the strings.
    In the key of G:
    Ionian shape ascend
    E string: G A
    A string: C B D
    D string: E F# G
    G string: A slide and start with your index B C D

    Dorian shape descend
    G string: D C B
    D string: A G F#
    A string: E D
    E string: C B A

    Phrygian shape ascend etc.

    There are other ways to play them but you get the idea. Another thing to practice is shifting on each string to play 2 octave scales. Key of G ionian shifting on the E string, A string, D string and finally the G string. This really helps you stretch your fingers and allow to become really familiar with your neck.
    RoyBatty_1984 likes this.
  11. If your strings are all tuned in fourths, then yes—regardless of which string you begin with, the scale pattern (relation between whole and half steps) is the same. C# is the same fingering pattern as C, just one fret higher.

    It can be. Thinking in patterns or shapes is great for transposing—learn a song in C, and they want to do it in D? No problem. Just shift up 2 frets and pretend you are in C. But it’s the pretending that’s dangerous. If you’re just moving the C scale pattern for all the other scales, but in your head thinking “key of C, just in a different place” then you are doing yourself a disservice. It is generally regarded as better to know and be familiar with each scale and note you are playing. That way, when you’re in the key of Eb, you know where the Eb is; you know where the Ab is. Otherwise, you’re just thinking intervalicly (“root, major fourth, second, fifth...”)
    RoyBatty_1984 likes this.
  12. Malcolm35

    Malcolm35 Supporting Member

    Patterns and the major scale box are s
  13. Malcolm35

    Malcolm35 Supporting Member

    Ok I'll finish it now. ..... are the beginning, no reason to reinvent the wheel. Reading, playing by ear, etc. come next.
  14. RoyBatty_1984


    Jun 8, 2020
    This is so great, thanks @CatOnTheBass, will implement this into my practice starting today. Cheers, dude!
    CatOnTheBass likes this.
  15. RoyBatty_1984


    Jun 8, 2020
    I see what you mean, since bass in typically tuned in fourths, It enabled me to shift patterns and mantain their relations, but as you say, that kept me thinking purely in intervalic relations, which kinda stunted my ability for quite a long time. The learning of scales by reading and singing aloud each step of each scale will help me distance myself from the boxes and patterns, which are keeping me in a rut. Thanks, man!
    dreamadream99 likes this.