# Scales

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Pettson, May 21, 2011.

1. ### Pettson

Jun 3, 2009
Hi all!
I am have a little problem. I have played bass for 2 years and i don't know any theory. I have tried to understand by watching videos and stuff but i still do not understand it.

Like for example, i wanted to learn the Major Scale and all of its modes so i can play and improvise better.

I know the scale in C, but thats it. In the videos i have watched doesn't say anyting about diffrent modes and how i play the scale in diffrent keys. Thats what i need help with.

Can someone please explain how i learn to play the major scale in every mode in every key? Because right now it is just a big blur for me =)

Thanks!

2. ### bosw04k

Aug 14, 2009
It's really easy. Put your second finger on the root note (so C is you are doing it in C). Then do a pattern -

G-------------------------
D------------------2--4--5
A---------2--3--5---------
E---3--5-----------------

2 4 1 2 4 1 3 4

I assume this is your C major scale - played like this, your fingers should go 2, 4 (string change) 1, 2, 4 (string change), 1, 3, 4. (using one finger per fret) Simply do this fingering pattern starting at any note and you have the major scale

3. ### bosw04k

Aug 14, 2009
Modes are easy too - Just play the exact same notes of the C major scale, but start on a different note. For example, D Dorian would be D E F G A B C D, which sounds weird, because you expect to hear a D scale but end up with different notes. It's probably best to just learn fingering patterns like the major scale - There are only seven in total, and the major scale and harmonic minor are both technically modes, so you only need to learn 5 more.

4. ### Pettson

Jun 3, 2009
Okay, where can i find a detailed explanation of this?

5. ### fearceol

Nov 14, 2006
Ireland
Here.
Bass Lessons : Bass Scales

Also, I would not get too caught up in modes until you know your scales and chord tones inside out.

Here is a lesson on chord tones from the same ( one of the best sites IMO ) site.

Chord Tones Are Primary

Jan 26, 2005
Eastman, GA
1. On this forum.

2. StudyBass.com

3. MusicTheory.net

This question is asked several times a day on this forum. We have tons of very knowledgable people on this forum that are gracious enough to share their wealth of knowledge. It simply takes time.

I suggest you take some time to read some of the posts in General Instructions and you will find enough information to keep you busy for months! For instance, this post, which is a sticky at the top of this page. You can't learn it all in one day, so you need to go slow and stick with it! To quote one of our very knowledgable members, "You have to eat this elephant (theory) one bite at a time". You can't consume it all at once, and it might not make sense while you are reading or studying, but one day it will "Click" and then the next part will click and on and on.......

I hope this helps.

P.S. I agree with fearceol, it is very important to learn your chord structures first, or at least while you are learning your scales. But actually it all goes hand-in-hand. Don't even concern yourself with modes until you get some basic theory, scales, and chord structure down.

7. ### Pettson

Jun 3, 2009
Thanks very much guys!
Oh and one more thing, what is the difference between a mode and a position in a scale? =)

8. ### JTESupporting Member

Mar 12, 2008
Central Illinois, USA
Ohh...

A mode is a scale. A scale is notes with a specific pattern. The classical modes are a group of scales with specific relationships to each other. My advice is to totally and completely ignore modes until you have a complete understanding of the diatonic major scale AND basic chord tones. After you have that stuff under control, modes become very easy to understand and apply. Without that background they're a mess and a confusion.

Now, to "know" a scale means so much more than being able to finger it. At a minimum you need to know in THIS ORDER!!:

1. The formula (that is, for the diatonic major scale you need to know it's a whole-step from the first to the second note, a whole-step from 2 to 3, a half-step from 3 to 4, a whole-step from 4 to 5, a whole-step from 5 to 6, and a whole-step from 6 to 7, and a half-step from 7 to the root again (an octave higher). That is you need to know W W H W W W H.

2. You need to be able to spell the correct notes (in your head or on paper, totally separate from the instrument) in any of the 12 keys. Don't memorize this crap. Learn it by working it out for yourself in all the keys. Do it on the bus, while washing dishes, etc. because you want to get it in your head to be able to think this stuff through without the instrument. That way you'll be able to tell not only what notes are in the key of A, but WHY those notes are there, and also (equally important) know why it has to be C# and not Db.

C. Know what the scale SOUNDS like, which is the essential distinction between a C major scale and D Dorian, even though they have the same notes.

D. Be able to find them every where on the neck, and be able to play them over at least two octaves ascending and descending. I think it's vital that you can name the notes as you play them and sing the note BEFORE you play it. It's music so it's really all about SOUND, and very very little about where to put your fingers. Get the sound in your head and this part (actually playing the scales) becomes a lot easier.

After you have this together, then learn very basic chord theory so you can figure out (again don't memorize this stuff, LEARN the formulas so you can build it yourself) major, minor, seventh, augmented, diminished, major 7, minor 7, and dim7 chords. Learn both ways to build them (that is, learn that a major chord is 1 3 5 of the scale from the root AND that a major chord is a major third with a minor third on top).

Then learn about the harmonized scale and how to create the chords that fall naturally in the diatonic major scale. After you have this (again, it's not particularly useful to just now that the I chord is a major 7 and the vii is a minor 7, you need to grasp WHY) then the modes are very clear, sensible, and frankly less useful and way less exotic.

Do this in a logical fashion that builds your knowledge from the stuff you know, instead of letting people tell you crap like "just learn the dorian mode" or "use Dorian for a minor chord". Learn the why, then the how will follow.

John

9. ### Pettson

Jun 3, 2009
Thanks so much!

I love this forum <3

EDIT: Ok, now I am trying to test myself on the tones of the Major scale, but there is one thing that I don't understand. In F Major, why is there a B flat instead of an A sharp?

10. ### JTESupporting Member

Mar 12, 2008
Central Illinois, USA
OK, let's work this out together to figure the logic (because that's exactly what I meant about know WHY A has a C# and not a Db).

Start at F. What's the next note? It's a whole step so it's G. From G we need to go another whole step, so that's A. Now we need a half-step. We've already used the letter A so it's gotta be Bb.

You use each letter once only.

John

11. ### Pettson

Jun 3, 2009
So a major scale can't have both an A and an A sharp?

12. ### JTESupporting Member

Mar 12, 2008
Central Illinois, USA
Correct! Think on it. How would you notate it? You'd have to use a sharp sign and a natural sign every time you changed. Plus, let's go further with our scale. Suppose you DID call it A#. What's the next note? It's a whole step from our Bb/A#. That's C. So, you've used A twice, but never used B.

All this stuff is logical and sensible if you take the time to think things through.

Good questions!

John

13. ### Pettson

Jun 3, 2009
Ahhh ok!

Thanks for getting me really psyched about learning Music Theory!

Aug 14, 2009
Alabama
Modes-

If you have a keyboard handy (or easy access to a piano)...you're playing a scale without necessarily starting on the root note.

You can visualize modes this way:

Play the white keys from D to D and you get the Dorian mode.
Play the white keys from E to E and you get the Phrygian mode.
F to F gives you the Lydian mode.
G to G gives you the Mixolydian mode.
A to A gives you the Aeolian mode (or the natural minor scale).
B to B gives you the Locrian mode.
C to C gives you the Ionian mode (or the major mode).

15. ### Pettson

Jun 3, 2009
Do i have to learn all the tones of the minor scales aswell?

Jan 26, 2005
Eastman, GA
Pettson,

Just start on the stuff JTE posted. By the time you get halfway through learning all of that, you can answer the above question yourself. It will just come natural.

One thing at a time.......

17. ### mambo4

Jun 9, 2006
Dallas
Of all the scales, the major scale is the most important to have a solid grasp of when it comes to theory. All other scales, and especially the fundamentals of harmony, derive from and relate to the major scale.

Exploring modes and such is less important at first than developing a good grasp of how chords are derived from the major scale. While learning lots of new scales is fun and can give you lots of neat ideas to play with, the core of solid bass playing comes from understanding chords and chord progressions, and how to play notes and lines that support them.

So as you develope your understanding of the major scale start looking into harmonizing the major scale : this is the basis for grasping how chord progressions work.

18. ### Green1

Sep 23, 2010
Scottsdale, AZ
Also equally as important is to be able to identify what chords, arpeggios come out of each mode. This will be valuable as you start trying to navigate through chord changes in songs.....but as earlier posters have said, one thing at a time.

19. ### Green1

Sep 23, 2010
Scottsdale, AZ
Oops! someone beat me to it! I didn't read all the posts before submitting mine......Sorry

20. ### champbassist

Apr 27, 2007
New Delhi, India.