Create Basslines Episode 2: Scales!

One of the reasons I love playing bass is because of how versatile and funky you can get with it. But one misconception that I think people get wrong with bass is that it’s a boring instrument. Playing the root is very important but it does not have to be the only thing you play.

I have been playing for about 17 years now and I can tell you it’s NOT boring!

I have a short attention span and get very bored easily so playing a boring instrument would not last long for me.

It’s all about having passion for what you are doing and willing to put the time and practice in to be even better. I will take my experience of learning bass, playing with other musicians, writing my own music, and playing to others music and show you how to create badass basslines that sound incredible and are fun to play!

I was going to have one video and article about this topic but there is so much to talk about that I’m breaking it up and turning it into a series called Create Badass Basslines!

In the second episode of this series, I am going to be talking about scales and chords as they relate to creating basslines.

WHY LEARN SCALES?

They are the building blocks for creating music. Any song that you hear is composed of notes and progressions pertaining to specific scales. 

I am going to go through the main scales you should learn along with links to videos for learning them! 

MAJOR AND MINOR SCALES

We will start off with two fundamental scales that everyone should know: the major and minor scales.

These scales are so vital to creating amazing basslines. There are lots of famous songs that have been built off of these scales and all sound completely different from each other!

MAJOR SCALE

This is considered a more upbeat, happy scale due to the progression from note to note. It is derived from the Greek mode Ionian.

The note progressions are: whole – whole – half – whole- whole – whole – half

The C Major scale is the example we will use because there are no sharps and no flats.

C Major Scale: C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C

There are many songs that have elements of the major scale in it but here is a few to reference:

  • Amazing Grace
  • Minuet in G – J.S. Bach
  • Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne
  • Cult of Personality – Living Colour
  • When The Saints Go Marching In
  • Ode To Joy
  • I Want You Back – The Jackson 5

MINOR SCALE

The minor scale is a popular scale synonymous with many popular types of music particularly rock music.

It is derived from the sixth Greek mode Aeolian. There are three different minor scales: natural, harmonic, and melodic.

NATURAL MINOR SCALE

This scale is the basic form of the minor scale written
in the following order:
whole – half – whole – whole – half – whole – whole

The example minor scale we will use is the a minor scale
because it has no sharps or flats:

a minor scale: a – b – c – d – e – f – g – a

minro scale

These songs are just a few examples of many songs using the minor scale:

  • Pretty Fly (For A White Guy) – The Offspring
  • Man on the Silver Mountain – Rainbow
  • Metal Health (Bang Your Head) – Quiet Riot
  • Dani California – Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • The Trooper – Iron Maiden
HARMONIC MINOR

This scale utilizes the natural minor scale except that the seventh note is raised a half step ascending and descending the scale.

Here is an example using the a harmonic minor scale:
harmonic

MELODIC MINOR

This scale utilizes the natural minor scale however the sixth and seventh notes are raised a half step going up (ascending) the scale. On the way down (descending) the sixth and seventh steps go back to the natural minor scale.

Here is an example of the a melodic minor scale:

a – b – c – d – e – f# – g# – a / a – b – c – d – e – f♮ – g♮ – a

melodic

MAJOR AND MINOR PENTATONIC SCALES

These scales are so vital to creating amazing basslines. There are lots of famous songs that have been built off of these scales and sound completely different from each other!

The major pentatonic scale is built off of the major scale eliminating the 4th and 7th degrees of the scale.

C Major Pentatonic: C – D – E – G – A – C

majorpentatonic

The following songs are some examples that have parts that are incorporate the major pentatonic scale:

  • I Love Rock ‘N Roll – Joan Jett
  • Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
  • Let It Be – The Beatles
  • Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • Centerfold – The J. Geils Band

The minor pentatonic scale is built off of the natural minor scale eliminating the 2nd and 6th degrees of the scale.

A Minor Pentatonic: a – c – d – e – g – a

minro petnat

You can find my minor pentatonic scale lesson and song examples from Bass Musician Magazine here.

BLUES SCALE

This is a very popular scale and common with many musical styles including R&B, jazz, rock, funk, and gospel just to name a few.

The blues scale is basically the minor pentatonic scale with an added flat 5 note. This scale consists of the root, third, fourth, flatted fifth, fifth, seventh, octave.

The a blues scale is as follows: a – c – d – e♭ – e♮ – g – a

blues

There are many songs that utilize the blues including:

  • Sunshine Of Your Love by Cream
  • Roadhouse Blues by The Doors
  • Heartbreaker by Led Zeppelin
  • Enter Sandman by Metallica
  • Crossroads by Robert Johnson
  • The Thrill is Gone by B.B. King

CHROMATIC SCALE

Easiest scale you will ever learn! This scale utilizes all of the musical alphabet including the sharps/flats. You can check out the full video lesson here.

I have created three chromatic scale exercises for Bass Musician Magazine that you can practice.

I hope this lesson helped. If it seems overwhelming, take it one scale at a time.

In the next episode, we are going to talk about chords!

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