Know Your Bass Scales!

Why practicing your bass guitar scales will make you an in-demand musician

As a budding bass player, you know that your instrument is important for holding the rest of the band together. You and the percussionist set the groove, and your bass guitar is what links the rest of the chords together. This means that you can’t just call it in – you really have to know what you’re doing. A band can be made or broken by the quality of the bassist, so your musicianship is crucial. The best way to build your knowledge of your instrument and music in general is to practice your scales.

Music Theory

How can you tell the stage is level at a gig?
The bassist drools out of both sides of his mouth.

There are a lot of jokes that make fun of bassists and drummers because people take their roles for granted. The fact is, if you educate yourself in music theory – beginning with learning and practicing your scales inside and out – you will make what you do look easy. But, it’s not easy. You’ve worked really, really hard to be as good as you are, jokes notwithstanding. Other musicians know this, and they come to depend on you.

What makes Paul McCartney, Sting, and Geddy Lee so incredible? Besides their one-of-a-kind vocals, they each have a background in music theory, and each is known as one of the best bassists on the planet. This came with a lot of hard work, and a lot of practicing their scales.

If you want to really, really know your instrument, practice your scales. Where do you start?

The Blues

The most commonly used scale for the bass guitar is the Blues Scale. Knowing this one inside-out will help you in several genres (not just with the blues, but rock, pop, bluegrass, jazz, punk, metal, the list goes on). This one scale structure will take you almost anywhere you need to go, be it holding the band together or breaking out into your own solo. Who knew six little notes could be so valuable?

Start with the C blues scale. Practice it until it’s second nature, then play with it and have a little fun. You’ll find that you’re making up songs and even able to play along with well-known songs with just that one scale. When you’re ready to move on to the next one, the pattern will seem familiar. Keep practicing! Soon you’ll hunger for more and more scales to add to your repertoire.

Crossing Over

You may never aspire to be a lead guitar player, but your knowledge of scales will help you easily pick up any guitar and play like you’ve been playing forever. Knowing the basic structure of scales will also help you play the piano, should you choose to, and just about any instrument you want to pick up. Think of your music as an art, and, just like a master painter learns everything from drawing to shading to mixing paint colors, you will find that there is a whole world of music that will open up to you the more you learn. Revisit McCartney, Sting, and Lee – how many instruments do each of these artists play? ‘Nuff said.