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How to Play the Major Pentatonic Scale on Bass Guitar

Learning how to play the major pentatonic scale on the bass guitar is like getting a two-for-one deal. You can use the major pentatonic scale for two different chord tonalities: the major chord and the dominant chord. You need three strings to complete the major pentatonic scale, so start it on the E or A string.

  1. Take a look at the structure of the major pentatonic scale.

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  2. Press the middle finger of your left hand down on the root of the chord (on the E or A string) and play the note.

  3. Press your pinkie down on the same string and play the note.

    This note is a 2; it’s a fairly neutral note that fits in with both the major and dominant chords.

  4. Press your index finger down on the next higher (thinner) string and play the note.

    This note is a 3; it’s one of the main ingredients of both the major and dominant chords.

  5. Press your pinkie down on the same string and play the note.

    This note is a 5; it’s another main ingredient of the major and dominant chords.

  6. Press your index finger down on the next higher string and play the note.

    This note is a 6; it’s another neutral note that’s part of the scales used for major and dominant chords.

  7. Press your pinkie down on the same string and play the note.

    This note is your octave; you’ve arrived at the root again.

Three strings. No shifts. Okay, you’re ready for the limelight.

You can use the notes of the major pentatonic scale in any order—not just straight up and down. Play this scale for any major or dominant chord. All the notes of the major pentatonic scale sound good with a major or dominant chord, so you’re perfectly safe landing on any of them. If you find that things start to sound bland, you can add some spice in the form of the blues scale.

Now try your hand with these major pentatonic scale licks.

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Click here to download and print these licks.

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