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How to Play Two-Octave Minor Scales on the Bass Guitar

Because of the size of the bass guitar, you'll need to shift your left hand out of position in order to play two-octave minor scales. Every minor scale except E minor follows the same pattern. Because the E minor scale starts on an open string, its pattern is unique. (You can find out how to play E minor elsewhere on this Web site.)

To shift your hand smoothly, you need to anticipate where your hand will be for the next several notes (not just for the next note) so that your musical phrase or scale can flow smoothly even though your hand is making a shift.

  1. Review the structure of the two-octave minor scale.

    image0.jpg

    This is the structure of eleven-twelfths of the two-octave minor scales. Be sure to refer to this structure while you’re playing. (If you happen to be a lefty, please read “right hand” to mean “left hand,” and vice versa.)

  2. Press the index finger of your left hand down on any note on the E string, the thickest string, to play the first three notes.

    On the E string, fret in order with your index finger (the root, or first note of the scale), your ring finger, and your pinkie, striking each note as you fret it.

  3. Stay in position and move your index finger across to the A string and play the next three notes.

    Just like on the E string, fret with your index finger, ring finger, and pinkie in order, striking the A string with your right hand as you fret each note.

  4. Stay in position, but move the index finger of your left hand to the D string to play the next note.

    Fret with your index finger and strike the note, then get ready for a shift.

  5. Shift your left hand by two frets toward the bridge along the D string and play the next three notes.

    Use the same fingers you used before — index, ring, and pinkie — to fret the next notes, striking the D string with your right hand as your press each fret in order.

    The note you fret here with your index finger is exactly one octave above the original starting note. If you wanted to play only a single octave of the minor scale, you wouldn't make the shift upward, but would instead fret that octave with your ring finger in the original position.

  6. Stay in position and move the index finger of your left hand to the G string.

    Fret the G string with your index finger, then ring finger, then pinkie (see a pattern here?), striking the G string for each note.

    Keep your eyes on the fret that you just played with your pinkie. The next note, which is played with your middle finger, is two frets above the last note, so your hand has to move up four frets in order to get your middle finger on the right fret (as described in the next step).

  7. Shift your left hand four frets up along the G string, placing your middle finger two frets above the previous note played by your pinkie; then finish the scale.

    Press down with your middle finger and strike the G string with your right hand. Then fret with your pinkie finger and strike the note. You've reached the top of the scale!

Practice your minor scale up and down, starting on different notes for some variety, until your left-hand shifts are smooth and your right hand maintains an even volume throughout the scale.

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