Bass scales in tab, notation and movable scale diagrams. A complete reference for bass guitarists of all styles and abilities.
Use these scales in your basslines, songwriting, riffs and improvisation.
Continue scrolling to see all the scales, or use the links below to jump to the part of the page you need.
- All Bass Scales TAB & Patterns / Fretboard Diagrams
- Pentatonic Minor Scale
- Pentatonic Major Scale
- Blues Scale
- Major Scale
- Natural Minor Scale
- Harmonic Minor Scale
- Dorian Mode Scale
- Mixolydian Scale
- Phrygian Dominant Scale
- Chromatic Scale
- Bass Scales, Chords & Arpeggios Book
- How To Use The Bass Scale Diagrams On This Page
Want to learn more bass scales, plus arpeggios and chords? Check out our downloadable reference book: Bass Scales, Chords & Arpeggios.
Introduction to Bass Scales
Having a good knowledge of bass scales will help you to come up with better bass lines and solos. Practicing bass scales is also one of the best ways to improve the speed and fluency of your playing. Because of this, scales should be an essential part of every bassist’s practice routine.
On this page you’ll find a selection of some of the most commonly-used scales for bass guitar. Use them in your basslines, solos, songwriting, practice and warm-ups.
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Bass Scales TAB & Fretboard Diagrams
For each scale on this page you’ll find:
- Information on the scale
- Bass TAB for playing a 1-octave scale with a tonic note of E in open position.
- A movable bass pattern for playing the scale with any tonic note. Play up from the 1st green note in the diagram to the 2nd for a 1-octave scale.
- Bass TAB for playing a 1-octave scale with a tonic note of A using the pattern provided.
You can find out how to read bass TAB on this page: How To Read Bass TAB.
You can find out more about movable scale patterns on this page: Guitar Scale Patterns.
Pentatonic Minor Bass Scale
The pentatonic minor is one of the most commonly-used scales in rock and pop music. Use it to compose riffs and bass lines and also to improvise bass solos.
Further information on playing the pentatonic minor scale on bass (including additional TABs and patterns) can be found on this page: Pentatonic Scale Bass TAB & Patterns.
E Pentatonic Minor Bass Tab – Open Position
The bass TAB below shows an E pentatonic minor scale:
Pentatonic Minor Bass Scale Pattern
You can also learn this scale with a scale pattern. Below is a bass scale pattern for the pentatonic minor scale:
A Pentatonic Minor Scale TAB
Position the above pattern at the 5th fret in order to play an A pentatonic minor scale, as shown in the TAB below:
The basic pentatonic pattern can be moved up and down the bass neck in order to play the pentatonic scale with any tonic note. For example, you could position the pattern at the 3rd fret for a G pentatonic minor scale.
Complete guide to playing pentatonic scales on bass guitar: Pentatonic Scale Bass
Pentatonic Major Bass Scale
The pentatonic major bass scale is a five note scale that produces a clear, open sound. It is suitable for use in major chord sequences and for improvising over major chords. Compare its sound to that of the minor pentatonic scale.
E Pentatonic Major Bass TAB – Open Position
Pentatonic Major Bass Scale Pattern
Use the scale pattern below to play the major pentatonic scale in multiple keys:
A Pentatonic Major Scale
Play the bass pattern shown above in 4th position (i.e. with your index finger ready to play notes at the 4th fret) in order to play an A pentatonic major scale, as shown in the TAB below.
(Play the first note with the 2nd (middle) finger of your fretting hand, so that your 1st (index) finger is ready to play the notes at the 4th fret.)
Blues Bass Scales
The blues scale, as its name suggests, is often used in blues music. It is also widely used in rock, jazz and pop music.
The blues scale is basically a minor pentatonic scale with an added note; the diminished (flattened) 5th. This note is known as the ‘blues’ note. Learn where the blues note falls in the scale and accentuate it for maximum effect.
(If you’re not sure which note the diminished 5th is, simply compare the blues scale with the pentatonic minor scale shown above; the extra note in the blues scale is the blues note.)
Further information on playing the blues scale on bass (including additional TABs and patterns) can be found on this page: Blues Scale Bass TAB & Patterns.
Below is the blues scale with a root note of E
E Blues Scale Bass TAB
Blues Scale Pattern for Bass
Use the pattern below to play blues scales all over the fretboard:
A Blues Scale TAB
Play the above pattern at the 5th fret for an A blues scale, as shown in the TAB below:
Complete guide to playing blues scales on bass guitar: Blues Scale Bass
The major scale is one of the first bass scales you should learn. Knowing the intervals between the notes of a major scale is important in understanding all other scales.
Once you know the sound of the major scale and the scale patterns needed to play it in all keys, learn how it can be changed in order to make other bass scales.
Further information on playing the major scale on bass (including additional TABs and patterns) can be found on this page: Major Scale Bass TAB & Patterns
E Major Scale Bass TAB
Major Scale Bass Pattern
A Major Scale TAB
Use the scale pattern above to play the major scale with any root note. For example, if you want to play an A major scale, play the pattern with your fretting hand at the 4th position, so that the 2nd (middle) finger plays the first A note at the 5th fret:
Complete guide to playing major scales on bass guitar: Major Scale Bass
Our popular Bass Scales, Chords & Arpeggios book is now available as a pdf eBook. Download your copy today–visit this page for details: Bass Scales Book.
Natural Minor Bass Scale
The natural minor scale sounds good with many minor chord sequences. It uses the same notes as the major scale with a root note a minor 3rd (3 frets) higher. For example, an A natural minor scale uses the same notes as a C major scale, and an E natural minor scale uses the same notes as a G major scale.
The natural minor scale is the same scale as the Aeolian modal scale, so by learning it you get two scales for the price of one!
E Natural Minor Scale Bass TAB
Natural Minor Scale Bass Pattern
A Natural Minor Bass TAB
Use the natural minor scale pattern to play the scale with any tonic note. In the TAB below, the above pattern is used to play an A natural minor scale at the 5th fret.
Harmonic Minor Scale
The harmonic minor scale is one of several minor scales. It is most often heard in classical music (in general, the natural minor scale is used more frequently in rock / pop music), but you’ll often hear it in metal, too.
If you compare the harmonic minor scale to the natural minor scale, you’ll notice that only the 7th note is different.
Harmonic Minor Scale Bass Pattern
A Harmonic Minor Scale Bass TAB
The above pattern can be used to play the harmonic minor scale with any tonic note. In the TAB below the pattern is being used to play an A harmonic minor scale:
Dorian Mode Bass Scales
The Dorian modal scale has a folky sound, and is the basis for many folk melodies – one of the best-known of which being ‘Scarborough Fair’.
The Dorian scale is also one of the most widely-used modal scales, and sounds good against minor seventh chords with the same root note.
E Dorian Scale Bass TAB
Dorian Scale Bass Pattern
Use the pattern below to play the Dorian modal scale with any root note.
A Dorian TAB
Using the pattern above at the 5th fret results in an A Dorian scale, as shown below:
Mixolydian Bass Scales
The Mixolydian scale is a modal scale that is commonly used over dominant 7th (7) chords. This is because it contains the minor 7th interval, which is also present in the dominant 7th chords. Try playing (for example) an E Mixolydian scale over an E7 chord to hear this effect.
The Mixolydian scale is also the basis for many folk melodies.
E Mixolydian Bass TAB
Mixolydian Bass Scale Pattern
Use the scale pattern below to play the mixolydian scale with any tonic note by moving it up and down the fretboard.
A Mixolydian TAB
Use the pattern above to play an A mixolydian scale on your bass by starting the scale at the 5th fret, as shown in the TAB below:
Phrygian Dominant Bass Scales
This is a very atmospheric scale with a distinctive Eastern sound. It can be used to great effect in metal bass lines and solos.
E Phrygian Dominant Bass TAB
Phrygian Dominant Bass Pattern
Use the bass scale pattern below to play the Phrygian domainant scale with different tonic notes.
A Phrygian Dominant Scale Bass TAB
The above pattern could be played at the 5th fret for an A Phrygian dominant scale, as shown in the TAB below:
This bass scale can be used to create interesting effects and lines. It is also very good for developing left-right hand coordination and as a pre-gig warm up.
1 Octave Chromatic Scale Starting On E Bass TAB
Chromatic Scale Bass Pattern
There are several approaches to playing chromatic scale on the bass guitar. In the pattern below, the 4th finger of the fretting hand plays two notes on each string.
1 Octave Chromatic Scale Starting On A
The pattern above can be used at the 5th fret to play a 1-octave chromatic scale with a starting note of A. This is shown on the following TAB:
Master Your Bass Guitar With Guitar Command
- Get your copy of our awesome bass guitar reference book: Bass Scales, Chords & Arpeggios.
- Learn how to play chords on your bass: visit our bass chords page.
- Check out our bass backing tracks albums. Find out more (and play along with sample tracks) here: Bass Guitar Backing Tracks.
How To Use Bass Scale Diagrams
All of the bass scales on this page are shown both in TAB and as movable (transposable) scale pattern diagrams.
Instead of learning the individual notes of each scale (as shown in the TABs), many bass guitarists learn scales in the form of ‘patterns’ or ‘shapes’. These patterns represent the physical positions in which the fingers are placed on the fretboard in order to play the scale.
Essentially, a scale pattern is a graphical representation of a standard bass guitar fretboard. The tonic notes of each scale (i.e. the ‘C’ notes of a C major scale, or the ‘E’ notes in a E Dorian scale) are represented by green circles in the diagrams. All of the other notes in the scale are shown as black circles.
The tonic notes shown in the diagram should be positioned over the relevant notes on your bass guitar’s fretboard in order to play the scale with the desired tonic note.
For example, if you want to play a G minor pentatonic scale, then position the pentatonic minor scale pattern at the 3rd fret (so that the green circles on the diagram correspond to G notes on your fretboard).
By learning the scales as patterns you’ll be able to play the scales with any tonic note simply by moving the patterns up and down the bass neck and playing them at the desired position.
Note: on this page each scale is represented by a single pattern. There is more than one way of playing the same scale, and each scale can be represented by multiple patterns. Bassists often learn multiple patterns for the same scale to avoid having to play the scale in an uncomfortable positions on the fretboard.
Got any questions? Ask them in the comment section below and we’ll be happy to help!
- Want this (and more) information at your fingertips? Check out our printable Bass Scales, Chords & Arpeggios Book. The book also features multiple diagrams per scale. You can see sample pages, and download the book, here: Bass Scales Book.
- Learn to play chords on your bass guitar: visit our Bass Chords page.