The five A minor pentatonic scale patterns for the 4 string bass. The root note of the scale A is circled the blue note boxed.
What's the point of scale patterns? When I studied jazz improvisation back in college the predominant teaching was the modal method which I found very challenging. This soloing method taught us to use a specific mode for each chord. For example to solo over a ii V I chord progression in C major we were taught to use 3 different modes. The C major ii V I progression is Dm7 G7 Cma7. The modal method required the use of D Dorian for Dm, G Mixolydian for G7, and C Ionian for Cma7. The modes and chords mentioned above all have one thing in common, that is they have no sharps and no flats. In other words all of these chords and their corresponding modes fit into C major/A minor. Once I started taking lessons with a well known jazz master I was taught to use scale patters instead. This allows the performer to solo to the progression and not the individual chords. With the patterns as a soloing foundation you eventually start to see the entire fret board as one continuous pattern. Other tools are added after your basic foundation of scale patterns is mastered. Tools such as the pentatonic scale patters, arpeggios, the melodic and harmonic minors can be layered into the patterns themselves. Having said that just playing through these patters in all twelve keys will greatly improve your mastery of the instrument even if you have no desire to take a solo.
I have also included the 5 pentatonic scale patterns. Many bass players have made a carrier out of these five scale patterns. They are great for bass lines and soloing. My mentor always showed me to think of the pentatonic scale as a minor. So the pentatonic patterns shown here are in a minor format. That means I circled the minor tonic instead of the major. Each of these A minor pentatonic scale patters is also a C major pentatonic scale pattern. Just as all the C major scale patterns shown here are also A minor scale patters. This phenomenon is referred to as the enharmonic equivalent. I believe every bass player should have a copy of these patterns for free. Remember major =minor. That is to say the C major scale is the exact same scale as A minor. See the circle of fifths to see were all the relative minors are for each of the twelve keys.
I use an "alternate tuning," on my six string basses. Instead of tuning BEADGC, I use BEADGB. The Bs stand for bass. This tuning was recommended to me from my old Jazz mentor. He explained how it's far superior to the standard BEADGC tuning. You can only goso many strings in straight fourth before you start loosing versatility. That is to say the notes you want to play together start getting improperly spaced for the human hand. There is a reason why the guitar is not tuned in straight fourths. When I finally purchased my first 6 string bass I went back and forth between the standard and the alternate tunings examining scales chords arpeggios and the such to test what my old mentor was saying. After several hours of examination I proved to myself that BEADGB is far superior, especially for chords. Fare warning it takes a good amount of retraining for someone used to straight fourths to adopt this system. I believe one day this will be the standard tuning for the 6 as bass playing technology, mental and physical, continue to evolve. For that reason I have provided the scale patterns for this tuning as well.
A bass player friend of mine was telling me the other day that he didn't want to play six string bass because once you go past 5 strings it's not just a bass anymore. My response was your exactly right. And that's the point of playing a six string bass. To go past the traditional usage of the bass. Not to imply that there aren't great bass players out there expanding the bass on just 4 strings, because there most certainly are.
Just because guitarist are people too, I included the scale patters for guitar as well. There at the bottom.
The seven C Major scale patterns for the 4 string bass. The root note of the scale C is circled.
The alternate tuning seven C major scale patterns for the 6 string bass. The root note of the scale C is circled.
Altered tuning BEADGB
The alternate tuning five A minor pentatonic scale patterns for the 6 string bass. The root note A is circled the blue note boxed
Altered tuning BEADGB