First Position Minor Scales

Here are some Minor Scales for the bass guitar written in all twelve keys.

This is a great exercise for beginners looking to develop some good habits or advanced players needing to brush up on some of the basics.

by Dave Gagnon

If you have ever listened to the legendary Motown bassist, James Jamerson, you may have noticed that he had an astounding ability to play basslines with a lot of notes. If you have ever learned any of his lines, then you may have noticed that he just happened to play in the first position a whole lot and really made use of the open strings too. First position was pretty much "home-base" for Jamerson, which probably stemmed from his training as an Upright Bass player.

How was James Jamerson able to play so many notes on a 4 string bass while keeping ventures past the 6th fret to a minimum? If you think about it, the 12 notes that make up an octave happen very quickly in the first position. If you play consecutive notes from the low "E" on a 4 string bass to the "E" on the "D string" at the 2nd fret, all twelve notes in the octave are there. All of the other notes on your bass are either the same note in a different octave or the exact same note just on a different string. To make a long story short, if there are 20 notes on a 4 string bass in the first position (4th fret and below) that's 8 more notes than a full octave. If James Jamerson found the first position to have just enough notes for his busy basslines, there should be more than enough room in the first 4 frets for the rest of us!

One way to start learning how to play all things in the first position involves playing some scales. Below, you will find the Natural Minor Scale written in all twelve keys.

Start right from the beginning with "E minor" and take it slow. Make sure to focus solely on one scale at a time before moving on to the next. When you feel satisfied and can play a scale all the way through "in time," go ahead and move on to the next line.

1st position minor scales for bass minor scales for bass; first position

A few of these minor scales actually go past the first position in order to complete the octave. This is not meant to confuse you, but sometimes it is essential to leave the first position just to complete the scale in the original octave.

minor scales for bass guitar

To summarize:

The idea that we are working on here involves starting a scale in the first position, as well as, utilizing open strings rather than their fretted equivalents. This is much more difficult than just taking one "scale shape" and moving it around on the neck. Much like learning how to play the piano in all 12 keys, we are actually learning 12 different shapes for one scale.

Of course, at some point, you will want to be able to play over the whole range of the bass neck and move effortlessly from one position to another. If you keep practicing, that's definitely in your future. For now, let me know how this exercise helps improve your playing and be sure to check back at our "Free Bass Lesson's" section for more minor scales, arpeggios, and other bass exercises.


-Dave Gagnon

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