#1
Hey guys this may seem like a newbie question but...

I've been playing bass guitar for 4/5 years now and I've just had a random thought, do I need to learns scales, I've always thought what's the point.

Do I need to learn them and why?

If so what scales should I learn because I don't want to embarrass myself if someone says "do you know any scales"?
#2
Scales are used in literally every kind of music by every musician(even if they dont know it).


Learn the major scale all over the neck. Learn what intervals its made up of(the space between the notes you use is what defines which scale your using, essentially).


Once you know it, you also know the minor scale as it is made up of the same intervals just starting on a different one.


play over backing tracks to get used to actually using the scale as opposed to just running through it.

then learn chord theory(useful for bass too, btw).
#3
Quote by rickyj
Once you know it, you also know the minor scale as it is made up of the same intervals just starting on a different one.

Hate be the bearer of bad news but this is incorrect, the minor scales do not synchronise with the major scales. The closest is the Aeolian mode, sometimes called the natural minor scale due to not having a raised 7th degree.
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#4
Quote by Pastafarian96
Hate be the bearer of bad news but this is incorrect, the minor scales do not synchronise with the major scales. The closest is the Aeolian mode, sometimes called the natural minor scale due to not having a raised 7th degree.

...which, on an equal temperament instrument, has the same intervals as the major scale, only starting on what is, for the major scale, the 6th, and also happens to be the standard minor scale used in most modern music.

A good way to practice scales (and one of the big reasons to know them even when playing covers) is working out the key of a piece and putting improvised fills in, say every 4 bars or so, just to get used to how the scale sounds, what notes to use, etc.
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#5
Learning some bluegrass would be a great way to learn to start incorporate using scale-based fills in your playing.

Learn the major and minor scales. Chances are that nobody will ever ask you what scales you know though.

Quote by rickyj
Scales are used in literally every kind of music by every musician(even if they dont know it).


The pedant in me wants to point out that that isn't true. Scales are used in some way in many types of music and by many musicians, but to say literally all of it and them is untrue. For example, non-pitched and single-pitched instruments often don't and often can't make use of scales.
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Last edited by theogonia777 at Aug 25, 2015,
#6
Quote by K33nbl4d3
...which, on an equal temperament instrument, has the same intervals as the major scale, only starting on what is, for the major scale, the 6th, and also happens to be the standard minor scale used in most modern music.

I was just being terminologically pedantic
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#7
So I'll throw my two cents in here as someone who played for over 10 years before I cared about any sort of scales or theory, and in fact had actively avoided it.

For me, I reached a point where I hit a wall and felt like I was running in circles, playing the same sort of thing over and over, relying too heavily on fallback riffs and progressions, and just had a general sensation of treading water.

I had a good understanding sonically of what should go where, and I had no problem listening to something and playing it back (realizing early on that if I wasn't going to learn theory, I would have to hone my ear twice as hard). I could intuit where someone was going to go by hearing what they played before. However, that didn't really help me from that general feeling of spinning my wheels. I figured that learning music from other genres and learning some scales would help nudge me out of this rut of walking my own sonic footprints.

I started digging up scales and learning their positions across the fretboard and it became quickly apparent how beneficial it is to have even a basic understanding of their makeup and how to break down chords. You'll see, or I did at least, the fretboard in an entirely different light. It looks more like a road map now, and once I began to understand how these scales interconnect - what they have in common and what makes them different - I started to see how I could begin at using them to create desired effects, and it opened (to use a tired old cliche of a phrase) a ton of musical doors for me.

I still don't know much theory, and though I don't have an aversion to it any longer and it's not really my goal to become an expert in it, I've found knowing at least some basic scales that are common to your style of music to be invaluable.

That said, there are also guys that absolutely rip and play entirely by ear, know no theory, and couldn't tell you even a few degrees of a given scale by name or sound. Some people prefer it this way, and it doesn't hinder their ability, but for me, starting to learn some scales was a necessary point of progress.

However, it's my honest opinion that not I, nor anyone else here, can tell you what is right for you or your playing. You have to try it out and decide if it helps or hinders you - I find that, for myself, too much theory prevents me from playing without using more of my brain than my gut, and I don't like that. I like knowing how everything connects on the neck of a guitar, and being able to visualize that while I play. Thus far, that's been enough theory for me. It might be different for you.

So, the short answer in my opinion is try it out and see. If nothing else, learning a few scales and deciding you don't prefer it to ear playing will leave you still playing how you like, but with a little extra knowledge that's available if you ever want/need it.

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#8
unlike guitar you actually really want to know your scales and, more importantly, your arpeggios as a bassist

in a traditional band setting, you're there for texture. that's rhythm and reinforcement of sound. you need to know when you need to be on the tonic, when you need to be on the fifth, and when you need to be walking.

plus it'll make your life easier when you realize you don't need a guitarist and get an 8 string
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#9
Quote by Pastafarian96
I was just being terminologically pedantic



As well as adding confusion to an already confusing topic for someone who was asking for advice.


and being a bit of a ****, frankly.


not to mention incorrect.
#10
Please explain where I was incorrect (this is genuine urge to learn from a mistake btw, not a petty challenge).
Quote by rickyj
and being a bit of a ****, frankly.

And was this really necessary? I was only providing information I was told was correct and am willing to have that disputed, not actively trying to confuse.
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Last edited by Pastafarian96 at Aug 26, 2015,
#11
I just took what I learned on guitar and I applied it to bass. Pretty simple transition. Usually I just hammer out notes until I play something that sounds good.
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#12
I am all for learning music theory, in the long run it helps making choices when playing and soloing easier and less haphazardly based on "what sounds good". Depending on your ear is fine, but having basic knowledge of scales makes in easier in the long run.

Major and minor are fine to learn. However, if you play rock music, learning your pentatonic and blues scales are a good place to start. The running joke in one of the bands I played in was that all of Jimmy Page's solos were rehashes of the pentatonic scale, but that's really not that far off. John Entwistle's bass solo in My Generation is pretty much within the minor pentatonic scale Its a useful scale to have in your toolbox.
#13
The following is only my opinion:

Should you learn scales? YES. (Almost) anything you can learn will help you musically. I studied music as a child while I learned my first instruments and actually spent two years as a music major in college before switching to something else. Having a good ear will only get a person so far. Learning scales, circle of fifths and some basic theory will help you especially when soloing/improvising, playing fills, and even just playing a "standard" bass line - because you will know what notes are available for you to play (and still stay in key).