well i have been playing bass for about 7 months now, but i still dont get how to improvise or play in a certain key. I know about arpegios of chords and i know a lot of scales and all the patterns, but i dont no which scales are in which key. Also if i wanted to make up a song in a certain key how could i do it? I realise that i could play notes from the specific scales in that key but are there any patters that show all the scales in that key? I rearly need some explaining because i am rearly confused.
Ok, first: A "key" for example C Major .. has got 7 notes in there. And when theres a Progression like C G F G . You can play the C major scale going up the hole neck. ( http://www.jguitar.com/scale?root=C&scale=Ionian&fret=0&labels=none&notes=sharps ).

I think youre confusion is that you can play dorian phrygian and so on, but you dont know where to play them. so the answer is. When you look at this scale diagram, you see all these scales on succession. Because they are the C major scale, just played over the neck. And when we dont want to break some theory rules, there are no other scales to play here, because you only have your 7 notes you can play.

I dont know i understood you, and i dont know either if you understand me

but ok, im out :B


oh youre playing bass >.<


this is the C major scale for your bass neck
Last edited by mpt at Sep 16, 2006,
My two cents:

Focus less on patterns and more on the actual notes. If you are going to improvise in a certain scale, thinking of it as a pattern will only limit you to that single pattern on the fretboard, instead of thinking about the notes and intervals that make that certain scale unique.

As for writing songs in a scale, everyone has their own way to write songs. I, myself, like to just noodle around and not worry about scales until I find a riff or piece-of-song that I like. Find something that works for you.

Hope that helped in some way...
does htis mean then that if iwas in the key of C the best notes to play would be from the Cmajor scale and just play notes fromt his scale all over the fretboard until i find summit i like? Because i thought if i was int he key of C i could use like d major scales and other minor scales that would make upt his key?


Here's something I wrote a while back about major and minor scales.

The Major Scale

Music is based off of the major scale. As you can see, it is important to know. The major scale follows a basic series of whole steps (two frets on guitar) and half steps (one fret on the guitar). Using these intervals off of a certain starting point, we can find the major scale! It follows this pattern: Whole Whole Half Whole Whole Whole Half (WWHWWWH).

I will use C major as an example, because it has no sharps or flats.

C is the root note.
One whole step (two frets) from C is D
One whole from D is E
One half step from E is F
One whole step from F is G
One whole step from G is A
One whole step from A is B
And one half step from B is C (our starting note).

So the notes in C major are C D E F G A and B.

Let's try one more.

F major!


F major is: F G A Bb C D and E.

Wait a minute...why can't you write F major using sharps? Likewise, why can't you write any of the sharp/flat keys using flats/sharps?

If you did this, it would look like this (using F major as an example):

F G A A# C D E

One thing about major scales and scales in general is to make sure that you only use one of each letter per scale.


You can alter these notes, but only one of each letter per scale. The scale has to be diatonic.

The Circle of Fifths

This is a device used to determine the notes of each key in the major scale. Here is a lovely picture of it. Take it, hold it, and love it.

Now, as you can see, C is up at the top and is in the middle. That is because it has no sharps or flats. As you move clockwise, you will move into the sharp keys. As you move left, you will run through the flat keys. By sharp and flat keys, I mean that is how you would write the scales.

C major: C D E F G A B
G major: G A B C D E F#
D major: D E F# G A B C
A major: A B C# D E F# G#
E major: E F# G# A B C# D#
B major: B C# D# E F# G# A#
F# major: F# G# A# B C# D# E#
C# major: C# D# E# F# G# A# B#

I've bolded every new sharp written in each key, progressing clockwise through the circle of fifihs. As you can see, the sharps are added in this order:


This can be remembered with the acronym:


This is where the sharp keys end.

Now for the flat keys, going counter-clockwise.

F major: F G A Bb C D E
Bb major: Bb C D Eb F G A
Eb major: Eb F G A Bb C D Eb
Ab major: Ab Bb C Db Eb F G
Db major: Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C
Gb major: Gb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb Fb
Cb major: Cb Db Eb Fb Gb Ab Bb

I've bolded the new flats this time. the order is reverse of the order that you add sharps, B E A D G C F. Which can be remembered with the acronym:


I know this is hard to take in at first, but give it time and don't rush into it. It'll come. It's like a language. The more you use it, the easier it'll come eventually.

The Minor Scale

Here is the minor scale. While the major scale has a happy sort of feel to it, the minor scale sounds a bit more saddening.

The minor scale formula is 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7. The way these scale formulas work is that you take the major scale and you line up each scale degree with the coresponding degree in the formula. You then modify the appropriate degrees.

So, let's try this with A minor. This is the relative minor (more on this in a bit) of C major, so it has no sharps or flats either.

So, taking the A major scale and lining it up with the minor scale formula...

A B C# D E F# G#
1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7

Modifying the appropriate degrees...

1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7

And now that that is done...we have our result, the A minor scale!


Harmonic Minor Scale and Melodic Minor Scale

This is simply a variation of the minor scale. To turn the minor scale into the harmonic minor scale, you just raise the seventh degree of that minor scale a half step/semitone.

The A harmonic minor scale: A B C D E F G#.

To turn a minor scale into a Melodic Minor scale, you raise both the seventh and sixth degrees of the minor scale by a half step/semitone.

The A Melodic Minor Scale: A B C D E F# G#.

Many people tend to only use the Melodic minor scale while ascending and the [natural] minor scale when descending.
Is the key thing different on bass than it is on guitar? Dude, playing leads/improvising isn't all that hard unless you want to make it complicated. Just play leads and improvise off of the notes in easy major scales like C and G. Just make stuff up like take the intro riff in "Dammit" by Blink 182. That's easy, so just try to play all the notes in that riff and mix up the order. ( is bass in bass clef? This is where i get confused because I play indstruments in bass and treble)