Scales are the base of music theory. After you learn scales, you can more fully understand chord structures, arpeggios, improvisation and other countless concepts. Scales are a series of notes (usually 8 notes) that when played together produce a certain feel or mood. This article focuses on creating major scales.
The first thing you need to know is how many notes there are to choose from in order to make your major scale. There are 12 different notes in music. When you play all of these notes one after another, you have what is called the chromatic scale. From one tone to another tone on the chromatic scale is called a semi tone, or half step. If you take one tone and add two tones, it is a full step. So, to create major scales, you follow the pattern: full, full, half, full, full, full, half. Look at the following illustration to get a better idea of what that means.
The top line is the C chromatic scale, while the bottom line is the C major scale. The distance between each note in the chromatic scale is a semi tone or half step. As you can see, the bottom scale doesn't have any sharps or flats; this makes C major an easy scale to play and learn. The bottom scale follows the major scale pattern discussed before: full, full, half, full, full, full, half. If you want to find the A major scale, then you write out the A chromatic scale and follow the pattern in the above picture to figure out what notes are in A major. So, how does this fit on a fretboard?
To play the C major scale, follow along with the tablature and video closely. You will need to know that the strings are named E A D G sequentially, and each fret toward the bridge of the guitar will increase the pitch by one semi tone. First, take a look at this illustration to see how the notes lie on the fretboard.
Once you can play the Cmaj scale, take the pattern that you just played and move each note up by one fret, or one semitone. Now you have the C#maj scale, or the Dbmaj scale; they contain the same notes, just with different names. We will talk more about the nature of sharps and flats in the next lesson. The point is that you can move the pattern anywhere on the bass neck and have a major scale. To figure out what key the major scale is in, simply figure out the first note you are starting on; this is called the root. So, if you start on the 4th fret on the E string, you will have an Ab as your root note and follow the full, full, half, full, full, full, half pattern from that Ab to play the Abmaj scale. If you haven't quiet grasped the concept of patterns, imagine playing the Cmaj scale you just learned, and forget what fret you are on. Move your hand up or down and play the same pattern as if you were starting on the C note. The great thing about guitars is that you can physically play all of the major scales using the same scale pattern. The Emaj scale will feel and look the same as the Amaj scale, the only difference is what it sounds like and what fret you start on.
I recommend that you follow through with the video. As it is probably the first video you will watch to get started playing bass, it contains very valuable audible and visual information that you may miss out on if you skip it. And I also recommend you have fun!