Bass Bit 11: The Diminished Scale (BB #11)

The Diminished Scale

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 10.08.39 PMIn this Bass Bit I will walk you through another sequence of seconds – in this case major and minor seconds alternate. If you alternate major and minor seconds and start with a major second it is called the diminished scale.

Using it to explore the bass…

This is the scale to use over diminished chords or diminished seventh chords. For the exploration of the bass it is fun to play with because it is another symmetric scale, so you can move little licks around within it. I demonstrate using it for fun shedding with a delay pedal as well as with a background track. Whether you are a beginner or advanced, have fun with this sound!

This is my Marleaux Consat bass by Gerald Marleaux in the video.
The strings I use are by Dean Markley SR 2000s.
TC electronic is the brand of my delay pedal, amp and cab.
And the brown thingy on my first fret? that’s a fretwrap by Gruvgear!
I am an official sponsor of all these fine companies.


[Intro playing: 0.00 to 0.10]

Welcome to Bass Bit # 11. We’re still talking about seconds. Major seconds and minor seconds are really fun material for scales, so we’ve already looked at the scale that is made up out of exclusively half steps which is the chromatic scale. We’ve also looked at the scale that is made up out of exclusively whole steps, which is the whole tone scale.

Today, we’re going to talk about a scale that is a combination of whole steps and half steps. There are two. Now with these symmetric scales there is a sequence that always repeats repeats repeats, so there is not the concept of having a leading tone in the beginning in the end, like you would have on a regular major scale, or a minor scale or any of the notes, all of which we’ll get to.

One of the fun things about these symmetric scales is that, even though they are sonically a bit more complex, they are really accessible on the fret board, because it’s a repeating pattern and once you understand how to move it up and down, there’s a lot of stuff you can do with them. Out of the combination of whole steps and half steps we can build either a scale that starts with a half step, then is followed by a whole, half whole half whole half whole and so forth. Or, we can build a scale that starts with a whole step, whole, half, whole, half whole half. In the book, I am on page 29, where both of these scales are explained and I want to play you the three diminished scales in the fingering as it’s shown in the book.

Now what’s really interesting about these diminished scales: as I said they don’t really have a beginning and an end. They are symmetric in nature, so they have actually more than one beginning. What I mean by that is that, for example, the E diminished scale also contains the notes of the G diminished scale, the B flat diminished scale and the C sharp or D flat diminished scale.

If I start with a whole step, this is called the diminished scale. This has to do with the sounds that it describes. Sort of chord changes that you will be playing this with. If I start it with a half step, it’s called the diminished dominant scale – also because it’s the tone of material that you can be using this with.

I want to start out with the diminished scale and that is also the whole half tone scale and you will see it described on page 30. And, as with the symmetric scales, the sequences repeat. So, I don’t have 12 chromatic scales. It’s basically one chromatic scale, right? Because each and every note could be the starting point. This is similar with the diminished scale also, because the notes that are for example in the E diminished scale are the same notes that are in the G diminished scale, in the B flat diminished scale on the D flat diminished scale. It’s just that when I call it the D flat diminished scale, I’m starting on D flat but I use the exact same sequence as I would be on the E, G or B flat one. As you notice [playing: 3.15 to 3.17] they’re all a certain interval apart and we will be talking about that interval very soon. It’s a minor third.

We’ll what’s relevant here is that they contain the exact same notes. So I’m gonna just play through one of the examples on page 30 for the E diminished scale or G, B flat D flat diminished scales. So I’m starting with an open string – that gives me a whole step [playing: 3.37 to 3.45]  right there in the beginning – but then I have this shape of half-step-whole- step-half-step and then I’m going to the next string, so I have a whole step in between these two. And I encourage you to really think through: why is the E diminished scale the same thing as he G, B flat and D flat diminished scale? How does that work?

With the diminished scales, we have three. Each diminished scale basically covers four roots if you will, and the roots again are only relevant because of what the chord symbol will say. And the way these scales are built, I don’t get a sense of a beginning and an ending. They are always the same pattern, following the same pattern and they don’t sound like your regular major scale which for example [playing: 4.17 to 4.23] clearly has a root. Right?

So with the diminished scales, that’s different. That said, they create great tonal material, great variation; and I want to show you a little bit how to use them. There are two ways of playing them: You can either [playing: 4.35 to 4.59 ] play the next note and then scoot. So, whole step, and then you have either – next note then scoot – going here. Then next note, then scoot. [playing] Or you can scoot right away. Backwards – descending – same idea: you scoot first, or you scoot later [playing: 5.04 to 5.09]. Or [playing 5.11 to 5.16].

Ok, so those two options are, I think, good fingering. I wanna play you the scale that is written out on page 30. This is the scale that does not start with an open string. So it’s a little bit different [playing: 5.29 to 5.38]. The chord that you would be playing this scale over is a diminished chord. It sounds like this [playing: 5.48 to 5.54].

Later we’ll talk about what that chord is, where it comes from, what it consists of, and all that good stuff. But for right now it is maybe useful to know that any diminished 7 chord will be a great back drop to use those scales over. If you have iReal pro or something similar, plug in a diminished 7, d-i-m 7 chord that’s what you want it to say, not “minus 7 flat 5” and not “half diminished”! But “diminished”, or “fully diminished” or “diminished 7”. And then you can use that scale over that backdrop. Also: I as always love to use my delay pedal [playing: 6.31 to 6.49]. And so forth.

That will give you some ideas to make music with the diminished scale. Great fare to know, great to really go up and down the fret board and get familiar with how the fret board works. Again, we’re fingering major seconds and minor seconds and we’re making music with that. Alright, have fun!

Bass Bit 10: The Whole Tone Scale (BB# 10)

The Whole Tone Scale

Fun to Play and Sounds Great!

In my book (Music Theory for the Bass Player) I describe the whole tone scale quite early on. Although it is usually considered somewhat advanced faire I like to introduce it for a variety of reasons:

  • it helps to understand the interval of major seconds and how major seconds are laid out on the bass
  • it is a symmetric scale, so the shape is very accessible
  • there are lots of fun shapes within that scale
  • once you find a fun lick you can easily shift it up or down without having to worry about “wrong notes”
  • it has lots of applications in pop, jazz etc.
  • it sounds flat out super hip!

Learn how to play it. Follow along with the fingerings in the book and then use this material to make hip music with it. As always, I recommend using a delay pedal or background track.

In this video I am playing my Marleaux Consat bass by Gerald Marleaux.
As always, the axe is strung with Dean Markley SR 2000s.
TC electronic delay pedal, amp and cab.
Fretwrap? that’s by Gruvgear!


[Intro playing: 0.00 to 0.10]

Bass Bit #10! We’ve reached double digits. Today, it’s still all about seconds, but today it’s about the major second. In the last Bass Bit, I was talking about the chromatic scale and all the fun that can be had by just putting on a delay pedal and using that to practice your chromatic scale. And today, we’re going to do something similar with the scale that is made up out of all whole steps. It’s called the whole tone scale. It is used for any kind of dominant chord, it has a dominant sound (if you don’t know yet what that is, don’t worry about it, later in the book we’ll get to it!) For now let’s just say it’s a dominant sound, it’s a sound that has tension in its most basic form. And it has a sharp 5, and the sharp 5 is an interval that we will get to also. This is just to say it has a lot of tension and it also has some sort of openness to it so if you’re looking to hear the sound of the whole tone scale, you probably know the Stevie Wonder song “You Are The Sunshine of My Life”, in the intro of that, Stevie plays the whole tone scale.

And in the book on page 28, on the bottom, you see examples of two whole tone scales written out in scores and in tab which gives you one octave of an E whole tone scale [playing: 1.41] and I will play that for you with the fingering that I have in the book. 

[playing: 1.45 to 1.58] So, I like to do three notes on one string, then shift, then play three notes on the next string, then shift again. And now here I’m turning around already coz I’m just doing it for one octave, and then I’m going all the way back down again.

[playing: 1.59 to 2.01] Okay, so it’s always the same idea: three whole steps. Then this next whole step, I’m just doing by [playing: 2.04 to 2.12] going one string down, which as we know is a whole step, and then I’m doing three again, and go for one between strings and that’s the end of my octave so I’m just gonna go down again.

And, then I also have an example of the G whole tone scale. Now if I play the scale [playing: 2.18 to 2.21] from E to E, it’s not really an E whole tone scale per se because it really has no beginning or end. In a sense, the chord symbol would say E7#5 right? [playing: 2.36 to 2.40] So that’s of relevance because my first note will then be E that I’m playing (on beat one of the bar). But other than that, there are only two whole tone scales. There are the ones that contain these six notes [playing: 2.48 to 2.51] and then there are the ones that contain the other six notes.

Since all the distances between the notes are the same, i.e. one whole step, this scale doesn’t really have a beginning and an end. But the chord symbol of course will say one of those six notes. So six notes for one scale, six notes for the other scale. And the scale that starts with E [playing 3.11 to 3.12] has the same notes than the scale that start with F# has the [playing 3.16]  same notes that starts with G#. And in symmetric scales like this, you do not have to worry about whether you name your notes by sharps or flats. It can get incredibly complicated to do it so that it is “correct” in music theory terms . We have to mix sharps and flats in those kinds of scales else it gets too crazy! Because it would be [playing: 3.35 to 3.44] E, F#, G#, A#, B#, Cx (double sharp) and then Dx. It makes no sense because now I’m at the octave so can I just say E (please!) you know. You have a lot of freedom in naming these notes in the symmetric scales. Not so in other scales, but in the symmetric scales you do. We’ll get to all of that later.

So, whole tone scale! On top of page 29, you see a dot [playing: 4.03 to 4.10] diagram that details how to finger the whole tone scale. Going up you use the black numbers, going down use the gray numbers. And, when I’m going up again, it’s always just two, [playing: 4.19 to 4.36] I mean three notes per string and then you scoot – 1,2,4, 1 scoot 2,4, 1 scoot 2,4. And when you go down, you go, 4,2 scoot 1, 4,2 scoot 1, 4,2 scoot 1, 4,2 go back.

I’m showing you a little bit of a different pattern on the scale below on page 29, the second one from the top: here, since I’m not starting on an open string, the fingering is [playing: 4.47 to 4.57]  2,4 and then 1 scoot, 2, 4, 1 scoot, 2, 4 and then I can flip up here: 1, 2, 4, 1, 3.

So that would be another way to build a whole tone scale over two octaves. The whole tone scale has some pretty cool shapes in it. Check this out: [playing: 5.09 to 5.12]  2,4,1,3, 2,4,1,3. That’s not the whole scale – we’re missing a note in it – but if you wanted to improvise in it, or have some fun with it [playing: 5.18 to 5.22], then that’s kind of a cool shape to mess with.

It’s also an interesting fingering exercise. And you can also, [playing: 5.28 to 5.45] find any kind of shape and then move that around. Then you go like that and then flip that around. It’s all symmetric, so any kind of shape or pattern [playing: 5.47 to 5.49] that you like, you can move in multiples of the interval by which we are symmetric in, which is the whole tone or whole step!

Once again, I like to put on the delay pedal and then just have myself a good old time [playing: 6.01 to 6.24]. See, I can come up with any shape that’s within my scale and then move that up in multiples of the interval by which I’m symmetric in in this symmetric scale. In this case, that will be the major second. I can move it up by a major second or by multiples thereof, which would mean [playing: 6.35 to 6.52] two major seconds! So instead of playing by, like, up a whole step, I can play it up a major third. This is a major third and it’s two whole steps – we’ll get to that very soon. Do that again, so I just go 1,2 right? So that’s one way to think about it.

Another interval by which the whole tone scale is symmetric through multiplication would be the so called tri-tone [playing: 7.00]. Again, we’re a couple pages in. We will get to the tri-tone, but it’s just, instead of moving something up 1, 2 whole steps, I’m moving it up 3 whole steps [playing: 7.12] and that gives me the D-flat. So I can go directly from [playing: 7.15 to 7.17] the G to the D-flat by using this [playing: 7.19 to 7.22] D-flat. And so I can create fun shapes like this [playing: 7.26 to 7.49]. With the delay pedal it’s a lot of fun to just keep repeating these things.

You can look at these patterns in the book with the dots and find patterns within that. Take a pad and a paper and write a whole tone pattern up, in that you make dots everywhere on the fret board where the whole tone scale would be. Basically you are gonna be marking out exactly half of the notes of the fret board. More or less, because we are just skipping one-half step everytime. And then find shapes within that and move them around. So it’s a geeky and really fun scale. And again, the sound that we’re having when we’re using it, is a dominant chord with a sharp 5 in it; and if that doesn’t mean anything to you, don’t worry about it. By the end of the book, you will know. You can also use a background track or pop it into iReal Pro and just jam with that sound.

[playing: 8.47 to 9.33] Much fun to be had with the whole tone scale. I’d love it if you could record yourself a little bit playing around with some of these concepts. Make a recording send it to me. I’d love to see it, hear it. And today I’m signing off, Bass Bit #10. This is Ariane.

One-Finger-Per-Fret in the Lower Register (TT#7)

Lower Register Fitness: one-finger-per-fret

Tips for Getting Your Fingers in Place

Some bassists have a bit of a hard time getting the one-finger-per-fret position going in the lower register of the bass. I received a few questions in that regard so wanted to espouse on the topic a bit more. Some even suggest to stretch or take other measures to coax the hand into submission. I think any kind of forceful activity typically backfires. The solution lies in a relaxed posture and in experimenting with the right angles. I have an exercise for you that allows you to take the lower register step by step in a relaxed way.
Watch the video below:

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 10.49.51 PM
I am proud to use Marleaux Basses and Dean Markley Strings. My amps and pedals are by TC Electronics
Fretwrap byGruvgear.
(Ariane Cap is a proud endorser for all these fine companies.), thank you  for audio post production.

Speed Training with Harmonic Minor (TT# 6)

Get up to speed –

Coordination Training Harmonic Minor Style

Coordination exercises need not be unmusical or boring. Here is one that is fun, practices your music theory in the process – and – you can speed it up gradually to get to new levels of speed. The ticket? Staying relaxed.
Here is a cool harmonic minor lick that you can use to shed your coordination and speed.

Check out this new lesson:…
Comment here, comment there… let me know how it is working for you!
Ariane Cap is the author of Music Theory for the Bass Player

Jeff Johnson about “Music Theory for the Bass Player” and Ariane’s Bass Bit videos (personal email, used with permission):
Love it!
After about a 20 year hiatus, I’ve just recently got back into playing bass. Of all the books I’ve looked at and purchased to help me get back into it, yours is quite simply the best. The “Bass Bits” videos are really the icing on the cake. After just a few days of starting practicing with your book I’m starting to have a better understanding of quite a bit of the structure of music and the fretboard than I did when I was playing before. It won’t be long before I purchase your instructional video!

I use Marleaux Basses and Dean Markley StringsTC Electronics Pedals, cabs and amps! Fretwrap byGruvgear.
(Ariane Cap is an official endorser for all these fine companies.)
Thanks to for audio post production.