Playing Bass Modes – A Free Beginners Lesson


By PAUL BOTHNER MUSIC | June 21, 2018
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If you are serious about improving your bass playing, one of the most important things you can learn is how to play the modes, and they are. So, to help you along we’ve put together this simple guide on Playing Bass Modes.

What are the modes?

If you’ve been playing bass for a while, you may have heard people talk about “the modes”. But, what exactly are the modes?

Before you can understand the modes, first you need to understand how the major scale is constructed.

In Western music, our smallest interval, or movement between two notes, is a semitone. So the movement from C to C# or from B to C is classified as a semitone. To play a semitone, you move from one fret to the fret directly next to it. When you take a bigger step, say from C to D, or from B to C#, you are moving a tone. To play a tone, you move from the fret you are on to two frets higher – so from the interval between fret 5 and fret 7 is a tone.

The major scale has the formula of Tone – Tone – SemiTone – Tone – Tone – Tone – SemiTone. Using that formula we can work out all the major scales. Let’s take a look at the D major scale.

D (+a tone give us) E (+a tone gives us) F# (+a semitone gives us) G (+a tone gives us) A (+a tone gives us) B (+a tone gives us) C# (+a semitone gives us) D

Now onto the modes

Once you understand how the major scale works, learning the modes is easy. If we play the D major scale starting on D, we are playing the ionian mode. If you start the scale on E, you will play the Dorian mode. If you look at the modes below, you will see that in each mode we use the same notes, but we play them in a different order.

Ionian: D – E – F# – G – A – B – C# – D
Dorian: E – F# – G – A – B – C# – D – E
Phrygian: F# – G – A – B – C# – D – E – F#
Lydian: G – A – B – C# – D – E – F# – G
Mixolydian: A – B – C# – D – E – F# – G – A
Aeolian: B – C# – D – E – F# – G – A – B
Locrian: C# – D – E – F# – G – A – B – C#

Now that you know how the modes work, all you need to do is practice playing them. Download the tab with all the Bass Modes.  Modes-for-Bass-Guitar.pdf (85 downloads)

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