If you are serious about improving your bass playing, one of the most important things you can learn is what the Bass Modes are, and how to play them. To help you master the instrument, we’ve put together our simple guide to playing Bass Modes.
What are the modes?
f 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#