9 March 2009

Open Chord Major Scale Bass Runs

In this lesson we're going to look at bass runs that use notes of the major scale. We looked at open chord chromatic bass runs in part one and part two of this series.

Chromatic bass runs are easier to play because you simply follow the frets one at a time. To create bass runs with the major scale you must move one or two frets at a time according to the major scale formula.

The major scale consists of 8 notes arranged in the following whole step and half step intervals. The whole step intervals correspond to two frets on the guitar, and the half step one fret.

Whole step – Whole step – Half step – Whole step – Whole step – Whole step – Half step.

Major scale pattern of whole and half steps

Major scale bass runs follow these whole or half step movements to walk to the root note of each chord. For example, to walk up to the IV chord's root on the scale's 4th degree you use the root, 2nd and 3rd notes, moving a whole step, whole step and half step as you land on the 4th note.

The easiest way to see how this works is to play an example, so let's get straight into one. This example uses the open A and D chords, you might recognize it as a I - IV progression in the key of A. You can download a print friendly version of this lesson for free.



The first bass run walks up three notes to the root of the D (IV) chord in the third bar. Play this run by releasing the A chord and use your index finger for the B note on the 2nd fret and your ring finger for the C# note on the 4th fret.

This bass run walks up a whole step, whole step, half step as it finishes on the D note of the new chord.

In the example tab I've shown a strum of the D chord on the first beat of bar three. Note that you could also play only the root D note on the open 4th string on this beat and follow it up with strums. I suggest you give both techniques a try to hear their different sound.

On the change back to the A chord we're going to play a descending bass run. This run walks down the major scale to the A chord's root note. You'll notice that you simply play the previous bass run backwards from the D note down through the C# and B to end on the A.

To play this run release the D chord as you pick the open D note on the second beat of the fourth bar. Then walk down the 5th string notes using the same fingers as before: ring finger on the 4th fret and first finger on the 2nd fret.

Starting from the A chord the 5th note is the A, found on the open 5th string. Walking up the major scale following our whole step, whole step, half step formula the bass notes are B on the second fret of the 5th string and C# on the fourth fret of the 5th string.

Again, experiment with both a strum of the A chord on the first beat of the bar and the A root note alone.

Practice the two chord changes in a loop to build fluency with the bass run. When you are comfortable with this major scale bass run try playing the chromatic bass run on some changes to hear the difference.

This lesson has shown you how to play a bass run using the notes of the major scale to lead into the chord. In the next lesson we'll look at some more examples using the major scale to lead up to or down to chord changes.

More bass run lessons you might enjoy:

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