Major Pentatonic Bass Shapes | 5 pentatonic scale positions

Learning the 5 major pentatonic bass shapes is one of the easiest ways to unlock the fretboard.

They’re a surefire path to effortlessly moving around the fretboard, composing, and improvising.

So plug in your bass and let’s get started!

What is the major pentatonic scale?

The major pentatonic scale is a 5-note scale using the interval structure 1-2-3-5-6.

You can decipher the fact that the major pentatonic scale has 5 notes by breaking down its name:

Penta = 5 Tonic = Tone (Notes)

This simple interval structure makes it a viable choice for accompaniment and improvisation in any major key.

Major pentatonic Vs. Minor pentatonic

It’s important to understand that the 5 major pentatonic scale shapes are exactly the same as the 5 minor pentatonic scale shapes.

For this example, shifting the root note from C to A changes the scale from C major pentatonic to A minor pentatonic, as you’ll see further into the lesson.

C Major Pentatonic Bass Neck Diagram

This neck diagram lays out the major pentatonic scale across the bass’s entire fretboard.

They all connect as patterns that move 2-notes-per-string, which you’ll see as you learn the 5 shapes one shape at a time.

C Major Pentatonic Bass Shapes Diagram

C Major Pentatonic Bass Neck Diagram PDF

You can download or print this C Major Pentatonic Bass Neck Diagram so you can memorize the scale offline.

The 5 major pentatonic bass shapes

Since the major pentatonic scale has 5 notes, you can play it in 5 total positions.

Of course there are other ways to visualize the major pentatonic scale, but these 5 shapes are the easiest way to start understanding the scale’s layout across the neck.

For intervals spanning 2 frets, use your second and fourth fingers.

For intervals spanning 3 frets, use your first and fourth fingers.

This is how I play the shapes, but you can use the fingerings that are most comfortable for you.

Bass Major Pentatonic Shape 1

Notes: C-D-E-G-A

C Major Pentatonic Bass Shape 1

Bass Major Pentatonic Shape 2

Notes: D-E-G-A-C

C Major Pentatonic Bass Shape 2

Bass Major Pentatonic Shape 3

Notes: E-G-A-C-D

C Major Pentatonic Bass Shape 3

Bass Major Pentatonic Shape 4

Notes: G-A-C-D-E

C Major Pentatonic Bass Shape 4

Bass Major Pentatonic Shape 5

Notes: A-C-D-E-G

C Major Pentatonic Bass Shape 5

A Minor Pentatonic Bass Neck Diagram (Relative Minor)

A minor is the relative minor to C major. This means that it contains the same notes, but the emphasis is on the root note “A”.

Due to this fact, the bass shapes for A minor pentatonic and C major pentatonic are the same!

Looking at the diagram below, you’ll see the same shapes as above, but a different interval structure.

The interval structure of A minor pentatonic, and the emphasis on the A note, is what sets it apart from C major pentatonic.

A minor pentatonic bass diagram

A Minor Pentatonic Bass Neck Diagram PDF

Major pentatonic bass shapes practice and conclusion

Learning your major pentatonic bass shapes is a great first step in learning bass scales.

And even if it’s not your first step in learning scales, it’s an essential step for bass players of any skill level.

Now that you’ve learned the major pentatonic scale you’ll need to practice. Start by learning and finding songs that use the scale. This will allow you to see it in practice, which you will give you a better understanding of its function.

Next you can bust out a YouTube backing track and improvise or compose a bass line using the major pentatonic scale.

From there you’ll want to start transposing the scale. This means taking the 5 major pentatonic bass shapes you already know and moving them to new root notes, which means you’ll be playing in new keys!

As a musician and bassist transposition will quickly become one of the most valuable tools.

What’s next?

The major pentatonic scale is great standing alone, but did you know that it can be found in other scales?

For example, adding the b7 from the Mixolydian mode to your major pentatonic scale will create a Western, tension-building country sound.

Or, if you’re looking for a blues sound, you can learn the major blues scale, which is exactly the same as your major pentatonic scale, but incorporates a blues note, the b5, between the 4th and 5th intervals.

Thanks for reading, and keep grooving!

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