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Natural Minor Scale on Bass Guitar (Best Lesson)

Welcome to the second most important lesson for bass guitar theory!

In this natural minor scale lesson you’ll learn minor scale construction, different minor scale positions, and how to move it around the bass neck.

And yeah, you read the right, it’s the second most important lesson. The most important bass theory lesson is learning the major scale, and we’ll touch on that throughout the lesson.

What is the natural minor scale?

The natural minor scale, generally referred to as “the minor scale”, is one of the most common scales in Western music.

It’s a heptatonic scale, meaning that the minor scale has seven total notes.

The most common minor scale is the A minor scale, because all of its notes are natural, and it’s relative major is the C major scale.

Major scale compared to the minor scale

Understanding the difference between the major and minor scale is simple: the minor scale has 3 flattened notes, the b3,b6, and the b7, which sets it apart from the major scale.

Major and minor scale intervals compared

As you practice both the major scale and the minor scale, it will be beneficial for you to say the intervals out loud.

For the major scale:


For the minor scale:

Root-2nd-Flat 3rd-4th-5th-Flat 6th-Flat 7th

Now let’s look at the side-by-side diagrams for C major and C minor.

C natural minor bass scale one octave
C major scale one octave bass

Remember, targeting the intervals that give a scale its sound is the key to practicing scales.

Building the minor scale

There are typically two ways you’ll construct and visualize a bass minor scale, and any other scale:

  1. Using the minor scale formula
  2. Using whole-steps and half-steps

The two go hand-in-hand. Once you’ve built the minor scale using its intervallic formula, you can break it down into a series of whole and half-steps.

Bass minor scale formula and intervals

As mentioned before, the minor scale has seven total scale degrees.

The minor scale formula is:


As you can see, there are 3 flattened intervals in the natural minor scale. These particular intervals are what give the minor scale its unique and melancholic sound.

Whole-step and half-step construction of the minor scale

You can visualize the minor scale, and any other scale by breaking it down to its whole-step and half-step construction.

The whole-step and half-step formula for the minor scale is: W-H-W-W-H-W-W

W= Whole | H= Half

To construct a minor scale this way you’ll choose a root note, then follow the whole/half-steps from the root note!

You’ll want to do this with a single root note on all four strings to start. From there you can practice this formula using other notes.

Bass natural minor scale one octave neck positions

Now you’ll learn the natural minor scale in one octave using a variety of common root notes and minor scales.

As long as you can play the minor scale in one octave, you can play it in any other octave at any other root note!

A natural minor scale

Notes: A-B-C-D-E-F-G

Relative Major: C Major

A natural minor bass scale one octave

We’ll start by looking at the A natural minor scale.

The A minor scale is a common and popular first minor scale because its relative major is C major, which is arguably the most important musical scale.

If you know your C major scale already, then you know that all of its notes are natural notes! That means for its relative minor, A minor, the notes are also all natural.

This is super easy to visualize and understand if you learn the bass notes on the neck. Just knowing all the natural notes alone means you know how and where to play the A natural minor scale.

C natural minor scale

Notes: C-D-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb

Relative Major: Eb Major

C natural minor bass scale one octave

As you learned earlier, the C minor scale is the C major scale’s parallel minor, so it’s a common minor scale to learn next.

Even though the C minor scale is the parallel minor to C major, it’s not the most common minor scale in popular music.

It is relatively common in funk and jazz, though!

D natural minor scale

Notes: D-E-F-G-A-Bb-C-D

Relative Major: F Major

D natural minor bass scale one octave

The D minor scale is often considered to be the saddest minor scale.

You’ll see it commonly used in rock and metal bands such as the Foo Fighters and Avenged Sevenfold because they tune their guitar players tune down to drop D, which oftentimes is considered to be “heavier” than standard tuning.

B natural minor scale

Notes: B-C#-D-E-F#-G-A-B

Relative Major: D Major

B natural minor bass scale one octave

This is a commonly used scale on a 5-string bass, because the B minor scale pairs well with the low, open B string.

E natural minor scale

Notes: E-F#-G-A-B-C-D

Relative Major: G Major

E natural minor bass scale one octave

Due to the standard tuning of bass guitars and regular guitars E natural minor is arguably the most commonly used minor key/scale in rock music.

I suggest getting familiar with this one, because you’ll find yourself using it a lot if you’re a gigging bassist.

Bass natural minor scale fretboard diagram

Looking at a fretboard diagram for the natural minor scale will help you visualize its interval structure across single strings, and throughout multiple root note positions.

This is an A minor diagram, but you’ll be able to transpose the scale (switch to different root notes) once you understand the scale in one key.

Bass natural minor scale fretboard diagram in A minor

A natural minor scale PDF

Download and print out this complete A minor fretboard diagram for personal use! It will come in handy as your practice.

Conclusion: Practicing the natural minor scale for bass guitar

Yay! You’ve learned how to play the natural minor scale in multiple positions on the bass guitar.

In order to practice the minor scale I suggest you start by using YouTube backing tracks. Use backing tracks for both your minor scale and your relative major scales so that you can understand the value in targeting specific intervals.

Another great way to practice your minor scale is by practicing and learning songs. The minor scale is used in a lot of blues and rock songs, so that’s where I would suggest starting. 

Lastly, after you’ve learned a few songs that use the natural minor scale and have practiced the minor scale over a backing track, you can start to compose your own songs using the minor scale.

Remember, the  three intervals that make the minor scale stand out are the b3, b6, and the b7. By targeting these particular intervals/notes you’ll be able to get that popular minor sound that we as bass players and musicians all know and love! 

What’s next?

Looking to level up your bass game? Check out my list of best beginner bass guitar books! There’s something for everyone, from absolute beginners to bassists looking to hone in on a single genre.

As for more scale practice, learning the Dorian mode for bass is a great way to compliment your funkier bass grooves, and learning the Phrygian mode for bass will add darker tones to your bass lines.

Until next time, keep grooving on that bass!

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