Practical Theory: Practice Tips for Scales (Part 1)

Practicing scales in a musical way helps keep things interesting. In this lesson, we kick off with some tips for practicing scales by using different intervals, arpeggios and fingerings.

We’re also introducing a new approach to looking at the Major scale formula. Normally, we view it as 7 different steps (8, if you count the octave):

G A B C D E F# (G)

Simply, that breaks down as follows:

  1. Whole step (G -> A)
  2. Whole step (A -> B)
  3. Half step (B -> C)
  4. Whole step (C -> D)
  5. Whole step (D -> E)
  6. Whole step (E -> F#)
  7. Half step (F# -> G)

In this lesson, we’re dividing the scale into two parts, so we get two distinct four note scales, also known as tetrachords. This means we’re using identical patterns in the first half and the second half.

So our “lower” Major tetrachord is G A B C (whole, whole, half).

And our “upper” Major tetrachord is D E F# G (again, whole, whole, half).

This works because it is easier to remember two 4-note scales than a single 8-note sequence, because it is easier to get an overview of the fretboard when viewing the scale in this manner.

For more great bass lessons from Thomas "MarloweDK" Risell, visit

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  1. Chris

    Thanks for this. Really appreciate the effort in helping us learn bass. Chris.


    Whole note… Whole step… Bah! Marlowe still owns Internet bass teaching!!

  3. greg

    thank you! great lesson. it’s been so difficult to move down the neck for me. i really appreciate this lesson.

  4. Tim Maher

    As simple as this guy is, he seems to show me just what I’m looking for. A lot more than other teachers on you tube I’ve seen! Keep it up buddy!

  5. Ordinarily, once the novelty of learning the scales for the first time begins to wear, we begin using intervals and to begin learning the numbered intervals. If we’re playing and we’re told a riff is a I-VI-III in Em, we need to be able to put our hands on that immediately and be comfortable with it.

    As a bass player in a gospel band that always does quite a bit of jazz fusion improv, knowing your intervals cold is mandatory. In Baltimore, like many large cities, you can run into some serious jazz players and studio musicians. I was taught my scales first, but had to learn and call out the intervals as I played them. Then, my instructor would pick up a guitar and say,”Okay, gimme a II-V-IV in D Maj. Make it funky.” He would then move me all over the place. Majors and minors. Then, he’d randomly pick a scale. Assume I landed on a B. “VI-IV-II. Just give me the notes.” I had to do this without looking at the fretboard.

    I say this because it gave me a solid foundation. I agree totally with the instructor above. “Performing” your scales provides you the practice while teaching us innovation and further whole understanding of any given scale pattern. We learn to go beyond that little section on the fretboard we normally sit on to practice our scales. It keeps the interest and motivation high and we learn to make music with the thing!

    MarloweDK, in my opinion, is a superb instructor who can make what he teaches “attainable” and possible even to a beginning student.

    • wow james sounds like some serious training right there, would like to hear more about the type if training and drills you did, it would be great if you had the time to do a few youtube videos.

  6. hey, what bass are you playing?
    Its really beautifull.
    Love your tutorials! Keep on doing this, it’s great.