Expand Your Bass Fretboard Knowledge with the Pentatonic Scale

Here’s a great exercise aimed at expanding your fretboard knowledge. For this lesson, we’re going to use the five positions of the A minor / C Major pentatonic scale. The pentatonic scale contains five notes, of course, and you can play this from different positions. Learning these patterns will significantly increase your fretboard knowledge.

Here’s how it breaks down, taking the minor pentatonic scale (with the root A) from the lowest note E on a 4-string bass, we have the following positions:

  1. 4th position E (open string)
  2. 5th position G (3rd fret)
  3. 1st position A (5th fret, root position, in the video i start here)
  4. 2nd position C (8th fret)
  5. 3rd position D (10th fret)
  6. 4th position (E, 12th fret)
  7. 5th position (G, 15th fret)
  8. 1st position (A, 17th fret)

On a standard 4-string bass, we run out of room after that.

And if we look at it as the C Major pentatonic scale, we have:

  1. 3rd position E (open string)
  2. 4th position G (3rd fret)
  3. 5th position A (5th fret)
  4. 1st position C (8th fret, root position)
  5. 2nd position D (10th fret)
  6. 3rd position (E, 12th fret)
  7. 4th position (G, 15th fret)
  8. 5th position (A, 17th fret)

Here’s a demo:

Here’s a diagram to help you follow along:
The 5 Positions of the C Major Pentatonic Scale for Bass

For the gear heads out there, I’m playing the Sandberg MarloweDK Signature bass.

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

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Share your thoughts

  1. Very nice explanation! I like the diagram! May I use it for my own students?

  2. Nice! Many people overlook the basics.

  3. Makes a good warm up routine.

  4. This is an absolute essential for those bassists who want/need a solid warmup routine and to fully understand the neck to develop grooves on their own and transition changes. Smetimes, change transitions sound/feel clumsy and when they do, the groove you were going for took the hit.

  5. It would be cool to see that diagram for 5 strings

  6. Nice… Pentatonics are incredibly useful! Well done including all the inversions too. :D You might like to check out a play along for pentatonic practice


    Keep up the good practice!!

    Grant Stinnett
    Real Bass Lessons

  7. Very nice. Thanks for this very useful lesson. I made myself fretboard diagrams for each pattern, and gave them a number. For example, the root position major pentatonic pattern I called 1-3, because it starts on the root of the major, but it’s the 3rd of the minor. I stuck to numbering them according to the interval from the root, rather than scale degree number. For example, when starting the major pentatonic on G, that’s the 5-7 pattern, because G is a fifth up from C, even though it’s the 4th scale degree of the pentatonic scale. Using the number 4 for that pattern (like you’re doing here) would confuse the hell out of me. So, I tweaked it to help me learn it better. Other than that, great stuff. Thanks again.