Learning to Transpose: A Lesson for Playing Bass Lines in Every Key

I’ve found many bass players have difficulty with transposing bass lines, so here’s a lesson that should help.

Transposing on bass isn’t terribly difficult, since we can rely on shapes and patterns up and down the neck, to play a line in several keys.

In the video below I demonstrate how to navigate the neck, playing the same pattern over all the Major chords. I’m playing to a backing track, going through for 4 bars each chord:

C | F | Bb/A# | Eb/D# | Ab/G# | Db/C# | Gb/F# | B | E | A | D | G

(Note: where you see the “/” above, that indicates the keys that are enharmonic, its not a “slash” chord)

In the first couple of rounds, I’m playing mostly root-fifth bass lines with a pentatonic lick at the end of each 4-bar segment. Later in the video, I go from the root to the third using chromatic notes.

Here’s my take on playing to the backing track:

Here’s the backing track for you to play your own bass lines to:

For the gear heads: I’m playing my pink Sandberg California bass, strung with Dunlop nickel strings and running through a TC Electronic RH450 amp’s direct output into Logic Pro.

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

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  1. And you’re playing the guitar, keys and programmed the drums … right?!? LOL

  2. I find it difficult to understand to call something “cycle of fifths” when it progresses in fourths. (I know, taken the other way around it progresses in fifths).