Introduction to Chromatic Scales

For many bassists, the chromatic scale is an underused resource in their practice toolkit. Properly approached, practicing chromatic scales can vastly improve our shifting, intonation and mental map of the fingerboard. Below are a few beginner exercises using the chromatic scale that I find to be useful for those just becoming more familiar with it.

Single string 1 8va chromatic fingering

Using an open string for pitch reference:
Introduction to Chromatic Scales: Figure 1

  • Play slowly, focus on accurate pitch
  • A solid starter fingering for those new to the chromatic scale
  • Play the exercises on all four strings, using the adjacent string for pitch reference
  • Aim for 2 or 3 8vas if you are ambitious

Want to improve your shifting accuracy and test your ear?

Try a single finger chromatic scale:
Introduction to Chromatic Scales: Figure 2

  • Play slowly, focus on accurate pitch
  • Use a drone or tuner to ensure good intonation. Alternatively you could play using an open string, as in the previous exercise
  • Keep your shifts light and easy
  • Play the exercise using each of the four fingers
  • Play the exercise on all four strings
  • Play two or three octaves, if you are ambitious

Dr. Donovan Stokes is on the faculty of Shenandoah University-Conservatory. Visit him online at and check out the Bass Coalition at

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