Talking Technique: Drills for Fills

Everyone loves a perfectly placed fill. That’s why today we’ll be going over scalar exercises that will help us create those tasty licks while beefing up our technique.

In essence, we’re practicing a scale. Typically when you play a scale, you go from root to root in order. But we’re going to break it down and move in thirds instead! I will show you four variations on how you can do that, all making great material for runs and fills.

You can make practicing any scale more effective that way. For example, I’ll show you how to do this with the altered scale as well. Follow along with our handy PDF, and be sure to turn on that metronome!

Today’s tip: try this idea on anything you practice to help you move over the entire fretboard.

Austrian-gone-Californian Ariane Cap is a bassist, educator, blogger and author. In her book Music Theory for the Bass Player and corresponding 20-week online course, she teaches music theory, bass technique, bass line creation and fretboard fitness in a systematic, practical and experiential way. She just released a brand new course on ear training for the bass player: Ear Confidence - 6 Paths to Fearless Ears. Contact her via her blog or website.

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  1. Tzalaran

    Great video, liked the in depth approach to a topic you brought up last time.

    One question, what is this “Altered Scale”? i’m familiar with the 7 modes, pentatonic and blues scales, but i’ve not come across this before. Thanks!

    • Hi T, the altered scale is the seventh mode of melodic minor. Melodic minor is a minor scale with a raised sixth and raised seventh scale degree, IOW, a major scale with a flattened third. It iis also called the half-whole tone scale because its first tetrachord (first half, if you will) is a sequence of half/whole steps, and its upper tetrachord is all whole steps. You could also view it as a major scale with a sharpened first scale degree (ionian#1) Cool scale, ised extensively in Jazz because it contains common alterations of a dominant chord (hence the name ‘altered scale’). b9, #9, #11, b13. Want an episode on it?

      • Tzalaran

        Thanks for the explanation.

        I don’t need to see a video on it just yet (haven’t gotten to the modes of the harmonic minor scale in my theory lessons), but i’d certainly watch one when you do make it!

      • Charles

        Hi Ariane,
        What is the difference between melodic minor and dorian mode ?

        • Charles, dorian has raised 6th, but flat seventh. melodic minor has raised 6th and 7th.
          D dorian: d e f g a b c d
          D mel minor: d e f g a b c# d

  2. Merrill

    Hi, am a novice but see the power in this drill for ear training and fretboard knowledge. Thank you. Is it possible to show some examples of how this drill “becomes a fill”, please? For example, take a common pattern, ii V I and/or I IV V and show how a snippet of this drill creates a way to move from one part of the chord sequence to another

    • Hi Merrill, I will put your query in the pipeline for a future video. But if you take the idea of Episode 19 and apply it to the concept here, it should give you a pretty good idea how I think about this. You want to do the “math” so that notes that are part of the chord land on a heavy beat. Watch for it in a future episode. Thanks for watching!