bass fretboard

The Bass Fretboard Chart

The bass fretboard chart is a lot easier to learn, and more importantly apply in musical context than the guitar fretboard. Your learning curve will be much shorter than that of your 6-string colleagues'.

Even as they remain clueless and resort to fingering patterns, CAGED, tab and other such nonsense, you will develop true musicianship... provided you apply yourself, obviously.

The reason is simple. On bass, every pair of strings is tuned at a perfect fourth:

E d g A
A b c D
D e f G

circle of fifths bass guitar

To put it in music theory terms, the bass guitar is just a simple arc on the circle of fifths. Knowing this will help you change keys and come up with interesting bass lines in no time.

But what means to you right now is that once you know how to finger something, a scale or an arpeggio, you can instantly put it anywhere on your fretboard.

Within your available range on the bass fretboard, you can place any fingering pattern anywhere, on any key with no modifications.

On the guitar fretboard, by contrast, there seems to be a glitch in the tuning system:

E d g A = 4th
A b c D = 4th
D e f G = 4th
G a B = 3d!!!?
B c d E = 4th

This means is that every chord and every scale has many different fingerings, depending on what group of strings you're on. Check out this guitar triad chart, and multiply for all the different chord types, inversions, voicings, scales, modes, tetrachords...

That's why you need real strategy to take on the guitar fretboard, and that is what Fretboard Addicts is all about:

The 7 week test-drive also works for bass guitar too and will give you the basic underlying structure of the fretboard, which you can then apply to music of any style or genre.


But back to the bass fretboard chart. Because the bass guitar is tuned in a perfectly symmetrical way, finding notes and melodies intuitively is quite easy. Take advantage of that and develop your melodic creativity starting now. these 10 steps will get you started:

10 steps to learn the bass fretboard...

1. Stop feeling confused about the bass guitar fretboard. It's a decision. Just do it!

2. Understand that when divided in half, a string produces the same note, but an octave higher.

3. Understand that there are only 12 possible tones on a bass guitar as this bass fretboard chart shows. They repeat in lower and higher registers, but a C is a C whether low or high.

4. Link steps 2 and tip 3 together: each octave is subdivided into 12 steps. Each is represented on the bass guitar by a fret. If you keep counting after 12, 13 will be the same as 1, but an octave higher.

5. Understand the "distance" or relationship between string pairs (the fancy word is interval). Each pair of adjacent strings is separated by a perfect fourth. If you have problems understanding intervals, go back to that, and come back when you are ready.

6. Learn how a major scale is played on any single string. For now it does not matter if it sounds good. Just focus on where the notes are ON A SINGLE STRING.

7. Say the names of the notes out loud as you play the major scales. Use the bass fretboard chart above for guidance with the C major scale.

8. Sing everything you play on bass. This will engage your sense of hearing at a far deeper level. It will help you grasp the bass fretboard from your intuition.

9. Visualize all of what you have learn in your mind's eye. Form a clear mental picture of it, and picture yourself going over all the steps. Practice this for 5 minutes a day, until the image is clear and sharp.

10. Download the free blank fretboard diagram, and fill in the notes by hand. Don't just copy them from the screen! Try to spot relationships as you go along. But don't worry too much about it. Your understanding of the bass fretboard will deepen together with your understanding of theory. Take it one step a a time! Then, tack the bass fretboard diagram to your wall, and keep one in your bass case, to take it with you wherever you go.

But above all, enjoy playing music! There is no limit to the melodies and even harmonies you can be play on bass guitar.

Apply this consistently and in no time you will have grasped the the bass guitar fretboard through intuition and through reason. Visualizing, internalizing and analyzing... this is a powerful combination1

There is a lot to say, and more importantly do about the grasping the bass guitar fretboard. Truly mastering it is no mean feat. To get started try our free test drive for 7 weeks:

It's for guitar, but the test-drive works 100% for bass, too!


Complete Bass Fingerboard Chart

So far, we have only looked at the Bass Guitar Fretboard Chart shows natural notes only. Click here for the full chart, including accidentals (sharps and flats).


Guitar Fretboard Series

If you want to know the bass fretboard really well, knowing a the guitar fretboard will boost your understanding. Not only that, you will be able to communicate better with the guitarists you play with. Stop them in their tracks next time they want to play boss and show them who's who ;)
All kidding aside, though, this section is relevant to bass players of all genres:

1. Guitar Fretboard in Depth: section overview

2.Guitar Notes: A view along the Fretboard, and other important points

3. Fretboard Diagram- string by string: still looking along the fretboard, at scales and modes this time

4. Guitar Tuning and the Fretboard: a view across the fretboard

5. The Guitar Fretboard Chart explained afresh -also for Bass players

6. Fretboard Map: connect the dots!

7. 24 Frets: The full diagram


Go from Bass Fretboard in Depth to Guitar Fretboard in Depth

Go back from Bass Fretboard in Depth to Guitar Theory in Depth
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