Intermediate Bass: Diatonic Modes and Chords, Part 2

Now that you’ve had time to get the C major modal patterns under your fingers, let’s transpose them and work with another key. It’s pretty simple, really. All of the other keys will use the same guidelines as far as what scale/fingering occurs where.

For our example we’ll use F major (1 flat). The F major scale consists of F G A Bb C D E F with ½ steps between A and Bb, and E and F. Using this formula and the knowledge that whole steps are 2 frets and half steps 1, we can build an F scale up the E string. With the exception of the 1st position F major scale (1-3/0-1-3/0-2-3) the fingerings for the modes we used for C will all transpose nicely to F. The shapes of all of the modes and fingerings will stay the same.

A good way to build speed is to use a metronome or drum machine. Set the tempo to quarter note=60 bpm. Now comes the character building part. Practice the modes in whole notes. It will be extremely slow, but you will have plenty of time to think about what comes next. When you can play the modes in whole notes, cut the time in half by playing half notes. Then cut the time in ½ again by playing quarters. You can then progress through eighth notes and eighth note triplets until you finish at 16th notes at 60 bpm.

When you can play that without mistakes and tension, increase the tempo gradually until you can play 16th notes at 120 bpm. Since you will be doing this by 3 bpm increments, this will take some time. I used to keep a diary of how fast I could play any given exercise and try to beat my tempo the next practice session.

Since Music is made up of much more than scales, I have enclosed some simple sequence patterns based on the F major scale. Try transposing these sequences through the other 6 modes in the key of F. They are:

  • Thirds
  • Four note scale sequences
  • R32R 2432 sequences
  • 3R23 4234 sequences
  • Triads generated on each scale step.

This is the sort of practice that horn players, guitarists, and keyboardists use to gain control and facility of modes. Not only will it build your speed and dexterity, it will also give you a source of materials for improvisation and composition. Have fun!