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“Minor Scales On Bass – Which Ones Should I Use?”

Aeolian, Dorian, Phyrgian, Locrian, Melodic Minor, Harmonic Minor – there are so many options when it comes to minor scales on bass.

Which ones should you use?

And more importantly – WHY?

This can be an endlessly confusing and frustrating question if you’re just starting out. Even if you do understand how the modes work, it can still be tricky to know exactly what to play and when.

There is rhyme and reason to everything though, and by the end of this lesson, you’ll know which 2 minor scales get used the majority of the time, the guidelines for when to use them and you’ll also learn when to break the rules when it comes to your minor scales on bass.

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Hopefully you can see from the video – it’s not magic! It’s actually quite simple and the general guidelines will work most of the time. It’s just those occasional times it doesn’t that you have to watch out for.

It might take a while to develop the intuition to know which minor scale to use, but it will come with time. There’s also one other way that you can make sure you’re playing the ‘correct’ scale.

Minor Scales On Bass – Pro Tip

If you’re not sure which minor scale to use, one way to take a really good guess is just to write out the notes of the chords in the song and see if they make an Aeolian mode or a Dorian mode.

So if you had a song that used Bm7, E7 and Amaj7, you’d take those notes, write them out and put them in order starting on the note you think is the minor. If we write out the chords we get:

Bm7: B-D-F#-A

E7: E-G#-B-D

Amaj7: A-C#-E-G#

If we put these notes in order starting on the B (because that’s our minor chord) we get this:


This creates a B Dorian scale, so in this case, you’d use the B Dorian over that Bm7 chord.

If you had slightly different chords, say: Bm7, Em7 and F#m7, you could do the same thing – write out the chords:

Bm7: B-D-F#-A

Em7: E-G-B-D

F#m7: F#-A-C#-E

Put the notes in order starting on B:


And you’ll find that for this example you have B Aeolian. This method is a bit more theory-based – it means you have to know what notes are in each chord. If you know how to figure this out though, this way of doing this works just fine as well.

Of course if you have any questions about anything in this lesson, be sure to check out the Ultimate Guide To The Modes  – it’ll clear up a lot of confusion for you.

And if you’re still unsure about anything, I’d be happy to help. Send me an email or reach out through the contact form and I’d be more than willing to answer any questions you have about anything.

In the meantime, good luck and happy playing!


minor scales on bass

P.S. Here are the links to the songs I mentioned in the video. Be sure to check them out and even play along with them. I’ve given you the scales to use, so go for it!

If you need help with figuring out how to play each of the modes, be sure to download The Ultimate Guide To The Modes For Bass. It includes all the shape diagrams you’ll need to play these scales.

Adele – Rolling In The Deep (C Aeolian)

Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb (B Aeolian in the verses)

Taylor Swift – Shake It Off (A Dorian over first chord in progression)

Maroon 5 – Sunday Morning (D Dorian over first chord in progression)

Carlos Santana – Oye Como Va (A Dorian)

Miles Davis – So What (D Dorian and Eb Dorian)

Daft Punk – Get Lucky (Based around B Dorian)

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