Intervals and Ska music

Hello all!

The other day a bass buddy from another country was mentioning that for her it was enough for her to know the intervals (not the scales) because she would say:

"a fifth is always a fifth where ever you are and this is what the other musicians tell you like -play a third down from me- "

This made me question myself about having understood well the lesson 2 from Module 5 so I went back there. I did not want to make a big comment there and confuse the beginner-beginners…

It seems we have been using intervals almost always on the scale forms. That particular SKA song goes simply up and down the A Minor scale like root+3rd+3rd+3rd and root+2nd+2nd+2nd which sounds really simple and cool like that.

And now that I am thinking it could have been also going up and down the A string would it still be a minor scale that way? or is the shape of the hand is kinda what makes it what it is since we can move it around that way?

Listening that particular song made me also super interested with SKA music. Looks simple enough to improvise just walking up and down like that. Are there any musicians that you guys can suggest for inspiration?

Thank you!


I’m not very knowledgeable with ska (where’s @muff when you need him!) - most of my exposure was local bands in my scene in the 90s (killer players though), NOFX ska songs, Rancid and The Clash.

I recommend listening to Rancid and Operation Ivy just for fun, but the bassist in both groups is Matt Freeman, one of the most shredding, musical, melodic and killer bassists in the punk/ska world.
One of my absolute favorite of his basslines (not exactly ska, but has that same driving, walking, melodic push:) is this tune here:

As for you questions about the scale:

I’m not sure I totally understand the question.
The shape of the hand is what makes it a shape, and gives you the easy physical and visual references.
However, the scale is a series of pitches, and you can play a scale in many many positions, using many combinations of fingerings, frets and strings.

Holler if you have more questions.


Rancid have some good tunes.
As for Ska not my thing at all but I do remember The Specials from my youth. Might be worth a listen?


English Beat had some ska too.


Good morning guys! Thanks @howard @Gio @mac for such quick response time !

Yeah this exactly answers my question! Because initially what I understood was that the shape of the hand was creating the scale… And the way the frets are placed on bass we could move that shape anywhere and it would be a major scale.

In the C-Major scale lesson Josh only says that the major scale has been used for hundreds of years but does not really explain the science behind it… Maybe I need some music history lesson…


A shape is just a more visual way of memorizing (and then playing) a certain scale on your fretboard. What is most often referred to as the major shape is probably the “tightest” way to play a major scale, but there are many other ways to play a major scale on your bass (using varying numbers of strings and utilizing smaller or larger parts of the fretboard). The same is, of course, for all the other scales as well!


remember Madness?


Way before my time but amazing example thank you!

I guess I know what I love about Ska! Even if there are so many instruments playing you can still hear the bass!


more modern Ska


My fav Ska-P song. It’s a Spanish Ska band. Only problem with the song: you can’t hear it everywhere because of the very obvious message. I tried to pick out another song but this one is just my favorite musically.

And of course you can listen to Josh and throw shouting “pickitup pickitup pickitup” in there when playing ska :laughing: