Music Description and Notation Questions


@JoshFossgreen Not sure where to post this (Lessons or YouTube), and my apologies if my questions have been covered elsewhere.

I’m referring to the Lessons (under module 8 lesson 5), and in your YouTube videos “Simple Blues Groove”, and “Beginner’s Funk Bass Made Simple”.

The Funk Box shape could be described as “ROOT, fifth, flat seventh, and octave (of the ROOT)”

Module 8 lesson 5 could be described as “ROOT, 3rd, 5th, 3rd”

Both the above are referring to a major scale, D major and Eb major respectively.

But in your Simple Blues Groove video, you say that it can be played in either major or minor scales because there is “no 3rd”. So, how could it be described then? I guess it doesn’t fit in any pattern? “ROOT, something, something, ROOT” ??

I’ve never had ANY kind of music theory until I started to take your lessons. Am I just overthinking all this, or did I miss something?

Both the 12-bar blues progressions have the same three roots (E, A, B) and (Eb,Ab,Bb) and use the same progression pattern and now I understand that, at least :slight_smile:

Thanks very much and all best, Joe



I realize your question is mainly to Josh (and I am sure he will answer as soon as he can), but since it’s in a forum, I wanted to briefly chime in…

I don’t remember exactly what Josh had said in his lessons, but most standard blues are using dominant chords, and so you should be able to either use the major pentatonic scale or the mixolydian scale to create bass lines.

The major pentatonic is: 1 (root) - 2 - 3 - 5 - 6 - 8 (octave), while the mixolydian scale is: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - b7 - 8

A common blues bass pattern is, for example: 1 - 1 - 8 - 8 - b7 - b7 - 5 - 5 (so, totally fits into the funk box!)
Or, a bit more “advanced” using more bits from the mixolydian scale: 1 - 3 - 5 - 6 - b7 - 6 - 5 - 3 (typically stretched over two bars). This pattern “extends” the funk box a bit, as both the 3 and the 6 are just outside of it.

And, of course, the root follows the 12-bar blues progression here, i.e., it changes according to the chord progression (I guess that is obvious!?)

So, one of these patterns doesn’t contain the 3rd, but the other does. They sound differently and might work better for different styles of blues. Also, if you happen to play a blues in E and want to start on your open E string, then the 3rd is kinda tough to get to :grinning:

Good luck!


Hey @Jazzbass19, thanks for asking! Posting in the forum is always a good option, it’s easier to follow up and get other peoples’ thoughts than YT comments or lesson pages.


The “Simple Blues Groove” video is intended as a “pre-scales” video, for someone who hasn’t learned scales yet. So we just learn using a shape, minus the theory.

BUT that shape is root-fifth-flat 7-root, which is the same notes as the Funk Box. (from the Bootsy vid)

Because that shape doesn’t contain a third, it doesn’t dictate “minor” or “major”, it could be used on any chord where a fifth and flat 7th fit.

EXTRA THEORY ALERT: I don’t cover 7th chords in the Beginner to Badass course, so that’s a little outside of what you might have heard from me before.

Whereas if you play root-3rd-5th-3rd, you have to know if the chord is major or minor, because the third changes between the two (half step lower on a minor chord).

Does that answer your question?

Nailed it! :zap:


Thanks @joergkutter and @JoshFossgreen for your replies. :slight_smile:

I’m just starting to appreciate some of the subtleties of all this theory, and realize it’s like learning a foreign language. To communicate accurately, I have to learn all the jargon.

OK, I made a little diagram of the notes and studied it further. I think I see what you mean now. I was thinking of “5th” and “flat 7th” as “higher” notes, but it actually means the same note NAMEs, then? . . . I really need to watch this :confused: . . . It’s confusing

That part I understood. :slight_smile:

Reading through some of the discussions of “scales” on these forums can be overwhelming! There are SO many scales e.g. “mixolydian”, “pentatonic”, “aeolian”, “hexatonic”, etc.

I think I’ll just stick to “major” and “minor” for now :wink:

Thanks again and all best, Joe


You’re welcome @Jazzbass19! I think it is fun to explore all this underlying theory and how it all fits together. It is actually easier to do on a bass (because of the symmetric layout of the fret board) than on, e.g, a saxophone.

I attach a diagram that hopefully helps you a bit more instead of increasing the confusion (just ignore the B string in the diagram altogether). It shows the mixolydian shape, which includes the funk box, and also the major pentatonic (if you leave out the 4th and the flat 7th). I have only labeled those notes that I mentioned in the blues patterns you could try.

So, yes, the fifth and flat seventh etc are higher notes - it is easier to talk about fifths and so on instead of concrete names (G, D, F# etc) because then the root can be anywhere on your fretboard and the fifth etc is relative to that root. That is really the coolest thing about playing bass - you can move any shape pretty much all over the fretboard and they still work.



Thanks, @joergkutter :slight_smile:

I’ll set one of those bookmarks on this post.
All best, Joe


Yeah this is a tricky concept! So the idea is that the 5th and flat 7th are “scale degrees”, meaning they get those numbers from their place in the scale. Let’s just stick with the 5th - if we’re in E major, the fifth note of the scale is B, so B is “the 5th.”

So one way to get to the fifth is to go up for it, like you would if you were walking up the E major scale… but you can also play any other B on the neck, and it’ll still be “the 5th” of an E major scale or chord.

Because of that, you can extrapolate other shapes from any given shape (like the Funk Box) by changing what octave the notes are in. So instead of E - B - D like this:

You could play them like this, same notes, same scale degrees, different octave.

Does that help?


Yes, thanks, Josh :slight_smile: