# Scale Shape Confusion

Hello, I am nearing the end of the bass buzz course and have recently begun in-person lessons. During my first lesson, I was given the different variations of the E minor pentatonic scale and I am soooooooooo confused. I thought that each scale could only be one shape but I found out that just within the E minor pentatonic scale, there are multiple different shapes. I don’t understand how that works but I also wonder if it is necessary to understand WHY in order to know HOW to do something. When I asked how scales could be in different shapes, he said its like cars on the same racetrack but taking different routes within the same track. He also said they all have the route note E in it but that confused me even more because I always thought the root note could only be the first note in the scale :(((( Is there anyone that can explain how multiple shapes can make the same scale on the fretboard. Also can all the shapes be used anywhere on the fretboard or are they just their own unique shape because of where they are on the fretboard. And, if so, how come the shapes that Josh shares in bass can be applied pretty much anywhere???

Any help or links to resources would be very appreciated !!

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This is a good breakthrough for you. There are several patterns for each scale on the neck. The notes are all repeated between the strings; you know how the fifth fret of any string is the same note as the next string up? This is true of all other notes, leading to different possible patterns as you shift from right to left. And of course there’s the scales along single strings too.

This is actually something Mark Smith covers well in his Chord Tones course over on TalkingBass.

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I believe what your teacher was saying was that each scale in that key (commonly called a mode) is in the KEY of E Minor Pentatonic, not that each one starts with an E note in the root.

It takes a while and some brain rewiring to understand modes, but with some good instruction, study and practice, they become clear.

Mark Smith at TalkingBass offers an excellent course that starts at the simplest, most easily understood level of scales study. It then proceeds to cover every conceivable scale and mode a bass player will ever encounter. It’s worth the time and effort to learn bass scales, if you’re interested.

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Yeah Scale Essentials looks good too. It and Chord Tones are similar courses covering a lot of the same material from different angles.

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Oh dang.
You’re suffering from what I call the Fire Hose Teacher Method.
This is where we bass teachers get excited about teaching a thing and rather than approaching it the way Josh does -
Super simple, very gradual, very detailed and thorough, etc…
We just drop a monster thing on a student with little to no explanation.

I’m sorry on behalf of myself, and all the students I’m sure I have done this to.

I really don’t get the racetrack analogy either.

What your teacher has provided is a very comprehensive and advanced study of every single note on your fretboard that you could ever want to play that is considered in the scale of E minor pentatonic.
Oof.
Unless he has a bass line or song example that relates to each form, it become an intellectual and theoretical exercise rather than practical, and that makes me crazy.

The advice offered above sounds helpful to fully understand the way that a scale can exist in different patterns in different places of your neck.
I’m just sorry that this is what you’re left with after a first bass lesson.
It is a common mistake that teachers make - to offer their students sips from a fire hose.
It’s not helpful and can be a bit overwhelming.

If there are more specifics that you’d like to check in on, holler. Good luck.

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It sounds like your teacher used patterns that started on some other scale degree than the root. That would give you different patterns - and it would be confusing.

It’s like learning to spell your name from the third letter. It’s possible, and might occasionally be useful (e.g., T-o-n-i-…), but it is not the way to start.

Instead, learn the scale from the root, and memorise that pattern. Extend it across and along the strings. Once you can play that from any “E” on the neck, only then should you start with other patterns.

Have a look at this chart here:

Essentially, you first learn from the root and then connect the pattern to other notes later. By starting from the root on different strings, you get familiar with the scale across the whole neck.

Then you will have ideas like "I don’t need to go to the 2nd fret on the G-string for the A, I can just go to the 7th fret on the D-string.

Hope this helps!
Antonio

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Strictly speaking you don’t need to know the why in order to use something (think, e.g., a TV), but it helps a lot (at least, it does for me).

The other gentlemen have already given some valuable input. Here is another graphical overview over pentatonic patterns/shapes. You can see how they progress up the fretboard (note the overlap between the “positions”). The root note is always given as a green dot.

The large composite shaped that I have outlined in red is one that is super useful in order to move both horizontally and vertically up (or down) the fretboard and stay in the same pentatonic scale. Note, the red shape starts on the minor 7 as shown, i.e., D for E minor. So, that would be fret 10 on the E string. But, you can of course move this shape around to anywhere on the bass (for other root notes) and use it until you run out of strings or frets (that’s the beauty of the “symmetry” of the fretboard on a bass).

TLDR: there is really only five shapes to learn, which work for major and minor (e.g., position 1 for major is the same shape as position 2 for minor) and can be stitched together to cover the entire fretboard.

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Oh, and by the way, there is always this (hopefully links to a playlist on YT):

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And there’s other patterns in addition to these of course. For example, in the top one, you can move the G to the 5th fret of the G string, and the B to the 4th fret of the G string.

The patterns are about convenience but they aren’t the only options. There are more

I agree @Gio I’ve never taught bass or any other music, but I have taught ESL. I think as a teacher, one must always strive to understand the student, that is to assess them by getting to know them a bit. It’s well documented that different people learn differently and start at different places. I always tailored myself to the student; in this way they are more comfortable, learn more, and enjoy class more.

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Jörg /@joergkutter, I think your chart is quite useful for advanced study. I like the point you make about both understanding and using shapes.

Still, for me as a mere Noobjosh it seems a bit too complicated at the moment. The red shape confuses me, for example, because I don’t like the stretch in my fret hand. Then I get busy finding frets and forget about the shape as I play.

Hello fellow teacher!
I love your quote - can I use that?

I’ve never put it like this, all the while valuing a good relationship with students more than my methods or content delivery.

Cheers,
Antonio

PS: Used my free morning to record the first song for 50 Songs on video - I’m giddy with excitement and embarrassment.

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Yes, I understand and some things just take a bit longer to become obvious… usually, it’s a combination of some material you find (or get provided) and self-study to see the “connections” for yourself. This is often much better than just getting told by some “older” dude

The two diagrams at the far left and far right are composites of the five position shapes, to show how they are stitched together to cover the entire fretboad. And the red shape is just one part that I particularly like (and find useful). And, just to make sure, it’s not intended to be fretted while keeping your hand in a fixed position - it’s just to show how you can move beyond these initial positions and cover a larger part of the fretboard. So, yeah, you have to shift your hand

The reason I like this shape is because it only contains movements over exactly two frets for every step (nothing “two frets here, and one fret there”). And, also, it’s 2-3-2-3 in terms of how many notes per string. I find that very easy to remember and it gives you one and a halve octave to “play around with” (think: groove ornaments or even solos).

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Yes sir! Very rewarding to see the appreciation from students. I never got to do it full time, but rewarding nonetheless!

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