How To Play A Chromatic Scale On The Bass Guitar


To start a chromatic scale is a musical scale containing twelve pitches all a semitone or half step apart.  Thus in theory there is only one chromatic scale.  The starting note(and ending note) are the only “variable”. 

I have divided my approaches to the chromatic scale based on where on the instrument we are starting. The “upper” G&D strings or the “lower” A&E strings.  Each of these have two finger patterns that I find to be the most effective and intuitive.  All while trying to keep the left hand shifting to a minimum.  

Lower Strings

For the lower strings on the bass you can approach the Chromatic Scale two ways. Either a major scale based finger pattern starting with the second or middle finger or the minor based finger pattern starting with the first or index finger.  In either case you will shift back two times to get the additional notes needed to complete the scale.  I have included fingerings in the diagrams below.


Chromatic Scale for lower Strings of bass guitar

Upper Strings

For chromatic scales starting on the upper strings of electric bass again we have two approach’s, this time the main difference is which string you will stay on the longest, the G or the D string.  Both of these start with the first or index finger.  The diagrams below again give you my suggested fingerings.


 Chromatic Scale for upper Strings of bass guitar


There are of course endless ways you could play a chromatic scale on the bass. I feel that these fingerings represent the most straight forward approach.  Along with being easily remembered since they use familiar scale based patterns already in our muscle memory.  If you have any questions about the information above please feel free to shoot me an email.  As always Happy Bass Playing!


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