So, you’re moving from four to five string bass. You’re someone that knows the notes on the four string fretboard really well but when adding a low B string into the mix, everything gets super confusing because you don’t know where you are.
This is a problem for most bass players that try moving from four to five strings after developing years of skills on the four and because of this, loads of players end up anchoring the thumb on that B string and treating it as a glorified thumb rest.
The Best Solution
Before we get into these exercises, it’s important to state that the best way to learn the notes on any string of the bass is by learning to read music.
When you learn to read, you develop an almost instinctive knowledge of the fretboard after hours and hours of translating the music on the page to the fretboard.
This continual testing as each note moves by is also the basis for the exercises presented here but without the prerequisite of sufficient reading skills.
Note Reading Exercises
In the following three exercises we are going to learn the natural notes on the B string. Each exercise presents one note per bar of 4/4. You simply play the note and count along.
Do this away from metronomes or practice tracks. We don’t want any form of pressure testing. We’re learning the notes from scratch so you’re going to need to allow for mistakes and the slow locating each note in turn.
Exercise #1: Notes B C D and E
Exercise #2: Notes F G A
Exercise #3: Combined Notes
Cycle Of Fourths Exercise
Learning The Cycle
For these exercises we’re going to work through the cycle of fourths: C F Bb Eb Ab Db Gb B E A D G
To learn the cycle, split it into three parts:
- C F
- Bb Eb Ab Db Gb
- B E A D G
To memorise this, think of C F as a perfect fourth on C or just think of the words Cycle of Fourths
Then for the next two sections, think of the word ‘bead’ and add a G to the end: BeadG. First time round we have flats and then repeat as naturals:
Exercise #1: Basic Cycle Exercise
Play the notes of the Cycle Of Fourths on the B string.
Exercise #2: Major Scale Through The Cycle
Here is a simple two octave E Major Scale fingering starting at the 5th fret of the B String:
Repeat this major scale pattern through the cycle of fourths: C Major, F Major, Bb Major etc.