The Minor Pentatonic Scale For Bass Guitar

2019-01-20T15:12:44+00:00January 6th, 2017|Categories: Bass Scales & Arpeggios, Beginner Bass Lessons|6 Comments

In this lesson we look at the Minor Pentatonic Scale. This is one of the most common scales in all of rock and pop music. We look at how to play a basic, common fingering of the scale, move it around to different areas on the neck and then learn a riff based on the scale.

The Minor Pentatonic Scale

A pentatonic scale has five notes and the name is a derived from the prefix ‘penta’ which means five. A major scale has seven notes and is therefore a heptatonic scale.

There are two types of pentatonic scale – major and minor. We will be focussing on the minor pentatonic today.

C Minor Pentatonic

This scale can be played starting on the third fret of the A string.

C Eb F G Bb

You will mainly use the first, third and fourth fingers, but could get away with only the first and fourth. Playing the scale like this will be a good exercise for strengthening your little finger as it requires more strength to play lower down the neck.








Play this through a few times until you memorise the shape, then try moving it around the neck. As with the other scales, we can practice this one by taking the shape up one fret after every repetition.

Building The Pentatonic Minor

You may have noticed that the pentatonic looks like a stripped down natural minor scale. Basically, it is.

In previous lessons, we looked at how scales are built and how they relate to the major scale.

In numerical term, the natural minor scale is:

1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 8

The pentatonic minor scale is the same as this but minus the second and sixth.

1 b3 4 5 b7 8

By stripping away some of the more emotive and characteristic notes of the natural minor scale, we are left with a more ‘to the point’ scale. This simplifies the pentatonic whilst still giving it a minor edge. The natural minor scale has a tendency to sound sad and moody but the pentatonic is a way of including these tones without overpowering the feel of the music.

The simplicity of the pentatonic has led to it becoming one of the most popular scales used today. Being able to apply this scale in context will enable you to improvise and create riffs in loads of musical styles including pop, rock, country and blues.

The Pentatonic In Context

This riff has a typical pop/rock feel and is very reminiscent of some Paul McCartney riffs from The Beatles. It is based on the C minor pentatonic scale and uses octaves, hammer-ons and pull-offs.

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  1. Michael Fields January 6, 2017 at 11:22 pm - Reply

    Happy New Year Mark…And thank you so much for being a top notch teacher.

  2. Andrés Garcia May 10, 2017 at 10:34 am - Reply

    Your lessons are great. I remember watching this video and understanding more deeply the lines that I had learned when I first picked up the bass. “Oh, this line by Geezer is built out of a minor pentatonic scale. I can see why he chose that for this song, because it’s meant to be somber and introspective, but not necessarily depressive and sad.” Thank you.

  3. Cees Smit June 11, 2017 at 5:20 pm - Reply

    Hi Mark, I am a firm follower of your lessons, highly appreciated. On a german site ( they have 6 workshops on the minor pentatonic scale and they play them over/beyond the octave as well – is there a reason you don’t bring this up or am I missing the obvious(same thing on your lessons about the major pentatonic)

    Thanks for letting us know and keep up the good work

    Cees Smit, Germany

  4. SAMSON December 2, 2017 at 10:53 pm - Reply


  5. Ralph Thomas December 22, 2018 at 11:23 pm - Reply

    He is a okay teacher but terrible at customer support!!! You pay $16 plus a month for this which over $200 a year and they don’t return repeated e-mails messages and send you e-mails about special training simple steps to walking bass for $69 and it is NO DIFFERENT then the lesson already out there!!!!!!!!! GRRRRR

  6. David Perry January 25, 2019 at 1:21 am - Reply

    Great professor, I paid my college prof’s much more and they were not near as nice. I have learned much from Mark at Talking Bass – net. thank you!

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