How To Practice Scales Over The Entire Fretboard – The Tri Shape System

2017-11-06T16:12:11+00:00December 24th, 2013|Categories: Bass Scales & Arpeggios|12 Comments

This lesson covers the useful Tri Shape System that helps you to break out of a single box scale pattern.


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  1. Steve December 25, 2013 at 7:39 pm - Reply

    Another great lesson Mark. Thank you!

  2. Chris McElroy January 3, 2014 at 4:49 am - Reply

    Great lesson just recently found your site a lot of great info here, thank you for taking your time in these lessons and giving enough time and enough examples to really grip the material. One question on this one, near the end when you play all the way up the neck, starting at C then I believe it was E and then on. How did you determine the keys to use going up the neck? Curious, thanks again.

    • admin January 3, 2014 at 11:59 am - Reply

      The key is the same C major just using different positions. The names I use like A4 or E1 etc. relate to the tonic position so a Cmajor A4 position has a root note C on the A string and starting on the 4th finger. C major E2 position is a C major scale or key with a root note C on the E string starting on the 2nd finger.
      So the order of these patterns would be A4, A2, A1, E4, E2, E1, D1 round and round. You can obviously start at any point in that sequence. I started the C major scale on an A4 pattern because it’s the lowest pattern you can play on the fretboard including open strings. If I was to play an E major scale over the whole neck then I’d start with the E1 pattern because that would be the lowest pattern. So that sequence would be E1, D1, A4, A2, A1, E4, E2 round and round. The E string patterns and A string patterns alternate with a D1 pattern between the E string and A string positions.
      So don’t confuse the pattern names of E1, E2 etc. with keys. They are simply positions on one scale or key.

      Let me know if that makes sense or if you need more info. I know it can sound confusing but it’s really easy when it clicks.

      • Anthony Armstrong January 4, 2014 at 4:25 am - Reply

        Hi, Mark I just purchased the study book of scales. very easy download and ready to start shedding. you’re a very excellent instructor. thanks for your time teaching. Happy new year.

  3. Bjorn August 2, 2014 at 1:44 pm - Reply

    Wow! This is SO empowering! What a great feeling to be able to navigate the entire fretboard in a systematic way. I have been needing this for a long time.

  4. duane rodgers March 6, 2015 at 3:18 am - Reply

    Hi Mark, I think you are a great instructor . i’m really struggling right now, can you offer some words of encouragement.
    thanks a lot. Duane Rodgers ……. Vancouver WA.

    • MarkJSmith March 9, 2015 at 11:26 am - Reply

      Thanks Duane. Just keep practicing. Don’t expect miracles and everything to change overnight. It’s very much a long term investment. Also, we had a great lesson with the bass teacher at music college that explained the psychology of practice and development. It’s all hills and valleys. Sometimes you’ll be in the zone and really feel like you’re making progress. That’s the hill. You make your way up there but eventually you reach a plateau because you might have succeeded in mastering that particular topic (or at least the tiny bit you were working on). Then the development seems to stop and you plateau. Then because of this lack of progress your mind starts to work against you so you get a little disheartened and depressed about it all. This is the valley part. But eventually that downer actually gets to a plateau and you start to feel improvement again. so you start to climb the hill. No learning progress is linear. It always has this set of peaks and troughs like a sine wave. Once you’re aware of this you realise you just have to ride out the bad times and look towards the good times. It’s actually a good lesson for life in general.

  5. Dan Kunde March 15, 2015 at 4:39 am - Reply

    Nice lesson! A note to any of you newer players. Go over this lesson, over and over and over to you get it. Once these ideas are second nature your improvising skills will become awesome and your fretboard awareness the same. I can remember running these modal pattern a couple of years before the speed and accuracy became acceptable to me. Good luck!

  6. Randy July 9, 2016 at 5:30 am - Reply

    HI Mark,
    Please forgive I don’t understand the pattern that you used to go round and around. Can you please help me? Thank you.

  7. Alberto Nucciotti March 31, 2018 at 4:19 pm - Reply

    Many thanks for such extremely useful lesson for learning about scales and notes positions all over the fretboard. It’d be very nice also to get a printed version of the extended exercise you performed on the entire fretboard, which I’ve been usuccessfully searching for many times so far. I heard you saying that a PDF lesson is available, in the info below…close to minute 28.00….
    Is it possible to find it anywhere (for free)?
    thanks once again for your priceless and dedicated advice on bass playing!

  8. Michael Schwarz December 24, 2018 at 8:17 am - Reply

    Your skills in teaching AND playing are just mindblowing!
    Thank you so much!!

  9. Matt Warren January 22, 2019 at 1:07 pm - Reply

    Phenomenal! It seems so obvious really, but the way it is put together is brilliant 🙂 Thanks Mark

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