Regardless of the stringed instrument you are playing, understanding the fingerboard of your instrument is imperative to improving your skills. Learning bass guitar is no different. And, one of the best ways to get better at your role in the rhythm section is to hone your soloing chops. This not only helps your improve your technical ability, but also your knowledge of neck.

In his course, Bass Soloing Studies, Jeff Denson provides you an intuitive approach to leveling up your bass soloing abilities.

Here are 12 free soloing bass guitar lessons from the course. For the full course, check out Bass Soloing Studies on TrueFire!

Bass Guitar Lesson – Positional Studies

Here, we’re going to look at playing the pentatonic scale up and across the neck in six positions. As we move up from position to position, we’ll be learning all the notes in the scale, as they appear across the neck, from lowest to highest pitch, regardless of starting note. This means that we won’t always be starting from the root note. For example, when looking at the E minor pentatonic scale in our second position, the starting note will be an A and the highest note will be a D, neither one is our root. This will help to break our reliance on the common “minor pentatonic shape” that we’re all really accustomed to. This knowledge can be very powerful, especially when you take the time to really be conscious of the note you’re playing, not just the shape, but the note name and its place in the scale.

Why is this important, you ask? When soloing, or when playing a bass line that moves up or down the neck, you don’t want to be forced into leaping back to your old familiar shape, instead you should be able to seamlessly move from note to note, focusing on your voice-leading (i.e. finding stepwise motion to link your lines). Also, another benefit of this exercise is that you may very well find new ideas by looking at this scale in different, or unfamiliar ways. Let’s get started!

Bass Guitar Lesson – 3rd Position Note Layout Demo


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This video lays out all the notes found in the third position of our pentatonic scale: either E minor or G major. The notes in order are: B, D, E, G, A, B, D & E (ascending).

This is a different “shape” than you may have considered as a pentatonic scale before – it’s not the major or minor scale shape. Here you’re looking at a minor third (B to D), an interval that spans four frets on your E string, the same on your A string (A to C), then a whole step (A to B), an interval that spans three frets on the D and the same on your G string (D to E).

Bass Guitar Lesson – 3rd Position Note Layout Practice


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In this video, we’ll practice playing the notes found in the third position, ascending and descending along with the backing track. We will start by playing through them twice as quarter notes, then twice as eight notes and then twice as sixteenth notes. Be sure to focus on locking in with the drums and not just getting the right notes.

Bass Guitar Lesson – Third Position Minor Improv Solo


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In this video, I improvised a solo using only the notes found in the third position and centered it around E minor.

Bass Guitar Lesson – Third Position Major Improv Solo


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Here, I improvised a solo using only the notes found in the third position and centered it, this time around G major.

Bass Guitar Lesson – 6th Position Note Layout Demo


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This video lays out all the notes found in the sixth position of our pentatonic scale, either E minor or G major. The notes in order are: G, A, B, D, E, G, A and B (ascending).

Here is our other common pentatonic shape, the major pentatonic. Here you’re looking at a whole step (G to A), an interval that spans three frets on your E string, a minor third on your A string (B to D), an interval that spans four frets, another minor third on your D string (E to G), and a whole step on your G string (A to B).

Bass Guitar Lesson – 6th Position Note Layout Practice


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In this video, we’ll practice playing the notes found in the sixth position, ascending and descending along with the backing track. We’ll start by playing through them twice as quarter notes, then twice as eight notes and then twice as sixteenth notes. Be sure to focus on locking in with the drums and not just getting the right notes.

Bass Guitar Lesson – 6th Position Minor Improv


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In this video, I improvised a solo using only the notes found in the sixth position and centered it around E minor.

Bass Guitar Lesson – 6th Position Major Improv


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In this video, I improvised a solo using only the notes found in the sixth position and centered it, this time around G major.

Bass Guitar Lesson – Jazz Two Five in C Overview


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This next example will be over a ii-V7-Imaj7 progression in the key of C. The 2-5-1 progression is the most common chord sequence found in the straight-ahead jazz harmonic language. You’d be hard pressed to find a jazz tune without this progression until Miles Davis started experimenting with modal jazz in the late fifties. Like the composition “Miles,” which was later retitled “Milestones” on the later releases of the album, Milestones in 1958, but he really jumped into modal harmony most notably on the album Kind of Blue in 1959.

Bass Guitar Lesson – Jazz Two Five in C Demo


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Here’s a solo I improvised over a 2-5-1 progression in C major.

Bass Guitar Lesson – Jazz Two Five in C Breakdown


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What I mainly focused on in this solo was creating melodies that clearly outlined the harmony. As with all the solos in this course, I used only the relative major and minor pentatonic scales, so in order to accomplish outlining the harmony, I needed to give emphasis to the notes in the scale that are also in the chord.

For example, in D-7, the D minor pentatonic shows all the chord tones with the addition of one extra note, the G, which is the 4 or 11. On the G7 chord, it doesn’t come so neatly wrapped up in a bow like the minor pentatonic on the minor7 chord, because the flat 7 is missing from the scale. We get the root, 9, 3, 5 and 6 with the major pentatonic on the dominant 7 chord. Because of this, we need to use the notes of the G major triad, G, B and D as our main target notes to outline the G7 chord, and use the two remaining notes, the A and E (9 and 13 respectively) as color tones.

Digging these free soloing bass guitar lessons? Check out Jeff Denson’s Bass Soloing Studies.

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