Bass Guitar Music Theory: The 7 Arpeggios From C Major

This free lesson cannot do justice to how important this is! SO much music can be made (and understood) from harmonising a major scale in this way. Keep checking my Instagram and this site for more examples of how to use this. For now, let’s try and learn the shapes and sounds.

I’m not going to go too deep in explaining any of this although I will do in other posts and videos. Briefly though, a major scale is a collection of 7 notes with a set pattern between each note. An arpeggio is when you play the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of that scale one by one. You can keep that pattern going in an arpeggio: 1,3,5,7. That’s what we’ll do here (‘seventh arpeggios’). Since the major scale has 7 notes, that is 7 different arpeggios you can get in the major scale. This is the start of an infinite amount of music making opportunities.

C Major Across One String

This pattern of the C Major scale shows its specific pattern (tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone. A semitone being a gap of one fret and a tone being a gap of two frets. That is what defines a major scale).


The 7 Arpeggios...

So just to reiterate, I’m not going to go deep into the theory of any of this right now. I’m just going to show you the 7 arpeggios (and therefore chords as a chord is simply an arpeggio with the notes played at the same time rather than separately).

This is just one of a few ways to play these arpeggios. Just learn these shapes for now. Once you are comfortable with this then you can start to make music from this: solos, bass lines, riffs, harmony, walking bass lines; it’s all here!


Download this lesson as PDF

The 7 Arpeggios from C Major: Exercises

Refer to the beginning of the above video lesson for my examples of playing using these arpeggios.

Either take the loop (which is a WAV) and put it in your DAW and.... well, loop it or just play along to the longer backing tracks (MP3s)  if you want to get going quicker.

Loop (for your DAW)

Backing Track


 - Make sure you pay attention to the fret numbers (the numbers below the diagrams).

 - Just play the arpeggios bar by bar along to the track using any 4 notes to begin with, then adding rhythms and grooves in. So you can start by just playing bass lines then play higher up the neck for solos (as I do in the video).

 - You can start the CMaj7 arpeggio at the 8th fret of the E string, keep the FMaj7 in the same place, play the Dmin7 at the 10th fret, E string and G7 as the diagram. They will all then be close to each other on the fretboard.

 - Try and play the note of the next arpeggio that is the closest to where you happen to be at the time. This will give a more fluid ‘solo-like’ sound.

Loop (for your DAW)

Backing Track


 - A walking bass line involves playing on all quarter notes of the bar. So play 4 notes of the arpeggio and try to land (to start with) on a root note - the ones in red.

 - You can add rhythmic interest by playing triplets (3 notes in one beat). Again, listen to the video example.

 - Try and aim for the line to sound flowing by not jumping around too much to low then high notes and also keep those quarter notes going (this gives you the ‘walking’ style).

Loop (for your DAW)

Backing Track


- This is the chord progression I used in the video but use anything you like!

 - The main thing is that this is fast so even if you have to play root notes using quarter notes at first, then do that. Build up to 1/8ths (which is what I’m doing in the video).

 - Try playing 1/8th notes just staying on the root notes and keeping those as consistent as you can.

This is just a click so there doesn’t seem much to it! In fact you can use your own metronome or click in your DAW. The point is that I’m going through each arpeggio and trying to make some kind of musical sound with them. The possibilities are endless!!

Loop (for your DAW)

Backing Track


- Think of different styles of music and go through the exercise emulating that.

 - Try playing different rhythms; either staying on a couple of notes or more (that will require you to play faster....).

 - If you know your scales and modes then play up the arpeggio and down the mode.

 - Use hammer ons, pull offs, slides and bends.

 Since I’ve written all these examples out with chord symbols, think of this whole PDF as chart reading practice. However, here’s one more!

Loop (for your DAW)

Backing Track


 - Keep it extremely simple to start with. Choose a root note, maybe one more and stick to a simple pattern.

 - My example is a very busy bass line containing some 1/8th and 1/16th notes. Make sure your right hand technique is really solid so you can play that kind of thing consistently and in time.

 - Refer to the ‘Left and Right Hand Checklist’ and ‘Single String Exercise’ for some tips on building strength, accuracy through some good habits and some exercises.That should give you some ideas and an introduction to harmonising a scale, which is really what we are doing when we get the 7 arpeggios from a major scale. Finally, have a think about how you can write some music with these ideas.I composed these little tracks really quickly just by using a few different arpeggios thrown together. Those are ‘chord progressions’ and are the cornerstone of much modern music.

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