Modes On One String

Playing across the fingerboard of the bass guitar and switching positions with confidence and accuracy can be a challenge for all skill levels, including professionals. When you want to really get moving on your bass you need to push through to new territory by playing up and down the neck horizontally every single day until you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Fingerboard freedom for everyone!

Learning Objectives

Move laterally on the fingerboard with confidence.

Develop a broader range and more flexibility on your instrument.

Build expert fingerboard technique.

Understand the structure of the modal system.

Increase facility with harmonic materials.

Memorize all tritone pairs.

Difficulty Level

This material can be studied by all playing levels.

A Note About The Modes

An important distinction to make is that if you are simply playing a “mode on one string”, it is not the actual mode per se. It is really just a pattern. For instance, if you play the C Dorian pattern up and back you are really only playing the notes of the Bb major scale. Of course, it could be said that the sound of the mode can be implied. So then, what is a mode? A mode is that color, the flavor you get when the melodic notes are playing over and above the bass note. It is a relationship between the bass and the melody notes. In other words, the bass note “modalizes” the sound of the scale material. Think of it this way: Scales are simply abstract material – symbols on the music staff. I like to say that you never really hear a scale. You only hear the modal sound when the bass note creates that particular modal flavor with the melodic notes. This is all said so that you come to understand the modal system. If you remember only one thing it should be this: The bass note modalizes the scale, and this particular flavor is the modal sound – the mode.


Bb and E


Eb and A


Ab and D


Db and G


Gb and C


B and F