C and G Major Scales in 3rds

Posted on September 19, 2010


Hello Everyone, Welcome back to the Bass Corner. I feel like I should be changing my shoes right now. That is an old Mr. Rogers reference for anyone who is not familiar.
In previous articles I talked about major and minor intervals. More specifically their use in triads (3 note chords). I also covered the C and G major scales last week and the week before

Instead of just playing the scales ascending (forwards) and backwards (descending), I thought we could try and mix them up a bit. We will be playing them in what are called 3rds. These are the very same 3rds that we created a few articles back using the whole and half step formulas. I wanted to show you where these 3rds come from. What we will end up with then is the C and G major scales in 3rds.

Exercise in C Major

Here again are the notes of the C major scale:


Below is an audio example of me playing the C major scale, first one octave in one position and then two octaves.

Listen In MP3 Format: C Major Scale

To play C major in 3rds, we will start on each note of the scale and play the note a 3rd away from it.

Let us work through a few together.

C is the first, D would be the 2nd and E is the 3rd. So, we will play C and then E. E is the 3rd of C.

Next find the 3rd of D. D will be the first, E will be the 2nd and F will be the 3rd. So, F is the 3rd of D. Play D and then F.

Here is the entire exercise:

C to E……D to F…..E to G…..F to A…..G to B…..A to C…..B to D…..and C To E, one octave higher.






Listen In MP3 Format C Major Scale in 3rds

Exercise in G Major

This is the same exercise but using the key of G major.

G A B C D E F# G

Below is also an audio of the G major scale containing one and two octaves.

Listen In MP3 Format: G Major Scale

G major in 3rds:

G to B…..A to C…..B to D…..C to E…..D to F…..E to G…..F# to A….and G to B, one octave higher.






Audio for G major in 3rds.

Listen In MP3 Format G Major Scale in 3rds

As you are playing through the 3rds you may notice there are 2 different intervals. This is where we start to see the major and minor 3rds. I am going to list each 3rd and its quality. Memorize them.

  1. C to E…….major 3rd
  2. D to F…….minor 3rd
  3. E to G…….minor 3rd
  4. F to A…….major 3rd
  5. G to B…….major 3rd
  6. A to C…….minor 3rd
  7. B to D…….minor 3rd

Now the 3rds for the scale/key of G major

  1. G to B……..major 3rd
  2. A to C …….minor 3rd
  3. B to D……..minor 3rd
  4. C to E…..…major 3rd
  5. D to F#……major rd
  6. E to G…….minor 3rd
  7. F# to A……minor 3rd

Compare the 2 sets of 3rds now. Do you see any similarities? The chord qualities follow the exact same order for both scales. Also compare the D to F in each example. In C major, F is natural (not sharp). This makes it a minor 3rd when paired with the root D. In the G major scale however, the F is sharp which in turn gives us a major 3rd sound when paired with D.

Now memorize the order of the qualities. The 1st is major and then minor and minor and so on. Here is a list of them in order:



M m m M M m m

Then think of the groupings this way:

The 1st, 4th and 5th are major and the 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th are minor.

The good news is that this pattern follows through every single major scale. When we add the other majors, the order of chord qualities will be exactly the same!

These exercises help to start grouping some of the more common bass tones together for you. These are the tones the guitarist and piano player and any other chordal players may be using in their chords. When you play them it will match the others. Don’t forget that you also have the right to choose other notes depending on the freedom of the playing situation. I give you these exercises to get you started on the more common tones found, and your ears can help you with more. I will be adding more every week, just in case.

That is about all for this week. Next week we will be playing these same scales in a descending 3rds pattern. It will be similar to the ascending scale, just backwards. Sort of like walking down the stairs backwards (don’t try that at home).I will also add a 5th to each of our 3rds and we will talk some more about the intervals of the major scale. In the future at some point will be not only chord tones but riff driven lines as well.

Have a great week! Enjoy your BASS!

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