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Issue No.1

Last updated on 28 May, 2018

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Yamaha Billy Sheehan

The minor cycle of fifths is quite literally the key to understanding music and how everything slots together in the world of melody and harmony.

Consequently a method to understand and then instantly recall this information would be useful from both a practical and theoretical perspective. The cycle of fifths is adequately explained in most musical text books but what is left out is how to retain and subsequently recall this information for future use (especially when the text book is not available to scrutinize).

In a practical situation a bass player will always have the instrument readily to hand so it would seem logical to tie any type of memorisation system to the fingerboard itself.

Figure No 1 shows the notes of the A natural minor scale (zero sharps) for both the E and A strings; plus all the other A natural notes on the D and G strings.

A minor scale on 4-string bass guitar fretboard

The simplest way to play a natural minor scale is along the length of the same sting using the index finger to fret each note and this is shown in Figure No.2 for A natural minor (zero sharps) and Figure No.3 for E natural minor (one sharp).

Am and Em scales tab

Although these are the easiest ways to play the A and E natural minor scale they are not practical for the
memorisation method as the fretboard soon gets used up whilst traveling around the minor cycle of fifths
(see Figure No.4).

Thus the 3Am1 and 4Em2 octave shapes are pressed into action being played alternately at two-fiet intervals as follows:-

Minor cycle of fifths


Additionally tables of the seven scale chords used for songwriting have been provided for all eight minor keys.

Am box shapes and scale chords
Am tab
Em box shapes and scale chords
Em tab
Em box shapes and scale chords
Bm tab
F#m box shapes and scale chords
F#m tab
C#m box shapes and scale chords
C#m tab
G#m box shapes and scale chords
G#m tab
D#m box shapes and scale chords
D#m tab
A#m box shapes and scale chords
A#m tab

Thus the essence of the memorisation system for the minor cycle of fifths is to play the root notes (for the tonic chord - Im) of the key starting at the nut (Am) and alternating between the A and E strings every two frets. This process is stopped when a total of seven sharp notes have been accumulated (A#m) and the last practical sharp key has been reached, this is represented by the green shaded segments on Figure No.4. However the process can be continued until fret twelve is reached on the A string (representing the key of G double sharp) where a
full 360 degrees has been traveled and everything starts all over again.

View pdf of BLOGoZON No.1

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28 May, 2018

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