I’m learning to play a song on bass. By ear, I can hear the verse riff uses the Eb mixolydian scale.

However, I feel playing Eb mixolydian that high up on the fretboard, starting on Eb on the A string, results in the riff sounding too high pitched. I want to give the riff more bass.

I don’t want to tune my E string down to Eb because I want to use EADG throughout the gig.

I’m thinking of playing the Ab major scale instead because it’s lower down the fretboard and uses the same notes as Eb mixolydian is a mode of Ab major.

How do the more experienced of you solve this problem?

EDIT: Instead of using a 5 string, what about something like below? The scale degree is in brackets.

D || Eb(1)

A || Bb(5) || _ || C(6) || Db(7)

E || F(2) _|| _ || G(3) || Ab(4)

  • It is easier to me imagine you play Eb not D#. – Albrecht Hügli Dec 27 '19 at 23:04
  • Yes, if that’s easier. Eb mixolydian. I’ve updated the question. – Jamie Butterworth Dec 27 '19 at 23:11
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    Can you not play Eb mixolydian and use all the notes but the lowest Eb? – b3ko Dec 27 '19 at 23:15
  • @b3ko First bar is Eb Db Eb Bb. So just play 1st fret second string, 4th fret third string, 1st fret second string, 1st fret third string? – Jamie Butterworth Dec 27 '19 at 23:30
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    I solved the problem by getting a five string bass, BEADG. It solves a lot more problems than it gives! The other, far simpler method, is to play the whole song in E instead of D#. Few will notice what's happened. – Tim Dec 28 '19 at 7:18


As there is still no accepted answer I try another assumption!

Could it be that you are asking which key might be the closest to Eb Mixolydian and you don't know how to transpose?

Then the answer would be:

Play the whole song a semitone higher, (transposing to A major which contains the same notes as E-mixolydian. If want to play back to an mp3 sound you can transpose the original piece (wave or mp3) by wavelab or your Realtek speaker software (output) a semitone higher.

Edit: (concerning your comment below and the example in your edited question)

Well, this solution is exactly what I've tried to explain in my first answer: to transpose down the thinner tones an octave down. But the critical point is where do you split? Right after the 1st degree? This solution is possible of course. It depends - like I've said - of the motif (riff) you are playing: When it's just to practice the scale your solution is o.k. If it's part of a riff you have to consider the melody, like I've shown in my example.

Btw. I was thinking of this song: Keep me in your love. Listen to the bass riff:

enter image description here

The blue ciphers (=> frets) are marking the thin sounds and the bold represent the fat sound.

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  • I've edited my question now as I've a better understanding of what I'm actually asking. I was playing the classic Eb mixolydian shape (6th fret of A string). It sounds too thin because I'm missing out a whole octave. So I'm figuring out the simplest way to play the scale with a fatter sound by transposing an octave down. I've edited my question with an answer. Let me know what you think. – Jamie Butterworth Dec 30 '19 at 13:22
  • Thanks for your answer. I’m going transpose up to E. I did want to make Eb work but it’s a bit too awkward with a 4 string, unfortunately. – Jamie Butterworth Dec 30 '19 at 18:00

@Tim’s comment nails it. You have two options: either (1) get a five-string bass which extends your range lower, or (2) transpose the song one semitone higher to E. Some things just don’t sound right in the wrong octave, particularly bass lines. Some basslines or entire songs lose their character when played in a higher key, or with a four-string bass. This is one of the reasons why five-string basses exist. Transposing Eb -> E probably won’t be noticeable, so it’s worth trying.

An octaver pedal or something like the Boss SY-1 synth pedal could perhaps help as well to reach the required low frequencies.

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It’s easier to me imagine you play Eb not D#.

Let‘s say the riff is e.g. Eb - - - Bb,Bb,Db F,Eb

in this case you play the root tone Eb on the A string. Now you feel Bb is too high and too thin! So you transpose the 5th (Bb) and the rest of the pattern an 8ve down with the result that the last tone Eb is same pitch than the first. This is not quite as fine as when the melody pattern would lead up and loop with an octave but you‘ll have a fat tone for the whole pattern.

(A more simple example may be: the figure you want to play is in D# or Eb the mixolydian scale so la ti do re mi fa so?

You can play the first 4 notes up on A and D string and the second group (tetrachord) on the E and A string.

But you may also play only the Eb in the upper octave and all other notes in the lower. This depends from the melody of your pattern. It won‘t sound good if the Eb appears several times in the same measure. in this case you‘ll get a zigzag tune and it will sound weird.

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