How to Play a 1 4 5 Bass Progression

A classic 1-4-5 bass progression is the heart of blues and rock 'n roll. Here's how to play one and look like you know what you're doing.


  1. 1
    Know what a 1-4-5 Progression Is. The numbers in 1-4-5 refer to the corresponding notes/chords in a musical scale. For example: C D E F G A B C (C major scale) = 12345678 (C is designated as "1" because it is the first note of the scale.) Using this information, you can determine that in the C Major scale a 1-4-5 progression would translate to C-F-G. So for a 1-4-5 in C Major, the chords that you'll be playing under will be C Major, F Major, and G Major.
  2. 2
    Play a Basic Rhythm. The simplest way to play under a 1-4-5 is to play one note on the first beat of the measure that sustains for the entire measure: |: C - - - | F - - - | G - - - | C - - - :| This simple rhythm can be expanded upon in a few ways: |: C C C C | F F F F | G G G G| C C C C :| (or) |: C C - - | F F - - | G G - -| C C - - :|
  3. 3
    Jazz It Up. Adding a few extra notes into the mix makes the beat more lively and establishes a groove. An easy way to do this is to play this: |: C E G C | F A C F | G B D G| C E G C :| (All you are doing here is playing the first, third and fifth notes of the scale of the chord that you are playing under. If that sounds a little complicated, just play the notes and it will sound good regardless.)
  4. 4
    Add The Sixth Note and Major Seventh Note. This gives the progression a more bluesy feel. This will generally require you to play under each chord for two or more measures, so only do it if that's what the song requires. |: C E G A|Bb A G E|F A C D |Eb D C A|G B D E | F E D B | C E G A |Bb A G E :|
  5. 5
    Rock On. Play with other musicians to increase your proficiency with your new found skill. Also, a jazzed up 1-4-5 sounds pretty cool if you're playing alone or if you're warming up while waiting for the guitarist to quit jacking around with his pedal board(s).


  • Practice with a metronome. This will help you grow accustomed to playing against a beat. This is especially useful if you tend to play by yourself.
  • The same principles of "walking" can be applied to any musical scale.
  • Playing notes up and down the musical scale is generally referred to as "walking."

Things You'll Need

  • Bass Guitar
  • Talent
  • Optional:
    • A Basic Understanding of Music Theory
    • A metronome (if you don't have one, you can find metronome apps for your smartphone or tablet.

Article Info

Categories: Bass Guitar | Music Techniques