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Understanding Beginner Bass

Bass Guitar
Understanding Beginner Bass

The Why of Understanding Beginner Bass - Chord Theory


Lets start understanding beginner bass. For a bass player to work out bass lines beyond just playing root notes, a certain amount of chord theory needs to be learnt. The explanation below will help you to create more interesting bass lines.


However, always remember the Bass is primarily a support instrument and so, use complicated riffs sparingly.


I will use the C Major Scale for this example but the lesson learned can be applied to all Scales or Keys. The notes of the C Major Scale are given below. These can be worked out but that would be another lesson.


You can find the notes of the chords that sound good with the C Major scale by using the formula below.


The most basic chord is called a TRIAD (Tri is Latin for 3) and it has 3 notes.


The reason that certain chords work with the Scale is that they are made up from the notes that are in the Scale


The notes that you use in the triads must appear in the Scale.


Again, there is another formula to help us do this and it is :-


1, 3, 5.


This becomes more obvious when you look at the C Major Scale again.


                                                                 1   2   3   4   5   6   7
                                                  C, D,  E,  F,  G, A, B.


So, what you do is you go to the C Major Scale and say C is the first note therefore from C your 3 note

is E and your 5 note is G. Therefore, your triad will use the notes :- C,E,G.


Using this pattern, you can build a triad on all the notes of the C Major Scale. To do this every note  can be a 1 note and have its own 3 note and 5 note.



What makes them Major or Minor is another lesson. For now, just use the triad notes below.


The How - Play Bass to a Chord Progression


When presented with a chord progression any of the notes in the triads can be used.


i.e. For C Major (Common name for the C Triad shown above) the notes 1- C, 3- E, 5- G can be used.


However, these notes need to be placed in order of best sounding.


The best sounding is always note 1 for any chord as it is the basis for the whole chord.


Note 5 is the next best as this is what is called a perfect interval and sounds really strong in any chord.


Lastly comes note 3 for a Major or Minor chord. Below is an example of a chord progression using the Major and Minor triads and a series of possible bass lines to go with the chord progression.


In each of the examples there are 4 beats in each bar so you play the notes 4 times or a combination adding up to 4.



| C             | G             | Am            |G              |




i) Play all note 1 notes.


| C             | G             | A               | G              |




ii) Play all note 5 notes.


| G             | D             | E               | D              |



iii) Play all note 3 notes.    


| E             | B             | C               | B              |


Using a combination of notes 1 and 5 and using note 3 only as a passing note ( a quick note which always leads to another), you can produce some interesting bass lines.


iv)  Play some note 1 notes and some note 5 notes.


| C             | D             | E               | D              |



| G             | G             | A               | G              |


v) Using combinations of all notes available. These are complex Basslines and should be used sparingly.


| C   /   /   E  | G  /   /   B   | A  /   E   /   | D  /   G  B  |



| C   /  G   E  | G  /   /   D  | E  /   A  C  | G  /   D   B  |


Check out my other blog posts for more teaching material.   

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