How can we play chords on bass ? If you have asked yourself this question often, you are in the right place.
Before understanding how can we play chords on bass, however, it is right to clarify what the chords are and why a bass player should know them and know how to play them.
We begin by giving some definition: first of all when we speak of a chord, we refer to a set of 3 or more notes played at the same time. We bassists, however, do not have the task of playing chords for what they are, but to understand from which notes the chords are formed to be able to take advantage when we want to use these notes in the construction (or analysis) of our bass lines. So first we will have to better understand the concept of “arpeggio”, that is: play the notes of the chord one at a time.
Including these two basic concepts, we just have to try our hand at the various types of chords: we start from the triads (chords consisting of only 3 notes), and we continue with chords formed by several notes: initially we will deal only with those formed from 4 notes, known as seventh chords. The seventh chords are formed by adding the seventh note of the scale to our triad; but the interesting thing is that we can also “reverse” the sevenths, or put the seventh minor scale on the major chord and vice versa: in this way we are going to form 4 seventh chords, of which, for our purposes we take into consideration only 3: Maj7 (major triad with seventh major); min7 (minor triad with minor seventh); 7 (major triad with minor seventh).
Once we understand these chords as well as possible, we can deal with what concerns the question of the so-called inversions. What is an inversion of a chord?
You have an inversion when the lowest note of the chord is different from the root. For example, a triad will have, in addition to its position (1 – 3 – 5), this fundamental position, 2 inversions too: the one with the third on bass (3 – 5 – 8) and the one with the fifth on bass (5 – 8 – 3).
As a result, a seventh chord, which is made up of 4 notes, will have a fundamental position and 3 inversions.
On the electric bass, the study of fingerings useful to perform all the chords, in the fundamental positions and inversions, is essential, both for a technical growth and for the understanding of that part of the musical theory, called “harmony” that deals with everything concerning chords and their rules.
So I suggest you to watch the video, and try to perform the proposed exercises (which can also be found in pdf format here )