Ever wonder if you can play chords on the bass guitar? The answer is yes!
Some chords work better than others, especially because of the limited strings and size of the strings as well. Even if you have an extended range bass, such as a 5 or 6 string, strumming large chords using 5 or 6 strings may sound like a muddy mess, and can also be very challenging due to how big the neck of the bass is.
This lesson will show a few chords I like to use on the bass.
First, let's take a look at a simple bass line in the key of Am.
To beef up this bass line, and to make it sound fatter, the first thing I would do is use power chords (aka: 5th chords). Steve Harris from Iron Maiden uses this type of chord a lot.
Those two finger chords should be played with your first and third fingers, or your first and fourth fingers.
You can strum those chords, or any chords with your thumb, your finger nails, a pick, any way that you're comfortable with.
To make the bass sound even bigger, you can add a third finger to the previous chord shapes to make a three finger power chord (aka: 5th chord).
For those chords you'll want to use your first, third, and fourth fingers.
The three finger power chords may prove challenging for some players at first because of how much hand strength is needed to hold down all the notes properly. However, just like anything else in learning to play the bass, just stick with it, and eventually you'll be able to play these chords with ease.
Now, let's take a look at some chords to add some color to that simple bass line that was shown before the power chords.
This next bass line will be using Major and minor dyads. Dyads are two note chords. I like to just call them two finger Major and two finger minor chords.
For the Major shapes use your second and first fingers.
For minor shapes use your third and first fingers.
Sometimes it may sound better on the bass to play chords like this at a higher octave so you can hear the notes easier.
Here's the same bass line an octave higher:
For the last example in this lesson, we'll take a look at some of my favorite sounding chords that are based off of 7th chords. The only thing missing from the following chord shapes to make them full 7th chords is the 5th interval.
What does it mean that they're missing the 5th interval? If you don't know, comment on this entry and I'll put a lesson together explaining intervals!
That was a bass line you can strum any way you want. I just really like the sound of those chords in that particular order.
For the m7 chords I use my third, first, and fourth fingers.
For the Maj7 chords I use my second, first, and fourth fingers.
For the 7 chord I use my second, first, and third fingers.
There are plenty of other chords you could strum on a bass. If you want more examples, just let me know!
Do you have any chords you like to use? Please share in the comments.
This video demonstrates all the bass lines in this lesson, plus a bit more.
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John Taylor - guitar and bass instructor for Mile High Shred.