Like all musicians, bass guitarists tend to limit themselves. Whether this is intentional or accidental, it is never an easy habit to break out of.
Many bass guitarists limit themselves to simple one note patterns, when bass guitar has an expansive amount of resources available, just like guitar.
Today, we are going to discuss common bass chord patterns. These chords are some of the most popular chords in modern music, and today we are going to learn them on the bass guitar.
First off, we need to discuss scales. Basic knowledge of scales and scale properties is essential when constructing chords on any instrument, and the bass is absolutely no exception. If you don’t yet understand the basic qualities of the Major and minor scales, take your time to learn them. Chords can only be built using the notes within the given key, so it is important that you know your scales.
It is also important that you understand the steps of creating basic triads, as most chords are built off of triads. A basic Major triad is built of a Major third with a minor third stacked on top. If we were to make a tonic C Major triad, these two intervals would lead us to the notes C, E, and G.
This entire interval is a perfect fifth, which means it is a total of seven half steps from the root. A minor triad is built of a minor third with a Major third on top. Using this equation, a supertonic triad in the key of C Major would consist of the notes D, F, and A. Like the Major triad, our total interval equals a perfect fifth, or seven half steps.
The first chord shape we will discuss is the C Major chord. This chord involves an octave, which gives it a full bodied, powerful sound. The C Major chord is built off of a tonic C Major triad, which from above we know consists of the notes C, E, and G. After our G, to complete the chord, we must return to the root an octave above it, giving us a second C.
Our C Major chord should look like this:
C, E, G, C
Next up is the A minor chord. This chord has a more delicate and emotional quality to it. The A minor chord is built off of an A minor tonic triad. This triad consists of the notes A, C, and E. This time, unlike the C Major chord, the A minor triad is our chord.
Our A minor chord should look like this:
A, C, E
Our final chord is the G Major chord. This chord is fairly similar to the C Major chord in the fact that it involves an octave built off of the tonic. Our G Major triad would consist of the notes G, B, and D. To bring our chord full circle, we would need to simply add the octave of G.
The G Major chord should look like this:
G, B, D, G
Now that you know the most common bass chord patterns, the final step is to practice. The only way to properly memorize these chords is to add them to your music. Try saying the chord names while you play them, as this will better help you to memorize the chord. Have fun!