In this lesson, we will discuss how to create the most common bass guitar chords; triads. Triads are the roots of every real chord in music.
If a chord does not contain a root, a third, and a fifth, in all technicalities, it is not actually a chord. This includes the beloved power chord unfortunately.
First off, since we know what a triad is, we need to discover how they are built. Basic major triads consist of a major third, followed by a minor third.
A major third consist of four half steps, while a minor third consists of only three half steps. A half step is, like it sounds, a half of a step between each note. A minor third is basically a reversed major third; it consists of a minor third, followed by an interval of a major third.
Take for instance the key of C Major. This is the most basic key in all of music, besides its relative minor, which is A minor.
It contains absolutely no accidentals. This means no sharps, and no flats. This makes it the prime key to start off with when learning to create triads. The notes of the C Major scale are C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. If you need to refresh your memory, read our article on bass guitar major scales.
Using this information, and the intervals we learned above, let’s create a basic tonic (first note in a scale) triad on bass guitar. Our root will be C, seeing as the note C is the first note within the scale C Major.
From here, we simply need to travel four half steps, which brings us to E (C#, D, D#, E). This is our third. Next, we need to move a further minor third. Doing this brings us to G (F, F#, G). This is our fifth.
You may have noticed that the note E didn’t have an accidental. That is because the notes E and B have no half steps between themselves and the next note.
Now, let’s make a minor triad on our supertonic (second note name of a scale). The second note name of the C Major scale is D. In a major scale, the supertonic will always, unless altered, be minor.
Using this information and our above provided intervals, let’s create a C Major supertonic triad. Our root will be D. From the root, we will need to move a minor third, which brings us to F (D#, E, F). This is our third. From our third, F, we need to move a further major third, which brings us to the note A (F#, G, G#, A).
This means that our tonic triad is C, E, G, and our supertonic triad is D, F, A.
Now that you know how to make the most basic bass guitar triads, the next step is to practice. Use the other scales, and create the rest of the basic chords on your bass guitar. Have fun!
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