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bass chords

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by patrickroberts, Mar 9, 2001.

  1. patrickroberts


    Aug 21, 2000
    Wales, UK
    are there such things as bass chords..if so...where can i learn how to play them?
  2. Cornbread


    Jun 20, 2000
    Lawrence, Ma
    Yes. Check out Michael Dimin's forum and webpage for some great examples.
  3. get an album from oteil burbridge, he plays with new allman bros band, aquarium rescue unit and i beliee he has some solo work out. he is very good at chords on the bass.
  4. maxvalentino

    maxvalentino Endorsing Artist Godin Guitars/ Thomastik-Infeld

    it is totally possible to play chords on the bass. I do all the time. I am a solo bassist....and do A LOT of chord and chord melody playing.
    How to learn them? It takes a bit of time. Michael Dimnin (sorry about that spelling) does have a book out which I think is called "The Chordal Way" (check his website for this)and that might be one of the few method or instruction books I know of on doing bass chords....
    The way I learned was thru the study of Harmony. Chords are formed by playing 3 or more selected intervals from a scale...just like a guitarist or keyboardist might do. Find a harmony study book, one that shows the formulas for different chord types (maj, minor, dim, aug, 7 etc.) the formula is the interval ratio (that's a 7th chord)...for a minor it's 1,b3,5.....etc. etc.
    Then find those notes and intervals on the bass. Make a few charts showing fingering forms. Draw up inversions of those chords (moving the root note from the lowest position). Develop a vocabulary of those chords.
    Note...because of the range of our instrument, chording usually works best in the higher registers. Also note that it is possible to IMPLY a larger chord without playing all the notes technically contained therein (i.e. you can imply a 9th or a 13th or a min7b5 with playing a five note cluster....which can be quite muddy sounding on bass)
    Then try to use you newly aquired chordal vocabulary to learn a song. The first chordal bass tune I learned was "Blackbird" by the Beatles (partly to infuriate my guitarist)...then "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"....since then the list has grown and grown.
    The real challenge, and the most fun, is composing your own stuff using your new-found techniques.
    Using chords WON'T get you more gigs....in fact I have been fired from bands just 'cos I played chordal bass parts IN REHEARSAL!!!! (some guit players really don't like feeling threatened!)...and 95% of the time you won't need to use your chordal technique. But thru the study of how chords work you can greatly increase you musicianship, your practical working knowledge of theory, and vastly improve the depth (harmonically and melodically) of your own compositions.
    Come to think of it, maybe I should write a book of bass chords.....I have several thousand charted out....
    best always, Max Valentino
  5. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Banned

    Dec 11, 1999
    The book is called "The Chordal Approach" and really looks at playing, voicing and using the chords within context. The index and some examples are at my site, www.michaeldimin.com or check out the "Off The Bookshelf" in March 2001 Bass Player Mag.

    I know there are some other books and articles out there (I remember one by Ed Friedland in BP a few years back), but most of these just show you how to play them and don't deal with the "why's".

  6. maxvalentino

    maxvalentino Endorsing Artist Godin Guitars/ Thomastik-Infeld

    Mike: I have heard your mp3's(incredible stuff!) and read some of your book...I highly recommend it for those interested in learning "The Chordal Approach"....I have thru years of study and research developed a large vocabulary of chord voicings for the bass, as well as a detailed "why and how" writing. Is there any market for such a "bass chord guide"? I have detailed multiple inversions and positions for not just basic Maj/min/dim/7th chords but also many extensions, and implied extensions (a.k.a. jazz voicings). Perhaps you have some tips on seeking a publisher or even DIY publishing....
    Thanks, Max Valentino
  7. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Banned

    Dec 11, 1999
    Thanks! I wrote The Chordal Approach to document the techniques that I had been working on since 1980 - not so much to really get in the book business. Therefore, I kind of see everything as "gravy". Writing the book was something I needed to do, marketing and distributing the book is another thing all together. Although I had major publisher interest, in the end it did not work out. I finally decided to self publish for the following reasons:

    1) I wanted control over how the book looked - I wanted spiral binding. How many publishers except Chuck Sher would spiral bind a book.

    2) I felt then, and still do, that a book on bass chords has a limited market, a small niche so to say.

    3) With the internet and the name recognition that comes from being a lesson columnist for Bass Frontiers and what I feel is a real quality book, I thought that I could market the book myself.

    4) marketing the book myself would give me a higher per book profit margin. Combined with the small market for the book, I felt that I could make up for the volume that might be generated my a major company.

    Max - Writing the book was a true joy and something that I not only needed to do but loved doing it. Marketing and distributing the book is a great deal of work. It takes contant vigilance not to mention a pretty good investment in time and money. I think you have to consider the time and money you would like to invest, your access to publishing, the marketibility of your book, etc. Please feel free to contact me with specific questions.

  8. Cornbread


    Jun 20, 2000
    Lawrence, Ma
    Mike, I have a question. Does your book have any information about chords on a six string bass, or is it only based on the four string? Or, does it deal mostly with concepts rather than particular chord voicings?
  9. How do you actually play the chords? Right now I'm using the back of my thumb nail, swing it up from the G string to the E string. Mostly I can only play R-5-Oct. Because I don't know any other chords lol.

    Do you need to barre the chords? I have a 4 string so that won't be a problem.
  10. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...try this cool "chord" that Mike Dimin hipped me to-
    Fretting Hand
    Index finger plays "E" @the 12th fret(E-string)
    Middle finger plays "D#" @the 13th fret(D-string)
    Pinky plays "B" @the 16th fret(G-string)
    The notes, E-D#-B, suggest an Emaj7(notice there's NO 3rd...G#).

    Plucking Hand
    Index finger plays the G-string
    Middle finger plays the D-string
    Thumb plays the E-string
    Attempt to play all three notes at the same "time".

    As far as 6-string bass chords...I dunno, maybe it's cause I used to play some guitar-
    A decent guitar chord book(like Mickey Baker's Jazz Guitar book)should "work". Granted, you'll have to compensate for the BEADGC bass tuning; IMO, that shouldn't be a problem.
  11. Cornbread


    Jun 20, 2000
    Lawrence, Ma
    I think I could figure out different voicings by myself, but I'm not as hip to the whole harmonization thing. I usually play root, 3rd, 7, and sometimes I add in a 10th or take out the 3rd in favor of a 10th. But I don't usually play the 5th(unless it's a b5 chord). And sometimes I will play simple root, 3rd, 8th triads. Chord voicings are really cool things to play around with. I wrote out a few chord voicings for a guitar friend based on the way I would play them, and he said they sounded bad or were not strum-able. I should learn how guitarists typically play their chords. I know you've written about that before, JimK.
    Fun stuff!
  12. Ok, so how do you actually strum them? I'm now using either the back of my thumb or all 4 of my other fingers going down from E to G.
  13. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...uh, you don't strum a bass, you pluck a bass. Haven't you seen the VH-1 "Behind The Music" special with The Partridge Family? :D

    Of course you "can" strum the strings; your technique(which sounds similiar to that of a Flamenco guitarist)will work.
    Another way is to use a pick/plectrum.
    Still, you can "arpeggiate" the chord by plucking like a Classical or Folk guitarist.

    On the very rare times I play a chord, I use the thumb to play the E-string & either the index/middle to play the G & D strings.
    ***NO STRUMMING*** :D
  14. Yea, lol...

    A Flamenco strum?????
  15. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Banned

    Dec 11, 1999
    The book is much more conceptual with practical applications and examples. Although the examples are for 4 string the concepts are universally applicable.

  16. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Banned

    Dec 11, 1999
    I mostly use a classical guitar style. Thumb on the bass notes and first and second fingers on the higher strings. I can play triple stops that way or get cool arpeggiated figures. (Is that a word - "arpeggiated"?)

  17. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Banned

    Dec 11, 1999
    Glad I'm finally getting around to answer these things. That chord is the first chord in my solo arrangement of Jaco's "Three Views of a Secret" The chord is an E maj7 and I needed to get the high B as the melody note. That arrangement is full of those kind of voicings. I jst recorded it. As soon as I figure out all the facts about recording license on the internet, I'll try to post it at my MP3 site www.mp3.com/diminbass. There is kind of a lousy verison somewhere on my site. I would tell you where, if I could remember.

  18. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Banned

    Dec 11, 1999
    It is all about voicings and reharmonization that makes it hip. A guitar player doesn't have to worryt to much about vocings.

    JimK - I thought that I was the only person who watched that behind the music of the Partridge Family - ahhh - Susan Dey

  19. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999

    ...thanks for your input(& the Emaj7 chord)!

    Maybe it's me, I "worry" about the guitarist's voicings. Example: Say I write a tune with an Amin7 voiced as(low to high)-
    D-G note(5th fret)
    G-C note(5th fret)
    B-E note(5th fret)
    E-A note(5th fret)

    "Looks" like Am7(A-C-E-G); if I choose to play an "F" under it, what happens?
    (I do know it sounds muddled when a guitarist decides to add the E & A strings into the voicing). ;)

    Susan Dey...
    I didn't notice her problem back then, but, man, she did need to eat something, huh? ;)
  20. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Banned

    Dec 11, 1999
    If you play an F underneath it, the chord becomes an F maj7 add 9. Jaco did quite a bit of that on Joni Mitchell' Hejeira recording. Actually changing some of her chords by adding different bass notes. When I talk about guitar player don't have to worry about voicings, I am really talking about the fact that they can voice 3rds in the lower register and it can still be intelligible. That is something we, as bass players, have to be much more keenly aware of.

    Yeah, who though of eating disorders when your 10 years old and watching a goddess on TV.


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