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Bass Chords?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Fatstrat622, Mar 6, 2020.

  1. Fatstrat622


    Feb 4, 2020
    I have a newbie question regarding playing chords on the bass. I saw an online bass tutor touting playing bass chords. I understand from the guitar world about playing chords, but am having a hard time with them bass playing. They sound muddy to me. Probably me still working things out, but wanted to know from the bass community if chords are a normal bass element or rarely used.
    DonH likes this.
  2. thabassmon


    Sep 26, 2013
    New Zealand
    Low open chords can sound muddy. People often use tenths to clear up the sound.

    Chords can have all the clarity and/complexity you want it's all in how you voice them.

    So chords aren't really typical but they are becoming more popular.

    Even the first gig I ever played I played bass lines and chords (w/ sax and drums).

    So no it's not really normal but it is normal for me, I don't think there has been a day in the last five years that I haven't played at least one bass chord.

    Any form of the instrument can work but additional strings allows more polyphony and range and in turn complexity if desired. Harmonics can also be incorporated into voicings.

    Which is why I now use six tuned E1-F3 all the range of a standard bass and an extended high range for clear chord voicings.
    DonH likes this.
  3. Malcolm35


    Aug 7, 2018
    Playing chords, yes we are to follow the chords and play......notes of the chord. One note at a time. Strumming the chord is best left for later. How much later? Several years. It does, as you said, get muddy.

    Yes you can form and strum a chord, however, that is something you may do after you get root on one and using the chord's notes to form your bass line down. For example:

    C = R-3-5. Your bass line could be root on the first beat and the five on the third beat, or R-5-8-5 or R-R-R-R, etc.
    Cm = R-b3-5 As this is a minor chord the b3 needs to be in your bass line...
    C7 = R-3-5-b7. And the b7 begs to be heard.

    Roots plus a five have played zillions of songs. A bass line need not be complicated. The beat is the thing, what notes we use is secondary, as long as they sound good with what the song is doing, at this moment in time.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2020
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  4. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    The bass guitar is the bass-pitched member of the guitar family of instruments. Anything you can do on a guitar, you can also do on a bass guitar (including chords!) because the bass guitar, is a guitar.

    As mentioned above, wider voicings tend to sound less muddy than close voicings, on the bass. For example 10ths often sound better than 3rds.
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  5. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music. Supporting Member

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  6. Fatstrat622


    Feb 4, 2020
    Wow. Awesome video. Seeing Oteil Burbridge is amazing. Recently saw Tedeshi Trucks Band play in DC last month. What a band! I am not worthy after seeing his chord playing. Six string bass with the low string being a B is interesting. Need to rewire my brain from playing guitar somewhat.
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  7. Fatstrat622


    Feb 4, 2020
    Very cool. This makes more sense and helps alot. Did not think of chords in this way, but will make playing more interesting. This is more helpful than my bass books!
    DonH likes this.
  8. Riff Ranger

    Riff Ranger Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2018
    Bigfoot Country
    Do you know about the Bass VI (typically tuned EADGBE, one octave below the guitar, short scale, narrow string spacing), as opposed to the six-string bass (typically tuned BEADGC, long scale, wide string spacing)? The Bass VI sounds like a natural fit for you.
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  9. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Malcolm is a TalkBass treasure. :)
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  10. Fatstrat622


    Feb 4, 2020
    No, didn't know that. Cool! Something to check out for sure. I figured I would start bass with a four string to get the basics (no pun intended?!) and go from there. Now to work in another instrument with my wife after I said the bass is my last guitar...lol
    Monterey Bay-ss likes this.
  11. Riff Ranger

    Riff Ranger Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2018
    Bigfoot Country
    At least the Bass VI is one of the stronger cases for the “but this one’s different!” justification.
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  12. Fatstrat622


    Feb 4, 2020
    Hmmm...I used that one when getting a bass over another guitar, but to your point, it really is different from other basses. I guess the time is near to get more than one bass! It was bound to happen.
    Monterey Bay-ss likes this.
  13. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    When you play multiple notes on a bass, you get the notes you're playing, plus some difference frequencies. The difference stuff is due to non-linearities in our pickups, amps, speakers, and ears. I'll skip the Physics/Psychoacoustics lecture here, and assume that's a good enough explanation for this thread) If you play a Low E (41 Hz) and an octave higher (82), the difference note (82-41) is 41 Hz - that same as your low E. That works. But a Low E and a third up, the difference note is REALLY low in frequency - that's the source of your mud.

    As you go up in pitch, you can play closer intervals and get away with it. Octaves work anywhere. A 5th (which is a note at one and a half times the frequency, so the difference note is an octave below the lower note) works OK somewhere a few frets up on the A string and up (exactly where it starts to sound OK depends somewhat on your gear) - I sometimes use the C. C#, or D on that string plus a fifth up at times to make it sound thicker (since I can't play it lower - assuming I'm on a 4 string). You can play thirds, but as they're closer n pitch than 5ths, you need to be even further up in pitch for that to sound OK.
  14. pbass2


    Jan 25, 2007
    Los Angeles
    Or get a baritone guitar! Kind of right in between the two, essentially. Very cool sound, very useful too.
  15. Manticore


    Feb 27, 2016
    Use wider intervals to clarify the sound of chords. This is where a six-string bass really shines.
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  16. vvvmmm


    Dec 6, 2016
    Because, J. Mascis.

    DonH likes this.
  17. Playing chords on bass is sort of rare. It's done in special situations or in songs written for it, but the vast majority of songs have bass lines that are one note at a time.

    It's still very important for a bass player to understand what chords are and what notes are in them, because those are the notes you focus on in your bass lines.

    But don't feel pressured to go out and buy a 6 string bass or any of that fancy stuff; a plain old 4 string is sufficient for most tunes and is probably best for learning the basics. Later, when you're proficient and you feel like you really need to do something a 4 strong can't, start checking out songs that use 5 or 6 string basses, or Bass VI type instruments.

    One band I now off the top of my head that made use of the Bass Vi is the Cure, example.
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  18. Tony In Philly

    Tony In Philly Supporting Member

    Oct 25, 2007
    Filthydelphia, USA
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  19. Fatstrat622


    Feb 4, 2020
    Good examples. I tried a few "power chords" (1 and 5th) with root on the E string and it was not good. The physics is interesting regarding difference in the frequencies.
  20. nilorius

    nilorius Inactive

    Oct 27, 2016
    Riga - Latvia
    Bass is not made to play chords, At first it is quite hard on 5 or 4, 6 may be better, but if you want those chord sound cool, there are a work with your standart eq. At my songs, i use chords rare, when i am free from other instruments.
    DonH likes this.
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