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Chord Tones (Help)

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Bass-4-God, Jan 14, 2013.

  1. Bass-4-God


    Feb 19, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    I was wondering if anyone could help me with understanding chord tones and how you use them in a song. I know the 1-3-5-7 of a chord but I feel like I am missing something when it comes to using it to play a bassline for a song if that makes any sense. Hoping someone can shed some light on this for me.

  2. Bass Mentor

    Bass Mentor

    Apr 30, 2012
    Nashville Tennessee
    endorsing artist: Lava Cable, E&O Mari, Rupert Neve Designs
    The first thing is learning how and why the chords in a song ''ask'' for one another. Diatonic chords are the first thing to study and understanding you are stacking triads to build chords-- BTW the way, key is being able to really hear this-- not just the simple math

    the rudimentary concepts in this vid are essential -- Go Slow and listen -- how well you play depends on it....

    Good Luck!
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  4. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Playing chord tones -- IMO -- you use as many of the chord tones as necessary. Use the ones needed for this specific song.

    Root on 1, five on the 3rd beat is a safe bass line. Need more the 8 is always safe, so R-5-8-5 is a generic safe bass line. Then comes the 6, it's neutral with major chords and I love the sound of R-3-5-6. Notice add the 2 and you have the major pentatonic scale - which is another story.....

    After the 6 the correct 3 and 7 (b3 and b7) can be used in your bass line. Kinda depends on how much room the song will give you. Here is my old rule of thumb.
    To recap - use as many of the chord's tones as needed, i.e. or as many as the song will allow between chord changes. Sometime just the root on the first beat is all that is needed. Other times you need more.....

    One last thing. Why do we even need chords? Answer; to harmonize the melody. When the melody line and the chord line share some of the same notes the two lines harmonize with each other. That's good. How many like notes are necessary? One per bar. That's why just the root works. Now two like notes would be better, however, three like notes per bar is not really necessary, does not hurt, but as you already have achieved harmonization with two notes....... give that some thought. Sometime less is more. R-R-8-8 comes to mind.

    Have fun.
  5. What style of music do you like? What are some of your favorite songs in this genre? Do your favorite bass players use chord tones in these songs, and why (for what musical effect)? Also, do they sometimes play notes that aren't chord tones, and what is the musical effect of that?

    For example I am kind of a deadhead, here is a song whose main riff (during the verse) uses chord tones but then the player introduces non-chord tones as the jam develops:

    The conversation is meaningless unless you are applying it to actual songs.
  6. Bass-4-God


    Feb 19, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    So many lessons I've seen will show how a line is derived from a scale, so is this the same thing.
  7. Bass-4-God


    Feb 19, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    I am a gospel player.
  8. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
  9. Do you play your gospel songs by ear, or are they written out? Either way, do you know how to identify what is a chord tone and what isn't? For example if you play a song with a C chord and the bass line is C-D-E, you know that C and E are the chord tones, and D is a non-chord "passing" tone?
  10. Bass-4-God


    Feb 19, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    Mushroo I quess this is part of the issue, I quess I don't know my chord tones. I play for a small church and I usually learn the songs by ear or just write out the progression of the song and go from there. So there is more to just the 1-3-5-7 etc.
  11. It sounds like you are on the right path, honestly I can't think of a better way to learn music. If you have spare time in your life then it might be fun to sit down at a piano and learn to read music and analyze harmonies, but that is purely optional in my opinion. :)
  12. bass12

    bass12 Fueled by chocolate Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    What are you wanting to do with the chord information? Build bass lines? Comp? Solo? Your job as the bass player in a group setting is usually going to be to keep things "rooted" and to firmly establish the foundation for the harmony. In most cases then you don't need to consider much more than your triad or triad-plus-seventh. Any extensions beyond the seventh are good to consider but are generally going to be more useful to the keyboard player or guitarist. If, for example, you're playing a walking bass line you have a very short amount of time to establish the chord. Your primary note responsibilities are going to be root, third and fifth. If you are comping (which I'm assuming you won't be doing any of in your current setting) then you have to choose which notes are most important in establishing how you want that chord to sound (which voicing, which notes you might leave out). If you are soloing over chords with extensions you can use those notes (nines, elevens) to help devise melodies that help emphasise the "nine-ness" of "eleven-ness" of the chords and those extensions will probably make the number of common notes across the chord sequence greater (a detail you can use to help construct your melodies/solos).
  13. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Chicken or egg..... The scale has a certain 7 notes, 8 with the octave.

    The chords made from that scale will use specific notes from that scale.

    Print this off and go over it a couple of times.

    Good luck.
  14. Bass-4-God


    Feb 19, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    The information is to help me become a more round player and to improve my playing. I want to grow as a bassist.
  15. Bass-4-God


    Feb 19, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    I was also told that learning chord tones would help me to learn my fret board as well, it this true?
  16. bass12

    bass12 Fueled by chocolate Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    The best thing would be for you to find a teacher. If you can't find a good bass teacher then look for a piano teacher in the style you are wanting to play.
  17. I have learned a lot about bass lines from the music of J.S. Bach.... I know that he wrote a lot of music for the church, and scores of his work are easy to find... Bach might be a good resource to improve your knowledge of harmony from beginner/intermediate to intermediate/advanced. His Cello Suites are fun to play on bass (if they're too difficult at first, then just play the bass/root note in each measure). Or for a great "intro to Bach" lesson, study Prelude 1 in C Major from Well Tempered Clavier and analyze the use of chord tones. :)

    That's assuming you like Bach, of course. If you hate his music and play a completely different style, then choose something more relevant. ;)
  18. bass12

    bass12 Fueled by chocolate Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Sure. But the best thing for learning your fingerboard, in my opinion, is reading. Can you read music? If not then that's something else to look into.
  19. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    First things first. Praise, Gospel music. Roots first, chord tones after you get roots flowing.

    Play from fake chord sheet music:

    A sign shall be given, a virgin will conceive.

    Just use roots and sing with the lyrics.
    On "sign" sound an A note - then the words "shall be" gets two A notes, i.e. one per lyric syllable. Then on Giv-en sound the F note, notice it's a two syllable word so it gets two F's. The word "a and vir" get an F note each, then the "gin" gets a G note, as will the word "will and conce" and then on the "ive" of conceive you move to the C note.

    See if that gets you any closer to what you need. Roots now walking chord tones later......

    Good luck.
  20. bass12

    bass12 Fueled by chocolate Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    The Bach suites are fun but it's easy to play them without knowing exactly what chords are being outlined. For the OPs needs I would recommend looking at jazz standards before I'd recommend delving into the Bach cello suites.
  21. That would depend a lot on which kind of church the OP is playing in. I WISH they played jazz standards in my church. ;)

    Also I understand Bach doesn't write the chord symbols above each measure; the goal of the exercise is to figure it out. ;) As a side benefit, they are excellent training to read bass clef.

    For example let's look at the famous Prelude from Cello Suite 1 in G Major. (First 10 seconds of this video:

    The notes in the first measure are (low to high): G-D-A-B

    What chord is implied here? G Major.
    Which are the chord tones? G (the 1st or root), D (the 5th), and B (the 3rd)
    Which are the non-chord tones and how/why are they used? A is a non-chord tone (the 2nd) used as a "neighbor" to B.
    Which note of the chord is the lowest or bass note? The root, G.

    Now do the same for measures 2, 3, and 4:

    m. 2: G-E-B-C
    m. 3: G-F#-B-C
    m. 4: G-G-A-B

    For each measure, repeat the questions: What chord is implied here? Which are the chord tones? Which are the non-chord tones and how/why are they used? How does the lowest or bass note fit into the harmony, and is it a chord tone or non-chord tone?

    Then ask, what is the overall 4-bar chord progression? Is this a common progression or an unusual one? How has the use of chord and non-chord tones, as well as the choice of bass notes, made this an interesting and beautiful piece of music? If you were a bass player playing ONLY the lowest note (G throughout, in this case), how does that relate to the passing chord in each measure?

    (The questions are for Bass-4-God, no help please from the peanut gallery.)