chording help

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by desdinovabass, May 14, 2004.

  1. okay i've been trying to incorporate some chords and double stops in to my bass playing, and i tried searching and i couldn't really find the answers i was looking for. i got the doublestops down ok, but i was wanting to know if there were any tips you guys could give me on playing chords, like finger position, tips on how to add them into songs, and anything else that may be useful, and of course fun to play, it doesn't really matter if it's with a pick or fingers because i tend to change my mind all the time with how i play, and i want to be able to be good at chording with both fingers and picking, well thanks in advance and any links to anything that would help me would be appreciated as well:D
  2. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    This is a broad topic to address, but here goes.

    If you do not understand chord structure, here's a brief lesson.

    A major triad consists of 1-3-5 of the major scale (do-mi-so). These are called major chords.

    A minor triad is similar but the third step of the major scale is flatted. To construct a minor chord play 1-b3-5.

    Keep in mind that the 1 (or root) does not have to be the lowest pitched note of the chord. Often, an inversion is easier to finger - and can make for some cool sounds.

    Regarding fingering, I would suggest that you figure out the fingering that works best for you. Try to keep your fingers parallel to the frets and relax your fretting hand.

    My suggestion for adding chords to songs is to initially go overboard, adding chords in as many places as you possibly can. This would probably not be appropriate in a band situation (too busy), but will proably help you learn.

    Later, you can winnow the number of chords you play in each song to the few that sound the best.

    One last pointer - avoid playing chords with two or more really low notes that are fairly close together intervallic-ly (the lowest F along with the A that's only two steps higher). This sounds like mush.

    Good luck to you.
  3. datbassmon


    Jan 24, 2003
    Ive found that leaving the 5th out of the chord takes away some of the muddiness on bass...
    for example, if i want to play an F chord, I would hit F on the first fret of the E string and and A on the second fret of the G string, but I wouldn't bother worrying about finding a C to play...It just muddies it up and you actually hear the C anyway (Physics!!). I usually try to have an octave between the root and the third so it sounds as clean as possible(unless I am playing high up the neck).

    Also, it sound really cool if you incorporate sevenths & ninths etc. Its really easy, too...
    C7-15th fret of A string, 14th of D, 15th of G
    Cm7-15th of A, 13th of D, 15th of G
    CM7-15th of A, 14th of D, 16th of G

    Also, try tapping the third and seventh high up with your right hand, and the root way down low with your left...

    C7-3rd of A (LH), 14th of D, 15th of G(RH)

    The best part about incorperating 3rds and 7ths, is that, since they are related by a 4th or 5th, its always easy to find a simple way to tap 'em, no matter what the progression. Just move between having the seventh or the third on top (highest note).

    Example progression:

    Cm7 3rd fret on A, 13th on D, 15th on G (seventh on top)
    Fm7 1st on E, 13th on D, 13th on G (third on top)
    AbM7 4th on E, 17th on D, 17th on G (third on top)\
    Gsus 3rd on E, 17th on D, 17th on G (fouth of top)
    G7 3rd on E, 15th on D, 16th on G (third on top)

    Notice how switching between the seventh and third being on top between the Cm7 and the Fm7 allows one note to remain constant and therefore minimilizes movement. Also, all the right hand notes are very easy to finger...

    Anyway...hope this helps some
  4. thanks that's helped some, but can anyone give me some tips on actually playing the chords i can manage ok with a pick but i'm havin troublr effectively playing them fingerstyle
  5. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    There are a variety of ways to play chords fingerstyle, it all depends on the sound you want to achieve. You can pluck the notes together, strum them, play flamenco-style. It all depends.
  6. can someone explain to me what flamenco-style is?
  7. Hmm. I think I know what you're trying to ask, but let me ask this question to make sure: are you trying to play all the notes of the chord at once or are you doing arpeggios? If it's the former then for fingerstyle you'd strum (I'd usually use thumb and forefinger). If it's the latter then you just play the notes individually. Generally "normal" chords don't sound too hot on bass. They're usually played as arpeggios.
  8. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Sorry, I should have been more descriptive in my post. Flamenco is a Spanish style of music and most commonly used on classical guitar playing, but many bassists adopt the style. Les Claypool, for instance, uses it quite a bit.

    An example would be the Primus song "Groundhog's Day": Take the C7 chord in the beginning of the song (C - 15th fret on the A string, E - 14th fret on the D string, and Bb - 15th fret on the G string). Fret all 3 strings with your left hand at the same time. And with your right hand, with the back of your fingers (nail side), "sweep" the strings down, then up with the padded side of your fingers and so on...

    I have a hard time explaining without showing lol, maybe someone can elaborate more.

    In any case, hope this helps. :)
  9. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"
    there is a book on this topic - a very good one, if you ask me. It is called The Chordal Approach and is available from

  10. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"
    The 5th is a note that is not needed and tends to muddy up the voicings of Major, Minor nd Dominant 7th chords. As does the 3rd so close to the root, on bass. Although I haven't checked out the site, it seems that the chord above was created more out of a theoretical rather than practical application

  11. I remember my first Jazz teacher complaining to me about that 1 3 7 voicing too (w/o the 5). He didn't seem to think it was a Major 7th chord. I think he saw the 1-5 relationship in the 3-7 and couldn't get past the idea that the 3 wasn't the root.

    I happen to love that voicing. I probably use it as much if not more than any other major 7th voicing. It's very easy to play and allows the barring of the 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 5th leaving the other fingers free to play melodically while holding down the root and 3rd. Plus, the most important thing, it sounds good to me. That was one of the first chords I learned 20 years ago. It's the first chord in my first song. Maybe I'm just more used to it.

    Those chords were created formulaicly in an attempt to document what complete chords are playable using the 1, 3, 5 and 7. Though not explained at my site, adding and removing notes from those chords is part of the intention of learning those chords. For example, lower the 5th on a Maj7 chord and you have a Maj7#11. Raise the 5th on a min7 and you have a min7b13. I realize that you're not really lowering or raising the 5th but changing it to a different note which is enharmonic with the lowered and raised fifth. Physically, it's not that difficult to adjust the 5th in many of those voicings.

    I don't think I agree that "the 5th note is not needed" in all cases. I assume that this doesn't apply to min7b5 or Dom7#5 chords where the diminished and augmented 5ths define the character of the chord. I also don't agree that a 3rd that close to the root sounds muddy on the bass. I suppose that how low it is played has a lot to do with it. Also, the tone of the instrument. A bass with a lot of higher-end harmonics will make dense chords sound less so. The lowest I generally play that 1 3 7 voicing ( w/o the 5th ) is a C on my A string. Lower than that and I generally opt for a 1 7 3 voicing.

    I respect your opinions though and I'm sure you have much more experience and musical education than I do. I have been studying and using these chords (the ones at my site) for about 15 years. I'm just expressing the things that I've discovered over the years and have found useful or that sound good to me. I feel that making music is about what sounds good and that there are no absolute rules about what is always bad and what is always good. The idea of parallel fifths being bad in classical 4-part harmony, for example. There probably isn't a single rock song that doesn't have a chord progression that exhibits parallel fifths. Does that mean that it sounds bad? Also, musical progress would never occur if everybody just followed the rules of what they were told was right and wrong.

    I must say though that any chord cannot be judged on its own anyway. It's all about context. I may play a chord with a particular voicing that sounds totally wrong but if you listen to the chords around it, it may sound right. Or, within the context of a chord-melody figure. Voice-leading has a lot to do with it but it's also just the aesthetics of the person listening to it. What sounds good to one person might not sound good to another. If the person who thinks it sounds bad or wrong has more credentials than the person who thought it sounded good, does that mean that it is wrong?

    I don't want to make this sound like I'm trying to incite an argument because I know you to be a nice guy and a great musician (we met at Bassquake, I sent you those photos). I do find it very surprising that you would react this way to what I feel is a beautiful chord.

    - Dave
  12. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"
    I, as well, am not trying to incite an argument. I remember you well and am extrememly grateful for the pics that you took. I think there is a link to your chromatic fantasy page on most pages on my web site. I think, perhaps, that I misunderstood your graphic. I thought you meant this all down on the 1st and 2nd fret. I agree with most of what you say and I differ on somethings, which is all well and good. I think, as well, that I should be more specific on certain comments that I made. Please, let me respond.

    I do agree that the abilty to barre makes reaching other melodic notes much easier. I also agree that if it sounds good that is the most important factor. Where I would disagree is the use of the 5th in major, minor and dom 7th chords. The ear/brain does some wonderful things. One phsyco-acoustic phenomena is that the brain fills in things that it is used to hearing - for ex. the perfect 5th on these chords, especially when played within context. Another cool example is the phone. The speakers on a phone do not reproduce the fundemental pitch, the brain fills it it.

    I agree, and your practical application of the #11 and b13. I would, however, be careful of thinking of either the #11 or b13 has an alteration of the fifth (from a theoretical standpoint) as you have stated. From a practical application standpoint, I usually try to put the tension in the highest voice (as it is often times the melody note)

    As I stated, Major, minor and dom 7th chords. I also agree that the bass, strings, technique, room, etc contribute to where you can play certain chords in certain voicings.

    The only thing that I would question is that you really look to young to be playing for 15 years. Time has obviously been much kinder to you than to me. :D

    Totally agree. Especially about the voice leading idea. Good voice leading makes many things that were unacceptible on their own, quite wonderful.

    I did not mean to incite or insult. I think I misread the graphic to mean in a certain position and not moveable as you intended. It was my honor and privilige to meet you as bassquake and I am forever grateful for the pics you made available to me. One final thing, if I may. You and I have a great deal of experience using chords in many different contexts. Rules about chords are just a way that we try to codify a technique AFTER it has been used. We create these rules to explain or teach. It is often stated that rules are made to be broken - I prefer to thing of the techniques that I present in my books as guidelines, a stepping off point for your own creativity - so that years down the line, someone will create rules from what you did. But guidelines, rules or whatever you want to call them are important to introduce the idea and give someone the basic tools to exapnd the vocabulary. That is why I write the books.

    Notice I said "books", I have a new book coming out on Mel Bay in the near future. It covers all that I did in The Chordal Approach but also includes arrangements and looping ideas/techniques. The working title is "The Art of Solo Bass". I am not sure if Mel Bay will keep that title

  13. Thanks for taking the time to respond in such detail. I think I went a little overboard in my response. Probably because that 137 voicing thing is such a staple of mine. Also, the honor should be mine. I had never been in the presense of so many talented bassists before. It was a very humbling yet inspring experience ( ). In fact, I was so inspired that I ordered an Echplex the next day and then finally got in touch with a drummer friend of mine to get together. I now have two bands with him with two amazing guitarists ( one of them being Gene Jun from the "legendary" ;) Idiot Flesh ). I will post some material once we get our web site going.

    To be fair (to you), those chord voicings were originally for guitar so simply transposing them to a 5-string bass does render many of them ( particularly, the ones that span 5 strings ) unplayable or unlistenable in most cases. So, I can easily see how one could question their validity when applied to the 5-string bass. Everything at the site was originally destined for 6-string and 7-string bass or guitar. Since there aren't many chords that span 7-strings, the movable voicings for 6-string bass sufficed for me. I wrote the software that generates those charts back in 1997 so I have all the 7-string charts available to me. The 5-string bass version was an afterthought. The entire sites are generated programmatically using simple data structures. Therefore, it was pretty easy to generate alternate versions of the site for different instruments.

    I've actually been playing for about 20 years, though, you wouldn't know if from my playing ability which speaks of maybe 10 years of semi-diligent practice. I started in 1984, I think. I had always wanted to play bass but my parents wouldn't buy me one since I already had a guitar. After I saw my first concert, Iron Maiden, I was inspired to push my parents again to let me take bass lessons.

    I should really have some instructions and disclaimers about those chords. They are very mathematical and algorithmic in their construction. However, that is exactly what I was trying to teach. I wanted to demonstrate how you can take a voicing pattern, apply it to a scale and generate a chord. It's not an approach that I see many teachers take. At least, not from such an algorithmic method. I did see an Al DiMeola book that had a simlar approach though. Perhaps it's not the best method but it does offer some insight that I don't often see demonstrated.

    The key was to get people (and myself) to understand the relationships between scales and chords in a way that offered the most flexibility and freedom. Scales and chords and the fretboard are related in a very mathematical way so they are well suited to an algorithmic approach for figuring out what exactly is possible to play.

    One of the points of the site was to bring Scales, Chords, and Arpeggios together into a coherent concept where the relations between them are all obvious to the player not only while looking at the charts but when just playing. After practicing with those charts for many years, I have found that my fingers already know them even if I'm not thinking of them consciously. It was that revelation that led to this project which actually started in about 1990 when I wrote my first chart generating program. Granted, I don't really present the information in a very tutorial-like manner. I did what I was good at and hoped that people who could use the information would understand what to do with it. Unfortunately, most people didn't or just didn't care which is why the site was abandoned shortly after it was created. I only spent a month or so on it so it wasn't that big of a deal to me.

    Anyway, I know I didn't get to all of your responses but suffice it to say that I respectfully agree with what you have said.

    Oh yeah, and good luck with your books! I'm heavily into looping now and loop with my drummer all the time. We sync up to a click track so the loops are generally dead-on. It was partially your performance at BQ that led me to where I am now.


  14. DaveBeny


    Mar 22, 2000
    London, UK
    There is a small book out there by Jonas Hellborg called 'Chordal Bassics', which gives fingering patterns for just about every type of chord you could want.