Identifying the root

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by boringbassist, Jul 13, 2019.

  1. boringbassist


    Jul 13, 2019
    Hey guys!
    how are you doing? Im playing bass for 10 years now but i still dont get the concept of root. Many times when playing along songs im just playing a steady one note in the bass and i guess thats the root.

    This may sound strange. Sometimes I can identify Octaves, fifths and sevenths. But i still dont get the idea of root.

    I know its the lowest note played of a chord.

    Do I have to hear what the guitarist is playing to know if im playing the root note?

    Thanks in advance!

    All the best,
    jamro217 likes this.
  2. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    It's the note the chord is named after, which is not always the lowest note being played.
  3. bass12

    bass12 Have You Met Grace Jones?

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    The lowest note in the chord is the root when that chord is being played in “root position”, but not if the chord is an inversion. It sounds as if you would benefit from some theory and basic ear training. I would recommend finding a teacher or, at the very least, getting some books that will help guide you. “Edly’s Music Theory For Practical People” may be a good place to start.
    IamGroot and Artman like this.
  4. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Inactive

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    If you've been playing 10 years and don't understand the concept of a root note, I would strongly suggest some lessons. I don't mean that sarcastically or unkindly, but am trying to be helpful.
  5. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    The root is the note you measure from, to find those other intervals. The root is an octave below the octave, a 5th below the 5th, and a 7th below the 7th.

    Any time you measure, you have to measure from someplace, right? The concept of "root" is that "someplace." It's like if you are giving directions, it's not enough to say, "go west one mile;" you have to say one mile from where, like "from the airport, go west one mile." The root in music is the starting point for navigation.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2019
    interp, And I, jamro217 and 2 others like this.
  6. Fred Pucci

    Fred Pucci

    May 2, 2019
    Be a “boring bassist” no more! Like a few others have said, you really should consider learning the basics of music theory. It will give you the knowledge you need to understand what to play (and why) when you see the chords of a song. That will free you up from being a one note (root) bassist, by expanding your vocabulary to include the other chord tones (and non chord tones sometimes, too).
    From personal experience, having been a self taught player for years, I benefitted greatly when I invested in a music theory course. Highly recommend Ariane Cap’s “Music Theory for the Bass Player”! (Videos included with the book (Music Theory for the Bass Player))
    Start with the book for around $30, and if you want to go more in depth she offers a wonderful online course, too. Good Luck!
    LowActionHero, Bioflava and Artman like this.
  7. Malcolm35

    Malcolm35 Supporting Member

    Ask that question of any bassist friend you have and he/she can show you how to find the root in about three minutes. I just typed 100 + words that I omitted as it would just confuse you.

    Get a buddy to show you some fake chord sheet music and go into detail about roots.

    Good luck.
    Whousedtoplay likes this.
  8. Wissen

    Wissen Supporting Member

    Nov 11, 2007
    Central PA
    C is the Root note of a C chord. G is the Root note of a G chord. D is the Root note of a Dmin7sus11.

    So when you are discussing the chord structure of a song and the guitarist says "It goes G D Em C", what he did was call out the Root notes of the four chords in the progression.

    Root differs from Key, because each chord has a Root, but a whole song only has one Key. So the progression above is in the Key of G, and your bassline should be built upon the Root note of each of those chords (G D E C).

    Lastly, a chord has at least three notes (two intervals for the pedants). A G chord is G-B-D, and G is the Root. Picture a piano keyboard, even if you don't know how to play piano. Others have mentioned inversions, which means you could arrange the notes B-G-D or any order. But if the three notes involved are G,B, and D in any order or octave top to bottom, that is a G chord, and G is the Root note.

    Practical example: in the chord progression above, you could decide as a bass player that you want your bassline to be "G-F#-E-C", which is a pretty standard descending bassline. You would be playing the Root note in 3 of the 4 chords.

    The exception? That F#. That is not the Root note of the D chord, but it is a note IN the D chord, so it works really well. That's the easiest example of when, as a bass player, it makes sense for you to NOT play the Root note.

    Tl;dr - The Root note of a chord is the letter that gives the chord its name. Regardless of any other information you put into the chord name.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2019
    jamro217, Mushroo and J Gold like this.
  9. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    What took you so long to join our famous TalkBass forum? ;)
    All your questions would have been answered many years ago.:thumbsup: :drool:
    Artman and jamro217 like this.
  10. DrayMiles


    Feb 24, 2007
    East Coast
    Once you learn theory no sexual encounter will ever compare. And...
    It will let you keep the house if you stray and get a day job.
    Rilence and jamro217 like this.
  11. Please disregard thr vid title, as it is youtube click bait. However, you should check it out for five examples of Cliff Williams playing around the root on hard rock classics.
    Bioflava likes this.
  12. Manuel...
    I'm sure clarity is only an "aha" moment away (perhaps for both of us), so I just have to ask... You've been playing bass for 10 years. How did you learn to play any songs? If you're just playing that one note while playing a song, how did you know which note to play? Is this just a terminology question? While I understand what the question is, I'm not sure why, if you know what a 5th and a 3rd how you could not understand what a root is, as in bass playing learning the roots of chords comes way before 5ths and 3rds.
  13. foolforthecity

    foolforthecity Supporting Member

    Manuel, you should really look into this book

    Music Theory for the Bass Player, by Ariane Cap. This will solve all your root note woes.

    Oops, gig time - see ya’ll about 2:30 Sunday morning!
    Bioflava and Artman like this.
  14. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Most of our music is based on tertian harmony. This basically means chords are formed by stacking major and minor thirds.

    You can form major, minor, and diminished triads out of various combinations of major and minor thirds. The intervals are then labeled 1,3,5, and the root is 1. FYI, triads are just simple chords with only three notes.

    If you stack another third on top of a triad you get the 7th chords and the intervals are labeled 1,3,5,7. Again, the root is 1.

    When intervals are stacked 1,3,5 or 1,3,5,7 the chord is said to be in root position. Notice the root is the lowest note here.

    However, the root is not always the lowest note. For example if you have a triad in first inversion, the order of the intervals is 3,5,1. 1 is still the root of the chord, even though the bass plays the third. Likewise, in second inversion you get the intervals 5,1,3. Again 1 is still the root.

    Here's a web pages that shows triad inversions on piano and sheet music.

    With 7th chords you have 1st, 2nd, and 3rd inversion. With 3rd inversion, the 7th is in the bass and the intervals are 7,1,3,5. 1 is still the root.

    Here's a web pages that shows the 7th chord inversions on piano and sheet music.

    Hope this helps more than it confuses.

    The root directory to the webpage is here. - Lessons
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2019
  15. baileyboy

    baileyboy Inactive

    Aug 12, 2010
    Well-Explained. If you are accomplished as a player, I think you may make a good bass teacher for someone just learning to play bass.
    Mushroo likes this.
  16. Coot


    Nov 14, 2018
    I used to play all by ear and memory. I still can't read music worth a damn , but I did take the time to REALLY get to know my scales. That's a very good place to start. Learning about the " Circle of Fifth's " helps a lot for a whole bunch of stuff too.. good luck..( you can do it !!)
    baileyboy likes this.
  17. john m

    john m Supporting Member

    Jan 15, 2006
    If you are identifying intervals, you must know the root. The interval is based off it.
  18. TNCreature

    TNCreature Jinkies! Supporting Member

    Jan 25, 2010
    Philadelphia Burbs
    cybertect, Plectrum72 and Mushroo like this.
  19. Eddie LeBlanc

    Eddie LeBlanc

    Oct 26, 2014
    Beaumont, Texas
    Don't create no problem, won't be no problem.

    Oh you said Root..... Never mind......
    IamGroot likes this.
  20. IamGroot


    Jan 18, 2018
    I Am Groot

    A C E G Am7
    C E G A C6

    I Am Groot
    foal30 likes this.