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Playing chords on a 4 string

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by jrklmx(Andrew), Mar 31, 2009.

  1. jrklmx(Andrew)


    Mar 31, 2009
    For creative purposes, what chords can you play on bass? *standard tuning*

    I can play
    power chords (1 and 5)
    power chords with the added octave
    a moveable 7#9 chord shape where the bass note is on the E string (A7#9 root 3rd minor 7 #9 etc.)
    and I've been experimenting with 6ths and inversions of chords.
    I tend to play all these in the second octave of the bass so its not so muddy.

    Can you guys tell me anymore chords/chord shapes you play on bass and how to voice them?
    I'm a new member so sorry if this topic has been discussed before.
  2. TrooperFarva


    Nov 25, 2004
    New City, NY
  3. nortonrider


    Nov 20, 2007
    ...So, you don't know either?
  4. mellowgerman


    Jan 23, 2008
    Orlando, FL
    if you want to hear some awesome 4string chord work and get some new ideas, check out this video ;)
    (particularly the solo, starting around the 2:25 mark)
  5. thirtypoint87


    Feb 9, 2004
    Manager/Repairman: Music-Go-Round
    In my experience, chords on the bass usually sound like a big, dumb, muddy mess unless they're played on the D and G strings.

    The "go-to" chords:

    Root on the D and then on the G: a) down two frets for a minor third, b) down one fret for a major third, or c) up two frets for a perfect fifth.

    Root on the G and then on the D: a) down 4 frets for a minor third, b) down 3 frets for a major third, c) same fret for a perfect fifth.

    hope this helps!
  6. +1
    Great book.
  7. 20db pad

    20db pad

    Feb 11, 2003
    I been everywhere, man...
    None. At all.
    A very common voicing uses major and minor tenths - an example of a major tenth would be an E on the 12th fret on the E string along with a G# played on the 13th fret of the G string. The minor version is the same root note of E in the same place with a G played on the 12th fret of the G string.

    These voicings can function as a sparsely voiced major or minor chord, respectively. There's some argument as to whether a two notes actually form a chord in the world of proper music theory, but it works on the gig regardless of the name.
  8. That's awesome.
    I just placed an order for a 10 cent used copy. :D
  9. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
  10. nortonrider


    Nov 20, 2007
    DITTO! Very Nice.
  11. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Sad thing is that I've forgotten how to play most of them at this point :D

    jrklmx(Andrew)- I will say that, even when using a six-string bass, playing three-note chords almost always sounds better than four-note chords, which is why I've included fingerings for the chords without the 5ths whenever possible.
  12. ric stave

    ric stave

    May 6, 2006
    Buffalo, NY

    Check her out....
  13. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Tenths (root on the 4th, third on the 1st string)
    Tri-tones (e.g. D and G# at the 12/13 frets)- That'll give you either an E7 or Bb7. You can toss in the root down lower, especially if you use your right hand to hammer on a fretted note.

    Except technically, those aren't chords because a chord has 3 tones, not two.

    One of my favorites is one I copped from Nathan East- Play an F or F# on the first string, the open second string, and the A at the 12th fret of the third string. It's a very nice and useful voice of the D or Dmin chord.

    Also, learn harmonics- they'll open up a world of possibilities for chords without either loosisng the fundemental nature of the bass, or getting muddy.

  14. Darkstrike

    Darkstrike Return Of The King!

    Sep 14, 2007
    I love that book, but it'd be a million times better with a technique section etc.
  15. Hoover

    Hoover Banned

    Nov 2, 2007
    New York City
    Add the 6th or 7th* on the 2nd string and you're golden. And practically unlimited in terms of "What chords can you play?"

    * (or, if you're flexible and/or willing to use your thumb for the root, the 9th)
  16. Spinal Tapper

    Spinal Tapper

    Nov 15, 2007
    Nice! I got a 6 cent copy!
  17. Yes, but chords can be implied in forward motion. In much of Jeff Berlin's polyphonic work, a great deal of the "chords" are played as double-stops and arpeggios.

    Given the frequency range of the bass, closely voiced chords get muddy in the lower registers, so it's best to stick with wide voicings and upper positions. Also, bear in mind, you don't have to play all of the notes in a chord to get the "chord."

    For example, an A7 doesn't have to be played as A-C#-E-G (nor as a A-E-G-C# barre chord). You can jump to the 12th fret and drop the 5th, making it A-C#-G, and the effect is the same. The two important tones are the C# and G, which impart forward motion. Those easily move to D and F#, and the effect is the same, without all the muddiness.

    In fact, if A was in a previous chord, you can drop the root as well.

    If you've got the time, track down some books on general counterpoint or voice leading. There's alot in there about playing the bass, even if it's not stated.
  18. I play a lot of chords, I don't find them muddy on the low strings, but I play pretty clanky basses (Stingray, Ric) and I have clanky fingers ;)
    I've been working with a lot more minor thirds when I can, as well as I think minor7ths(?) or aug6ths or something (Root, then same fret two strings higher)

    Also I thinking of basically forgetting power chords forever, and using augmented 5ths (Root then one string and 3 frets up).

    These are all technically double stops and not chords.
  19. drudonit


    Jan 30, 2009
    as he said, if it sounds good play it, for me everything is a curiousity thing, i play a note then i pick a fret that looks like it could be on the penatonic scale of the note but it's been like six years since I've had any music lessons, and then I pluck it to see if it naturally goes with it. If it works I'll do it again, if not then no. It's all a game of finding a pattern on the neck not really playing something on command.

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