A chord is defined as any two or more notes played together. As bassists we are accustomed, most of the time, to playing in a linear fashion. It’s fun and important also to aquaint ourselves with the different chord qualities that emerge when combining 2 or more tones played simultaneously. The way I like to start this is with the two note chords and in future lessons I will cover triads and 4 note chords.
Letter A in the notation below lists all the possible intervals/chords. I tried to stay mainly in the key of G major when I could. There is a list of each chord/interval and how to find it on your bass. The placement of each interval on the neck only applies in standard tuning. I give options of an open string root when the stretch may be too far on the neck.
1.) minor 2nd-located 1/2 step away from the root, very dissonant and sounds more like your bass is out of tune. This certain tone sounds great when moved up an octave and is used as the 9th.
2. Major 2nd-located 1 whole step away from the root. I had to use the open string in order to physically play it. Not as dissonant as the minor 2nd but also used a lot more an octave higher.
3.) minor 3rd-located 1 whole step and a 1/2 step away from the root, on your bass this is 1 string over and 2 frets back. This is one of the best chord tones to help define a minor chord.
4.) Major 3rd-located 2 whole steps away from the root, on your bass this is 1 string over and 1 fret back. This is also an important chord tone in defining major/minor tonality.
5.) Perfect 4th-located 2 whole steps and a 1/2 step from the root, on your bass it is 1 string over and it’s on the exact same fret as the root.
6.) Augmented 4 AKA diminished 5th-located 3 whole steps from the root, on your bass this is 1 string over and 1 fret up. This is also commonly refferred to as the flat (b) 5. This chord has dissonance.
7.) Perfect 5th-located 3 whole steps and a 1/2 step from the root, on your bass this is 1 string over and 2 frets up. This is a very popular chord tone.
8.) minor 6th-located 4 whole steps from the root, on your bass this is 1 string over and 3 frets up.
9.) Major 6th-located 4 whole steps and a 1/2 step above the root, on your bass this is most easily played (unless you have a massive hand/fret stretch) with your root being on a lower string and then going 2 strings over and 1 fret back. If you do have the stretch then just go over 1 string and 4 frets up.
10.) minor 7th-located 5 whole steps from the root, on your bass, find your root on a lower pitched string and the minor 7th will be 2 strings over and on the same fret as the root.
11.) Major 7th-located 5 whole steps and a 1/2 step from the root, on your bass this is 2 strings over and 1 fret up. I also think of it as just being 1/2 step below the octave.
12.) Octave-located 6 whole steps above the root, this is the root repeated higher. On your bass this note is 2 strings over and 2 frets up. Another popular bass tone that if you are not a beginner have played thousands of times. (Side note-author’s favorite use of octaves in a bassline, toss up between Flea’s slap line in RHCP’s version of Stevie Wonder’s ”Higher Ground” and The almighty Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”)
At letter B, I use the same root for each interval so you can really hear how the sound relationship is changing between the 2 notes. If you can’t make the stretch in the first minor 2nd interval then just use the open D string as the root instead of the 12th fret. You’ll be hearing the b9 but you’ll still have an idea of the sound. Another option would be to tap each note using both hands.
At letter C, I have written out the beginning to one of my favorite holiday tunes. I have added the 2nd descending line from the song on the first beat of every measure, which allows you to practice some of these 2 note chords.
Listen in MP3 format: 2 Note Chords and Holiday Song
I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and get lots of new gear this year!
Enjoy your BASS!!!