Category Archives: Bass Blog

Everything You Need to Know About Harmony on Bass Guitar

Everything you need to know about harmony on the bass 

Harmony is a lot simpler than most people think.

Like it or not the bass is a harmony instrument, bass lines have been around for centuries before the electric bass was invented and they’re the lowest harmony part. So Harmony and rhythm are our main functions as bass players. Rhythm is a much bigger and (in my opinion) much more interesting topic, but I wanted to make this video to show you exactly how simple harmony is.

Know the Chromatic Scale

The key to understanding harmony is first of all knowing that there are only 12 notes. Chromatic scale is simply a technical term for what you get when you play all 12 notes one after the other. If you’re not yet familiar with the chromatic scale, that is where you should start. It’s easier than learning the alphabet, there are more than twice as many letters in the alphabet than there are notes.

How Do You Avoid Playing Wrong Notes?

As bass players we usually play one note at a time. I know that you can play chords on the bass, I’ve made videos about it, but it isn’t our primary function. The term bass line implies one note at a time.

I am firmly of the opinion that there is no such thing as a wrong note. There are only 12 notes in total so if we start classifying some of these as wrong, we’re seriously limiting our options. There are inside notes and outside notes (I’ll explain these as I go on) and it’s our job as musicians to find ways of using them that makes sense musically.

Learn To Play Arpeggios!

So our job in terms of harmony is to choose which note out of the 12 we play at any one time. And the first thing that every bass player needs to know is chord tones or arpeggios. Arpeggio is just a classical term meaning all the notes of a chord played one at a time. Guitar players have chords and bass players have arpeggios. If you don’t know your arpeggios you will end up playing root notes all the time and your basslines will be boring.

How many notes in an arpeggio depends on the chord in question, but lets take an A7 chord for example. There are 4 notes (demonstrate). 4 out of 12. That’s already 1/3rd of all the notes and the chord tones are the strongest notes you can use in a harmonic situation.

What are Inside and Outside Notes?

Next is scale tones. Scales tend to have seven notes in them (not all I know, but standard major and minor scales and all their modes do). We’ve used four of them already in the arpeggio so there are three others that we can use as passing tones. These are the inside notes, notes that belong in the harmony. The remaining five notes that are not within the scale are the outside notes, you can think of these as chromatic passing notes.

So, Here’s Everything You Need to Know!

And that’s it, there are 12 notes, chord tones, scale tones and chromatic passing tones. It’s that simple. Your job is to learn what each of them sounds like, and the only way to do that is play them as much as you can. So cancel your application for that three year college course on advanced harmony and instead go forth and play your bass!

What Else is There?

Harmony and rhythm are the two biggest worlds in the language of music. And rhythm is much simpler than you might think as well, once you know how to sub-divide a beat into two, three and four. You know most of what you need to know about rhythm, but if you want more detail on rhythm you need to get my book Improve Your Groove. Here’s a link, https://geni.us/bassgroove

Enjoy!

Electric Bass – Improve Your Groove, Out Now!

My New Book Improve Your Groove is Here

3D Cover Image Improve Your Groove
Electric Bass – Improve Your Groove

Electric Bass – Improve Your Groove: The Essential Guide To Mastering Time and Feel on Bass Guitar

  • Crack the code of rhythm and groove
  • Develop incredible note placement and feel
  • Discover the secrets of syncopation
Order Improve Your Groove now via this link https://geni.us/bassgroove

When I started writing Electric Bass: Improve Your Groove in the summer of 2016, I set out to write a book to help bass players improve the most fundamental aspects of playing bass lines. Groove is exactly that. It’s the heart of what it is to be a bass player.

So I started by asking myself, what is groove? Can it be defined and more importantly, can you learn it?

Groove is a combination of many things, first and foremost time feel. To control the feel of your bass lines you must first have excellent timing. This involves firstly understanding rhythms and then having a system for playing them very accurately. So if you want to increase your rhythmic accuracy you must experience rhythmic sub-divisions when you play.

Therefore I decided to explain sub-divisions in the opening chapters of Improve Your Groove starting with the basics. Then I set out my system for improving rhythmic accuracy by using the sub-divisions.

Using Konnakol to Improve Your Groove

My system for experiencing sub-divisions involves first of all borrowing syllables from the ancient Indian system of vocalising rhythms called Konnakol. Which is sometimes called the ‘language of rhythm’. Using three simple sets of syllables from Konnakol you can very quickly learn to differentiate between eighth and sixteenth note grooves as well as triplets, shuffles and swing feels. As a result you will not only learn to differentiate each sub-division and time feel. You’ll also play them much more accurately by placing your notes on the sub-divisions

Finally, each time feel and sub-division is demonstrated using lots of Mp3 audio examples in a variety of styles. All the audio is downloadable for free from www.fundamental-changes.com.

Is there more to groove than great timing?

There certainly is. While timing is essential, there is more to being able to groove than just placing a note accurately onto a sub-division. Another huge aspect of groove is sharing your time feel with the musicians you play with. First of all you must know how to play with a drummer. There is no relationship in a band closer than the bass and drums, hence I’ve dedicated an entire section of the book to playing with drums. You must make the drummers sub-divisions your sub-divisions if you want the music to groove.

The Pieces

The final section of the book involves sharing a collective time feel in a group. For a performance to groove the whole group must groove and not just an individual. Therefore I’ve included five pieces with backing tracks to help you practise locking in with the collective feel.

In Conclusion

Groove is such a huge topic for bass players, so there will be more from me on the subject in the future. In my first book Electric Bass – Improve Your Groove I’ve laid out some approaches to rhythm and playing in a group that I believe will help any bass player to improve their groove.

“I hope that after reading this book you’ll start to think about time and rhythm in a different way and it will give you a deeper understanding of feel and groove and open up your playing to explore new musical cultures.”

I want to thank Joseph Alexander and Tim Pettingale at Fundamental Changes for publishing the book and making it look amazing.

Below is the product description from www.fundamental-changes.com

Improve Your Groove Cracks the Code of Rhythm, Groove and Feel on Electric Bass Guitar

Build your groove and play bass like a master

  • Discover how to groove flawlessly on electric bass in any style of music
  • Understand bass guitar rhythm and placement
  • Play in the pocket, every time.

Every bassist wants to play with great feel. It’s what ties a performance together, moves the music forward, and keeps it “in the pocket”. Therefore groove is what your audience wants to hear.

Electric Bass – Improve Your Groove is a complete course in rhythm  on bass. Groove is built by understanding rhythm, playing accurately and sharing that feel with other musicians.

What you’ll learn:

  • How to play in time on bass guitar
  • Learn to play “in the pocket” and create a tight, grooving performance
  • How to crack the code of rhythm
  • The secrets of syncopation and building your internal clock
  • The Konnakol vocal counting system to help you groove without thinking
  • 5 complete pieces with backing tracks that put theory into practice
  • Over 140 exercises and examples with FREE supporting audio to download

In Electric Bass – Improve your Groove, building perfect time and feel on bass is explained from absolute basics and teaches you how to play bass lines with great rhythm; from the simplest, to the most complex grooves.

You’ll discover grooving bass guitar rhythms and develop devastating accuracy and feel. Rock, Funk, Jazz, Blues and Latin feels on bass are all intimately addressed with over 140 examples and backing tracks.

Hear it!

Electric Bass – Improve Your Groove contains over 140 exercises and supporting audio examples so you can hear exactly how each exciting example should sound. Learn to lock in with the live backing tracks and dramatically boost your progress.

Buy it now and instantly become the bass guitar powerhouse of the band. https://geni.us/bassgroove

 

Warwick Artist Series Steve Bailey 6-String

Warwick Artist Series Steve Bailey 6-String

In this video I’m playing the composition Raju by John Mclaughlin and a vehicle for demonstrating my Warwick Artist Series Steve Bailey 6-String bass guitar.

Some of you will know that I’ve installed a Roland GK-3B divided pickup onto my Warwick Artist Series Steve Bailey 6-String bass. Most of my demo videos featuring this bass use the GK-3B and a Roland GR-55 guitar synth pedal.

I decided to make this video because I wanted to show what the bass sounds like without the Roland GR-55. In this video, I’m not using the GK-3B pickup at all, and you are hearing the bass exactly as it sounds coming out of the factory.

How is the quality of the Warwick Artist Series Steve Bailey 6-String?

Excellent, and as usual, Warwick’s commitment to using high quality and resonant wood to build their basses shines through. The bass has an Ovangkol neck with Ekanga veneer stripes and a Tigerstripe Ebony fingerboard. The body is made from Swamp Ash.

The shape of the bass is that of a Warwick Streamer Bass but Steve Bailey has slightly extended the cutaway to give better access to the upper frets. This is a good edition, you can see from the video that I like to play in the upper register which is why I choose this bass over the standard Streamer shape.

Another input from Steve Bailey is the electronics. The Warwick Artist Series Steve Bailey 6-String features active Seymour Duncan Soapbar pickups. The onboard preamp is Seymor Duncan Steve Bailey Active 2-way electronics.

Steve Bailey’s final input on his Artist Series bass is the fact that the standard model is fretless, however I’ve got the fretted version, because as good as this bass is, there’s no way that it’s as good as my fretless Thumb SC, check out my posts for that bass if you haven’t already.

Warwick Thumb SC Fretless with Warwick Hellborg Rig

In Conclusion

The Warwick Artist Series Steve Bailey 6-String is a high quality professional instrument. It has become a real work horse for me because I now use it for most of my gigs. So, that should tell you how good it is given the quality instruments I have at my disposal. The fretless version may not be in the same class as the Warwick Thumb SC. However at less than half the price of the Thumb SC, you can’t go wrong.

Warwick Artist Series Steve Bailey 6-String
Warwick Artist Series Steve Bailey 6-String

 

Johnny Cox & Lewis Davies – Bass and Drums Jam

Bass and Drums Jam Session

This is a video I shot with my friend Lewis Davies a few years ago. We spent the afternoon hanging out and having a jam at his studio. We recorded this to show what we came up with.

I took my Warwick “Steve Bailey” Artist Series bass and my Roland GR-55 over to my friend Lewis’ studio in South London during the summer of 2015. We spent the afternoon having a jam together and this is what we came up with. I hope you enjoy it.

Warwick Steve Bailey Artist Series Bass

You can find my video demo and written review of my 6-string Warwick Artist Series bass guitar by using this link.

https://johnnycoxmusic.com/warwick-artist-s…-bailey-6-string/

Roland GR-55 Synth Pedal

You can check out my video demos of the Roland GR-55 synth pedal along with the Roland GK-3B divided pickup by using this link.

https://johnnycoxmusic.com/roland-gr-55-war…tist-series-bass/

 

 

Johnny Cox & Siemy Di – Roland GR-55 Improvisation – Part 2

Jamming at Home Playing My Bass With a Roland GR-55 Guitar Synth

This is a video I shot at my house with my good friend Siemy Di. We didn’t prepare anything, we just turned on the camera and jammed. I’m using my Warwick “Steve Bailey” Artist Series Bass and a Roland GR-55.

Siemy Di and I have worked together since 2006 and we have a fantastic musical relationship. We were introduced when I was in my early twenties by a mentor, Lucky Ranku, leader of the African Jazz All-stars.

In the video I’m using my 6-string Warwick Artist Series Bass with a Roland GK-3B divided pickup that I installed by the bridge. I’m playing it through a Roland GR-55 guitar synth pedal. The pieces are entirely improvised.

Around the time this was filmed, Siemy Di and I were performing live regularly around East London at venues such as The Servant Jazz Quarters, The Vortex, Open The Gate and The Passing Clouds. The gigs were almost entirely improvised and we deliberately did very little preparation for each gig. Some performances were better than others but it was always great fun to play with a great musician like Siemy. This video captures a little taste of what those performances were like. Not perfect but always interesting.

Siemy Di and I are still close friends but we don’t do those gigs anymore. We both have young children now, so spending our evenings at jazz clubs is out of the question these days. Maybe one day in the future we’ll do something similar, although I imagine it will be quite different. This video captures a moment in time that was an important time for both musicians.

Check out Siemy Di’s Drumeo video here. I recorded all the bass and guitar parts for both the first and last pieces.

Johnny Cox and Siemy Di – Fretless Bass Improvisation

Jamming at Home with Siemy Di

This is a video I shot at my house with my good friend Siemy Di. We didn’t prepare anything, we just turned on the camera and jammed. I’m using my fretless Warwick Thumb SC and a loop pedal.

Siemy Di and I have worked together since 2006 and we have a fantastic musical relationship. We were introduced when I was in my early twenties by a mentor, Lucky Ranku, leader of the African Jazz All-stars.

In the video I’m using my 6-string Warwick Thumb SC and I’m playing it through a loop pedal. The piece is entirely improvised on the spot.

Around the time this was filmed, Siemy Di and I were performing live regularly around East London at venues such as The Servant Jazz Quarters, The Vortex, Open The Gate and The Passing Clouds. The gigs were almost entirely improvised and we deliberately did very little preparation for each gig. Some performances were better than others but it was always great fun to play with a great musician like Siemy. This video captures a little taste of what those performances were like. Not perfect but always interesting.

Siemy Di and I are still close friends but we don’t do those gigs anymore. We both have young children now, so spending our evenings at jazz clubs is out of the question these days. Maybe one day in the future we’ll do something similar, although I imagine it will be quite different. This video captures a moment in time that was an important time for both musicians.

Check out Siemy Di’s Drumeo video here. I recorded all the bass and guitar parts for both the first and last pieces.

Warwick Thumb SC Fretless with Warwick Hellborg Rig

Warwick Thumb SC Fretless

In this video, I’ll demonstrate my fretless Warwick Thumb Single Cut 6-string bass guitar. I’m playing one of my own compositions and the bass is being played through my Warwick Hellborg Amplifier rig, including the Hellborg preamp.

Why Fretless?

I’m a jazz musician at heart, so I love fretless bass guitars. My Warwick Thumb SC is now the only fretless bass I own, for the simple reason that it’s so good there was no point in keeping any of the others I’d owned previously. I owned two fretless basses before I purchased my Thumb SC and I sold them both on eBay within months of it arriving.

The tone of the bass is absolutely beautiful and the build quality and the quality of the wood are second to none. The body is made from Swamp Ash with a one inch Bubinga Pommele top. The neck is Flamed Maple and the fingerboard is Tigerstripe Ebony, which is a very hard wood, so even round wound strings won’t chew up the fingerboard.

It features full line inlays on the fretboard which is a custom shop option. All Warwick’s custom shop basses have their own page on their website. You can see mine by clicking on this link.

Johnny Cox’s Warwick Thumb SC 6

Why Fret Lines?

In my opinion, all fretless bass guitars should come with fret lines. I’ve never met anyone who has perfect intonation  without them. Really no one, and I’ve met many of the worlds best bassists. So, choosing not to have lines is just macho nonsense, there is no benefit to not having the lines. Jaco Pastorius had fret lines on his bass.

I’ve heard many people say, “double bass players don’t need lines on their fingerboards”. I know, and it’s not relevant because bass guitar necks are nothing like double bass necks. There are much more notes in a smaller space on a bass guitar neck which makes them almost impossible to hit accurately at high speed without markers. Also, double bass necks start narrow and get wider, so it’s much easier to feel where you are on the neck than it is on bass guitar.

In Conclusion

The Warwick Thumb SC is quite simply the best fretless bass I’ve ever played. In fact it’s the best bass I’ve ever played and that includes Fodera’s. It’s not cheap, but you get what you pay for. Don’t forget, if you want to go fretless, get the full line inlays.

Warwick Thumb SC fretless
Johnny Cox’s Warwick Thumb SC fretless

 

Left Hand Techniques for Bass Guitar

Learn Left Hand Techniques on Bass Guitar

In this video lesson, I’ll teach you the best and most efficient techniques for your left hand on the bass. I’ll explain the one finger per fret technique and how you can extend the range even further by changing how you use your left hand index finger.

Use the most efficient left hand technique possible

For me practicing techniques is all about learning to play in the most efficient way possible. Whether I’m working on my left or right hand technique, I’m always trying to find the simplest way to play the notes that involves the least amount of movement in my hands. As far as I’m concerned all unnecessary movement slows me down.

One finger per fret

For my left hand I like to use the “one finger per fret” system. You can practise and master this technique by using the following exercise.

V5E1 Left Hand Techniques for BassThis is a very common exercise that bass players (and guitar players) have been using for decades. If you add the open strings to this exercise as shown in Example 2 then you can play the chromatic scale from the open E string to the B on the 4th fret of the G string without shifting position. V5E2 Left Hand Techniques for BassExample 3 shows how to practice the “one finger per fret system” on a single string, and you can practice this way on each string individually. The benefit of this exercise is that it teaches us to shift positions up and down the neck whilst maintaining good technique in our left hand. V5E3 Left Hand Techniques for BassYou can alter this exercise by changing the order of the fingering. For example instead of playing 1st, 2nd, 3rd then 4th finger you could try 1st, 3rd, 2nd, 4th as in Example 4, or any other pattern you can come up with. V5E4Scales and arpeggios played using one finger per fret

Spend some time working on the above examples until you get used to the “one finger per fret” system. Once you get used to the system, use it to practice some scales and arpeggios. They’re great for mastering left hand techniques. The following examples are just a few scales and arpeggios you can use.

V5E5 Left Hand Techniques for Bass V5E6 Left Hand Techniques for Bass V5E7 Left Hand Techniques for Bass V5E8 Left Hand Techniques for BassV5E10 Left Hand Techniques for BassTake your left hand technique a step further

If you want to take your left hand technique a step further then there is another thing you can do. As you get further up the neck of the bass the frets get closer together. Which means that the stretches needed to play “one finger per fret” get smaller.

It occurred to me that I shouldn’t restrict myself to “one finger per fret” in areas of the fingerboard where my finger span could be much greater than 4 frets. So when I get above the 5th fret of the bass I use my 1st finger to cover 2 different frets while my 2nd, 3rd & 4th fingers still play “one finger per fret”. This allows me to cover 5 frets in a single position. Which gives me access to the entire chromatic scale without having to change position.

Example 9 demonstrates how I play a Eb major scale starting on the 6th fret of the A string. In this case my 1st finger can play the 6th or 7th frets. My 2nd finger plays the 8th fret, my 3rd finger the 9th fret and my 4th finger the 10th fret.

V5E9 Left Hand Techniques for Bass

If you’d like to improve your right hand technique as well then check out this video lesson. Improve Your Right Hand Technique on Bass Guitar.

 

Playing Chords on the Bass – Part 4 – Chord Extensions

In Part 4 we’re going to look at chord extensions.

In this video lesson you’re going to learn how to play chords with chord extensions on the bass.  I’ll also explain what notes you can leave out and why, in order to make your chords sound more interesting.

What are chord extensions?

Extended harmony is where chords get a lot more interesting sounding but it’s also where the theory gets more complicated. Chord extensions are notes that we can add to basic chords like triads. Having established how to play triads in Part 3, we can now look at adding chord extensions to them.

The most common chord extension by far is the seventh. In Part 3 we looked at how triads are made up of a root, a third and a fifth. And there is an interval of a third between each of these notes. In order to make a triad into a seventh chord we just continue this pattern of stacking intervals of a third. We add a note that is a third above the fifth and we call this note the seventh. Seventh chords have four notes in them root, third, fifth and seventh.

Four types of seventh chords

If you watched my video about “Intervals” then you’ll know that there are two types of sevenths, major and minor just like there are major and minor thirds. Fifths however are not major or minor and so the fifth is the same in both major and minor chords. For this reason, it’s the third and seventh notes of each chord that define what type of chord it is.

For example if you have a chord with a major third and a major seventh in it, it’s called a major seventh chord and a chord with a minor third and a minor seventh is called a minor seventh chord. The word used to describe a chord that has a major third and a minor seventh in it is “dominant” and dominant seventh chords are very common.

The chord symbol for a dominant seventh chord is just the number 7 (eg. G7, A7, C7 etc.) minor seventh chords are written m7 (eg. Gm7, Am7, Cm7 etc.) and major seventh chords can be written a number of ways such as with a small triangle or sometimes with an upper case M, but most commonly they are written maj7 (eg. Gmaj7, Amaj7, Cmaj7 etc.)

These three types of seventh chords are by far the most common but there are others that I’ve also listed at the end of Example 1. For example, a chord with a minor third and a major seventh is called minor with a major seventh (min/maj7).

What notes can you leave out?

When we play extended chords we usually can’t play all the notes within the chord because we only have a finite number of strings on the bass. The more chord extensions we have means the more options we have, but it also means the more decisions we have to make in terms of what notes to leave out. In the case of seventh chords the decision is simple, I’ve already mentioned that the fifth is the same for major and minor chords so the fifth doesn’t fulfill a very important function in the chord (unless we alter it as in diminished and augmented chords). So if we leave out the fifth we have three notes left, the root, third and seventh.

Example 1 demonstrates two different ways of voicing major seventh, dominant seventh, minor seventh and minor with a major seventh chords. The first way is to play the root on the A string, the third on the D string and the seventh on the G string. The second way is to play the root on the E string, leave out the A string and play the seventh on the D string and the third up an octave on the G string.

Video 4 Example 1 Chord extensionsAltering the fifth

Just because the fifth is the same for both major and minor chords doesn’t mean we can’t alter it. You can flatten the fifth (lower by a semi-tone) to give you a diminished chord or sharpen it (raise it by a semi-tone) to give you an augmented chord. In order to play a diminished or augmented chord you need to include the fifth because the fact that it’s been altered makes it a key element in the chord. That is why I have included all four notes in the augmented and diminished examples in Example 1.

Sixths

Another common chord extension that we can use instead of a seventh is a major sixth. We can add a major sixth to a major triad or a minor triad. The chord symbol for a major chord with a major sixth is just the number 6 (eg. G6, A6, C6 etc.) and the chord symbol for a minor chord with a major sixth is m6 (eg. Gm6, Am6, Cm6 etc.) Example 2 demonstrates how to play these two types of chords. Again, I’ve left out the fifth in both cases.

Video 4 Example 2 Chord extensions

Harmonising D major in seventh chords

If we harmonise any major scale into seventh chords we get seven different chords, two major seventh chords (chords I & IV, three minor seventh chords (chords II,III & VI), one dominant seventh chord (chord V) and one half-diminished chord (a chord with a minor third, a minor seventh and a flattened fifth) (chord VII). In example 3 I’ve harmonised a D major scale into seventh chords.

Video 4 Example 3 Chord extensions

Ninths

After the seventh, the next extension we can add to a chord if we keep stacking intervals of a third is a ninth. A full ninth chord has five notes in it, root, third, fifth, seventh and ninth. Example 4, demonstrates how to play a few common ninth chords by adding a ninth to a major seventh chord, a dominant seventh chord, a minor seventh chord and even a major sixth chord. As before I’m leaving out the fifth in each chord.

Video 4 Example 4 Chord extensions

More chord extensions

If we keep up this idea of stacking intervals of a third we end up with an eleventh and then a thirteenth. By the time you reach the thirteenth you have seven notes. Most scales have seven notes. So a seven note chord would effectively be equivalent to playing all the notes from a scale simultaneously. Which is usually a bad idea. Also, you can alter (either sharpen or flatten) the upper extensions (ninth, eleventh and thirteenth). Just like I altered the fifth earlier. This gives you a huge amount of options in terms of extending chords.

So, we have to exercise some judgement over which chord extensions we can add to which chords. And that all comes down to what we think sounds good. For example, you normally wouldn’t want to add an eleventh to a chord with a major third in it (major or dominant). Because the eleventh clashes with the third but you can add a sharpened eleventh. If you want to add an eleventh to a major chord then you would normally leave out the third. That would change the chord to what we call a “sus” chord. A sus chord is a chord that omits the third and usually replaces it with the fourth. The fourth is the same note as the eleventh. Check out my video on “intervals” if you don’t understand why the fourth and the eleventh are the same note.

Example 5 demonstrates some common chord extensions that we can play over major or minor chords on the bass.

Video 4 Example 5 Chord extensions

Chord extensions on 5 and 6 string basses

For Example 6 I’ve had to switch onto my six string bass to play some of these extensions. The ability to play more extended harmony is one of the main reasons I choose to play six string basses. If you don’t have a six string bass, many of these chords can be adapted onto a five string bass.

Video 4 Example 6 Chord extensions

Playing Chords on the Bass – Part 3 – Triads

Learn to Play Chords on the Bass – Part 3 – Triads

In this video lesson you’ll learn how to play triads on bass guitar. There are four different types of triad. I’ll explain what they are and then how to play them.

Triads, what are they and how do you play them?

In part 3 we’re going to look at how to play triads on the bass. They are simple three note chords that form a foundation for a lot of extended harmony. Before we can go on to explore chord extensions it’s really important to understand triads.

There are essentially four types of triad. Major, minor, diminished and augmented. So, example 1 contains an example of each triad. In this example they all have the root note C.

Video 3 Example 1 TriadsOf these four, major and minor are by far the most common and will be the ones we use the most.

Harmonising scales using triads

We can harmonise scales into triads. In part one we harmonised scales into intervals of a third. A triad is two intervals of a third stacked together. By which I mean, you take a root note, find a note that is a third above it and then another note which is a third above again. The three notes of a triad are often referred to as the root, the third(an interval of a third above the root) and the fifth (an interval of a third above the third and an interval of a fifth above the root).

You’ll find that when you harmonise a major scale into triads you’ll get seven chords, three major (chords I, IV & V), three minor (chords II, III and VI) and one diminished triad (chord VII). In example 2 there’s a G major scale harmonised into triads played in root position. Meaning that the root note is the lowest of the three notes.

Video 3 Example 2 TriadsIn the previous example we refer to these chords as root position because we’ve arranged each triad in a neatly stacked order with the root at the bottom and the third and the fifth stacked on top of it. If we change the order of these notes to make either the third or the fifth the lowest note then we have what we call an “Inversion”. There are only two possible ways to invert a triad. First of all put the third at the bottom as in Example 3.

Video 3 Example 3 Triads

Triad inversions

Then put the fifth at the bottom as in Example 4.

Video 3 Example 4 TriadsExample 5 is an E major scale harmonised in first inversion triads.

Video 3 Example 5 TriadsFinally example 6 is a D major scale harmonised using the second inversion.

Video 3 Example 6 Triads

Harmonising minor scales

If you harmonise a melodic minor scale into triads you get two minor chords, two major chords, two diminished chords and one augmented triad. So, in example 7 there’s a G melodic minor scale harmonised using root position triads.

Video 3 Example 7 Triads

Now move on to Playing Chords on the Bass – Part 4 – Chord Extensions. You’ll learn how we can add extensions to the triads so you can make more interesting sounding chords.