Tag Archives: Playing Chords on the Bass

7-string Bass Demo

7-string bass demo

This is my 7-string bass. It says Mazeti on the headstock, which doesn’t mean a lot to me. I don’t really know anything about who made it, but it seems to be custom made.

How I came to own a 7-string bass

I bought it very cheaply on eBay more than 10 years ago, and I wasn’t expecting a lot given what I paid for it. Every other 7-string bass on eBay at that time was a lot more expensive. Surprisingly, what I got was not only a nice sounding and very playable instrument, but also one that has stood the test of time. It’s still going strong and sounding great today even though it spends most of the time in my loft now.

Why did I want to sell it?

At the time I shot the video I was in the process of selling all of my non Warwick basses. I’ve always played Warwick’s as my first choice but I had basses made by Fender, Steinberger  and Gibson and I also had another custom made 7-string bass which I sold, it was fretless.

The 7-string bass you see in the video was the only bass that didn’t sell on eBay. So I decided to make the video to help give it a push. I did receive a few enquiries, but nothing that tempted me to sell. I couldn’t seem to convince people that it was a decent bass and I wasn’t that desperate for the money.

Is it still for sale?

No. I’ve since decided not to sell the 7-string bass. It’s worth more to me, than the relatively small amount of money I’d get for selling it. I haven’t taken the video down because people keep telling me how much they like the video, I never intended for the video to be particularly entertaining, I just wanted to show that it was a decent bass. But, obviously people like it so I’ve left it on Youtube.

Enjoy!

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.

 

Playing Chords on the Bass – Part 2

Chords on the Bass – Part 2

In this second part in my series of videos about playing chords on the bass, we’re going to continue looking at how we can make chords by playing double stops (two notes played at the same time) over open strings. In Part 1 we harmonised scales into intervals of a third and in Part 2 we’re going to see how we can get a whole new set of sounds and chords by changing the interval we use to harmonise our scales.

Intervals

If you’re not sure what an interval is or how we play intervals on the bass then check out my video called Intervals which is also available on this site and it will explain everything.

In Example 1 I’m playing a C major scale harmonised into intervals of a fourth.

Part 2 Example 1 Chords on the Bass

In Example 2 I’m playing the same C major scale played in fourths. I’m playing it over an open A string. Then in the following examples I’m still playing a C major scale over an open A string. However, I’m changing the interval that I’m using to harmonise the scale. In Example 3 I’m harmonising the C major scale in fifths and in Example 4 I’m using sixths. You can hear that each different  interval gives us a different sound even though I’m harmonising the same scale over the same note.

Video 2 Examples 2, 3 & 4 Chords on the Bass* I’ve marked some chords * in the above examples because they don’t contain thirds. The Am7 and Am9 chords could also function as A7 and A9 because they don’t contain the note C. Which is the minor 3rd. I’ve labeled them as minor chords because if we were to add a third in this key it would be a minor third C. Not a major third C#. The G9/A chords in Examples 2 & 3 also don’t include the 3rd B but again I’ve labeled them according to what they would be if we added a 3rd in this key. The same is true for the chords marked in the examples below.

Fourths, Fifths and Sixths

The next examples are a similar idea. Only this time I’m harmonising a D major scale and playing it over an open E string. This gives us a Dorian sound. In Example 5 I’m harmonising the scale in fourths. In Example 6 I’m using fifths and in Example 7 I’m using sixths. 

Video 2 Examples 5,6 & 7 Chords on the BassNotice how in Example 7 using the open E string instead of the open A string gives us a different option for fingerings when we play the scale in sixths. We can now play the lower of the 2 notes on the A string. The higher note on the G string while we leave out the D string altogether.

These examples are just a small demonstration of some the sounds that you can come up with using this idea. It wouldn’t be impossible to list here all the possible variations you can achieve by harmonising scales over open strings. So, I really want to encourage you to experiment and come up with ideas of your own.

A melodic minor in sixths

Before I leave you, I’m going to share one more idea. Here’s what the A melodic minor scale that I introduced at the end of Part 1 sounds like when you harmonise it in sixths and play it over an open A string.

Video 2 Example 8 Chords on the BassNow move on to Playing Chords on the Bass – Part 3 – Triads. You’ll learn how we can add extensions to the triads so you can make more interesting sounding chords.