Bass Chords

Bass Chords: How To Play Chords On A Bass Guitar, With Diagrams & Information.

A complete guide to bass chords – how to play them and how they are constructed.

Most of the time, bass guitarists stick to playing single-note lines. However, by introducing bass chords into your playing you can create new textures and interesting effects.

Knowledge of how chords are formed will also benefit your understanding of music, and can help in songwriting, composition and improvisation.

Bass Chords

Open Position Bass Chords

Open position chords are played in the first three or four frets, near the nut (the grooved ridge that separates the fretboard from the headstock).

They are usually easier to play than movable chords (covered further down the page) and the open strings give them a bright, ringing sound.

Try out all of the following chords on your own bass guitar so you can begin to hear the differences between the chords.

Open Position Major Chords For Bass Guitar

Bass Chords Major Open Position

Bass Chords Major Open Position. The (0) in brackets means that playing the string is optional.

Major chords consist of the root, major third and perfect fifth notes. They produce a ‘cheerful’, open sound.

Open Position Minor Chords For Bass Guitar

Bass Chords Minor Open Position

Bass Chords Minor Open Position

Minor chords contain the root, minor third and perfect fifth notes. They produce a ‘sad’ sound.

Open Position Dominant 7th Chords For Bass Guitar

Bass Guitar Chords Dominant 7th Open Position

Bass Guitar Chords Dominant 7th Open Position

Dominant 7th chords produce an ‘expectant’ sound, and often resolve to the tonic chord. (See our guitar chord theory pages for an explanation.)

Open Position Minor 7th Chords For Bass Guitar

Bass Guitar Chords Minor 7 Open Position

Bass Guitar Chords Minor 7 Open Position

Minor 7th chords have an ‘open’, rather ambiguous sound. They are often used before a dominant 7th chord as the ii chord in a ii V I progression.

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Movable Bass Chords

This is where things start to get interesting …

Movable bass chords shapes can be moved up and down the neck of the instrument to play chords with different root notes.

For example, the same major chord shape can be used at one position to play an A major chord, and at another to play a C major chord.

On the following chord shapes, the root note is represented by a white circle. This should be positioned over the desired root note on the fretboard.

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Movable Major Chord Shapes For Bass Guitar

Bass Chords Major Movable

Bass Chords Major Movable

Movable Minor Chord Shapes For Bass Guitar

Bass Guitar Chords Minor Movable

Bass Guitar Chords Minor Movable

Movable Dominant 7 Shapes For Bass Guitar

Bass Chords 7 Movable

Bass Chords 7 Movable

Movable Minor 7 Shapes For Bass Guitar

Bass Chords Minor 7

Bass Chords Minor 7

Major 7th Chord Shape For Bass Guitar

Bass Chord Major 7

Bass Chord Major 7

Bass Power Chords

Bass Power Chords

Bass Power Chords

Bass Diminished Chord Shape

Bass Chords Diminished 7

Bass Chords Diminished 7

Bass Augmented Chord Shape

Bass Chords Augmented

Bass Chords Augmented

Because frets get narrower the further up the fretboard you go, some movable chords are easier to play in higher positions.

Playing chords can be quite a strain at first, so take things slowly: it will get easier.

Bass chords can be played either with a pick or with the fingers. They can be strummed, or the notes in the chord can be played individually to create riffs and bass lines.

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6 thoughts on “Bass Chords: How To Play Chords On A Bass Guitar, With Diagrams & Information.

  1. Jeri

    Trying to help my man learn to play an electric 4 string bass guitar that was gifted to him by a friend right before he passed away.. Everything I’ve found until now has been way too complicated. Thanks so much! Exactly what I was looking for.

    Reply
  2. albert witt

    Hi guys,
    New to electric bass. About 8 months now.
    Your material is really easy to understand. Many thanks for posting it
    Hitting different chords has been a problem for me but
    the way you present the process is very easily read and understood.
    Thanks again

    Reply

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