A Lesson For Both Guitarists And Bass Players: Chords And Their Use

author: Virtuosofreak date: 12/07/2012 category: for beginners
rating: 6 / votes: 29 
A Lesson For Both Guitarists And Bass Players: Chords And Their Use
A lot of beginner guitarists and beginner bass players from different genres think, that being able to play power chords (if you are a guitarist) or only bass notes (if you are a bass player) is going to be sufficient to play in a band, and write their own material. Well, that's true, if you want to play in a washed-up punk band, where everyone can barely perform their duties, and nothing really goes forward. In reality, the more you are capable to do - the better. This doesn't mean that you need to think only about the level of your technique, or think that only freakishly complex songs are great. Being capable to as much as you can just gives you more options, with which, consequently - your art (your music) becomes richer, more interesting. And, logically, to be able to do more in music, you have to study, and practice. This lesson is designed in order to teach you how chords are built, so that you become more knowledgeable in music, and with this information - find a new way to use them.:) NOTE! This lesson is suitable for a guitarist/bassist of any genre of music. EVERYTHING SHOWN HERE IN TABS IS IN STANDARD TUNING! So, let's begin: As you might have heard, there are such things as "scales" in music. If you really have heard something about music scales, then, most likely, you have thought, that they are used only for soloing. But, that is not true. Music scales are used not only for soloing. In general, scales are used for: studying the way music works in general, for composing music (soloing included), composing improvised solos, and for building guitar chords. Now, one fine example of how chords are built, would be the C major chord:
|----0----|
|----1----|
|----0----|
|----2----|
|----3----|
|---------|
You may ask - why? Well, it is because the C major chord (as such) is built by combining C, E, and G notes, which form the C major triad, which is a part of the C major scale. Of course, in the tab above, the C major chord is shown in it's most popular variant (which from now on I will call the regular form of C major), and consists of 5 notes, not 3. But it does not contradict what I said, because, in order of appearance, starting from the bass note, are: C, E, G, C, E. Another good example would be E minor chord (from now on - I will call it the regular E minor chord form):
|----0----|
|----0----|
|----0----|
|----2----|
|----2----|
|----0----|
In this case, the chord consists of the E minor triad (notes: E, G, B), and the notes present in this chord (in order of appearance starting from the bass note, respectively) are: E, B, E, G, B, E. Also, I would like to add, that there is more than one type of the major and minor scale. We have Natural minor, Harmonic Minor, Dorian Scale (like Natural Minor, but with an augmented 6th Degree), Phrygian Minor, Phrygian Major (also called Dominant phrygian), Mixolydian scale (which is like the major scale, but only with a flattened 7th degree), and many more. Now, I would like to make a few interesting side notes: First of all, in the case with E minor chord in it's regular chord shape, the triad it is built upon can be taken from more than one scale! It can be taken from: E natural minor, E phrygian minor, E Dorian scale, and E harmonic minor. And second, if in the E minor chord, that minor triad is taken from the E phrygian minor, then the C major chord will be a part of a harmonized chord progression in E phrygian, because the C major scale, and E phrygian scale are relative scales.(They also are called modes of each other. To learn more about this - search information about scale modes.) Of course, chords are not built only from major and minor scale triads. The power chords are built from the 1st and 5th degrees of a scale, double stops (another form of a power chord) - from the 1st and 4th degree. Then, we also have chords, that are built by taking a major/minor triad, and adding an additional note. A good example of this is the Cadd9 chord, which is oftenly used in genres like: Country, Country rock, Southern rock, Hard rock, sometimes you can even spot in heavy metal songs. Or well, at least, in songs, that have elements of Heavy Metal. The Cadd9 chord:
|----3----|
|----3----|
|----0----|
|----2----|
|----3----|
|---------|
The Cadd9 chord consists of the notes: C, E, G, D, G. That's 4 different notes! (if you forget about the fact, that the G notes are different by their octaves) Also we have chords, that have 5, 6 different notes in them. Such chords are frequently used in jazz music. In fact, if you are good enough, you make a weird chord, that consists of, like, 8 different notes. Now, you probably want ask: "Ok, I have read all of this, and now know the basics of how chords are built... But how can I use it? What is the benefit I receive?" Well, the benefits that you receive, are, as I said, a deeper understanding, which gives you new options. For example, if you are a bass player, then you have a good way, how to break out of being "the bass-note thumping guy". If you strum chords on bass, even the most common ones, then, despite having tuned your bass as it should be, you may not like the sound that comes out, you may think, that it is too "murky" (depends on your personal preferences, and what you want to get out of the guitar), even though the notes are right. It is because all of the notes are in a pretty low pitch (frequency, the "height" of sound). But, if you pick the notes out one by one - you avoid the "murky" sound. And here is where the knowledge I share with you in this lesson becomes valuable. By knowing how chords are built, and how music works, you have some guaranteed ways to achieve the sound you want. For example, at a band practice, when composing your own song, instead of thumping only the bass notes, you may take the same chord that is taken by your guitarist, and play an arpeggio (pick out the notes one by one), or also, take just one note out of the chord, that a song follows, and play it during that chord. By doing that, you would contribute to the song in a less common way. And if you are, for example, a guitarist, then you can use it in your rhythm guitar parts(like making an interesting arpeggio), or maybe, your guitar solos. Yes! Chords can be used in guitar solos as well! (but don't overdo it, because, otherwise, you may sound like a crappy nu-metal guitarist). A few ways to use chords in a guitar solos: playing each note separately (arpeggio) in order to make a melody, playing a sweep picking passage in a guitar solo (popular in metal), playing a guitar solo with a bottleneck (aka silde), which has a fair share of popularity in blues and rock. If you want - you can (at least try to) use chords in a guitar solo of any genre, even if it means breaking some "rules" of music (which sometimes leads to very interesting results). Here is a great example of chord usage in a guitar solo: Try playing this with the blues shuffle, it is a guaranteed way to make it sound good, because it is a blues guitar solo.
      A major                             F#m/A               
|------------------------------------------5--------5---5----|
|--------5------------5--------------------7--------7---7----|
|------6------------6---7-6---------5-6----6--------6---6----|
|--7-7----------7-7---------7--7-7---------7--------7---7----|
|------------------------------------------------------------|
|------------------------------------------------------------|

     Asus4                                    F#m/A                  
|-----------------------------------------------5--------5---5S\----|
|--------5V------------5------------------------7--------7---7S\----|
|------7-------------7---7-5-------------5-6----6--------6---6S\----|
|--7-7-----------7-7---------7S\--S/7-7---------7--------7---7S\----|
|-------------------------------------------------------------------|
|-------------------------------------------------------------------|

     Asus4                                   F#m/A       Cm/A  Bm/Ab    
|----------------------------------------------5--------5--8----7V-----|
|--------5------------5------------------------7--------7--8----7V-----|
|------7------------7---7-5-------------5-6----6--------6--8----7V-----|
|--7-7----------7-7---------7S\--S/7-7---------7--------7--7----6V-----|
|----------------------------------------------------------------------|
|----------------------------------------------------------------------|
Additional info about the guitar solo: Key: A Major. Chord usage: Mixed. Genre: Blues, Electric Blues, Blues-rock. Legend: V - vibrato S/ - slide to a "higher" note (if no note has been written after the slide technique, then just make a slide of an undefinite length in the direction of your picking hand) S\ - slide to a "lower" note (if no note has been written after the slide technique, then just make a slide of an undefinite length in the direction of the headsotck) So, this is the end of the lesson. I hope that you've been a careful reader, and have gained a lot from this lesson. Cheers! ;)
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