Tapping On Bass Guitar. Part 5 - Chords

Last time we just touched upon the all important technique of tapping major thirds. Physically it's pretty straight forward, and you should have mastered it with few problems. Now we'll consider how the interval is used within simple chords. To do this I'll need to run over some basic music theory.

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Tapping on Bass Guitar Lesson #5 ================================ Last time we just touched upon the all important technique of tapping major thirds. Physically it's pretty straight forward, and you should have mastered it with few problems. This week we'll consider how the interval is used within simple chords. To do this I'll need to run over some basic music theory - I hope it doesn't scare anyone too much. Previously all the right hand paterns that we've considered have been based on the interval of a fourth (thats five frets! ). This is the easiest interval to tap, as it's the interval between adjacent strings. It's the interval between the root and the fourth note of the scale, but is harmonically more common as the interval between the fifth and the octave:
                                                   -O-
                        __                       O
                    |--/--\-------------------O-------- 
                    |  \   | .             O        
                    |------|------------O-------------- 
                    |      / .       O  
                    |-----/-------O-------------------- 
                    |    /     O
                    |---/------------------------------ 
                    |                 
                    |----------------------------------
                               1  2  3  4  5  6  7  O
                               ^        ^  ^        ^
                               \_______/   \_______/
                                  4th         4th
Triads (the basic three note building blocks of chords) are formed by starting on a note of a scale, and playing every other note above that. If we consider the key of C Major (as it has no sharps or flats), and start on the first note (ie C) we get the notes C, E and G.
                                                  -(O)-
                        __                       
                    |--/--\---------------------------- 
                    |  \   | .             O        
                    |------|--------------------------- 
                    |      / .       O  
                    |-----/---------------------------- 
                    |    /     O
                    |---/------------------------------ 
                    |                 
                    |----------------------------------
                               1  2  3  4  5  6  7  O
                                           ^        ^
                                           \_______/
                                              4th
This shows clearly how 4ths are important in basic (ie I'm generalising, and glossing over things) harmony. Where ever we start on the scale we always form triads in the same way by skipping every other note:
                                               O
                                          -O- --- 
                                       O          
                                  -O- --- --- -O- 
                               O           O       
                          -O- --- --- -O- --- -O- 
                    __             O       O       
                |--/--\--------O-------O-------O------ 
                |  \   | . O       O       O
                |------|-------O-------O-------------- 
                |      / . O       O
                |-----/--------O---------------------- 
                |    /     O
                |---/---------------------------------
                |                 
                |-------------------------------------
                           1   2   3   4   5   6   
(Note I left the 7ths out - they work slightly differently, but that's for another time). No matter which note you start on you'll always find a fourth interval at the top of the chord between the fifth and the octave. A Major third is found between the root and the third degree of a Major scale, so going back to our C Major example:
                                                   -O-
                        __                       O
                    |--/--\--------------------O-------- 
                    |  \   | .             O        
                    |------|------------O-------------- 
                    |      / .       O  
                    |-----/-------O-------------------- 
                    |    /     O
                    |---/------------------------------ 
                    |                 
                    |----------------------------------
                               1  2  3  4  5  6  7  O
                               ^     ^  
                               \____/
                               Maj 3rd
Hence we find a Major third at the bottom of all Major chords. However, we have to be a bit more careful with thirds than we do with fourths, because if we start on a different degree of the scale we get a different interval between the notes of our triads. The reasons for this are a bit complex, but the results can be most clearly seen by considering a piano keyboard:
            =========================================
            |   | |  | |   |   | |  | |  | |   |    |
            |   | |  | |   |   | |  | |  | |   |    |
            |   | |  | |   |   | |  | |  | |   |    |
            |   +++  +++   |   +++  +++  +++   |    |
            |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |
            |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |
            | C  | D  | E  | F  | G  | A  | B  | C  |
            |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |
            +----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
If you start at C and count the number of semitones between it and its third (E) you'll find you move 4 steps. However, if you count the number of steps between D and its third, F (remember there are no sharps or flats in the key of C) you'll find there are only three steps. If you work it out (as I suggest that you do) you'll find that C, F and G have four steps to their third, while D, E and A have only three (as I said before - ignore B, it's a bit odd). As you've probably guessed, 4 steps are a Major third, and hence C, F and G are Major chords in the key of C Major. A three semitone gap is a Minor third, and therefore D, E and A are minor chords. To generalise this, in a major key the chords I, IV and V are Major, and the chords II, III and VI are minor. As a final twist before moving on to some fretboard based examples, look again at the C Major chord, but this time consider the interval between the third (E) and the Fifth (G). Count the semitones and you'll find you've got a minor third. If you look at a minor chord (D minor) you'll find that the interval between its third and fifth is a major third! This gives us a neat trick where we can use the same Major third interval to play completely different roles in two chords - say Amin (ACE) and CMaj (CEG) - A Minor is the relative minor of C Major. If we play an E at the 12th fret we can tap its octave on the 14th fret. By stretching the middle finger a little further than we would for a fourth we can comfortably tap the third (g#) at the 13th fret.
                                       (#)-O-

                                          -O-

                                          ---         
                        __                        
                    |--/--\---------------------------- 
                    |  \   | .  #                   
|------13-------|   |------|--#------------------------ 
|------14-------|   |      / .       O  
|---------------|   |-----/---------------------------- 
|---12----------|   |    /     #
       T            |---/------------------------------ 
                    |                 
                    |----------------------------------
From here we could easily move to the other major chords of this key (A and B - IV and V remember) by moving the bass note up a string, and tapping fourth intervals. However, we can alternatively bring in the relative minor (C#) by just moving the bass note:
                                       (#)-O-

                                          -O-

                                          ---
                        __
                    |--/--\---------------------------- 
                    |  \   | .  #                   
|------13-------|   |------|--#------------------------ 
|------14-------|   |      / .         
|---------------|   |-----/---------------------------- 
|---9-----------|   |    /     #     O
       T            |---/------------------------------ 
                    |                 
                    |----------------------------------
If we string these four chords together we get:
                                                              -O-
                                                  O
                 -O-             -O-             ---          ---
                                                            O     O
             -O- --- -O-     -O- --- -O-     -O- --- -O-   ---------
             --- --- ---     --- --- ---     --- --- ---   ---------
__                                                        O
|/--\---------------------|--------------|-O------------|-----------|
|\   | .  #               |              |              |           |
|----|--#-----------------|--------------|--------------|-----------|
|    / .     O            |              |              |          .|
|---/---------------------|--------------|--------------|-----------|
|  /     #                | O            |              |          .|
|-/-----------------------|--------------|--------------|-----------|
|                         |              |              |           |
|-------------------------|--------------|--------------|-----------|
|           E             | C#m          | A            | B         |
|                         |              |              |           |
|------------------13-----|-------13-----|--------14----|-----16----|
|--------------14------14-|----14-----14-|-----14----14-|---16--16-o|
|-------------------------|--------------|-12-----------|-14-------o|
|-----------12------------|-9------------|--------------|-----------|
All very well I hear you say, but it's hardly rock'n'roll. Well Satch knows a good thing when he sees it, and he used a very simple Relative Minor trick on the main riff from the track "A Day at the Beach (New rays from an ancient sun)" on "Flying in a Blue Dream":
|---------16-------14-------12-------14-------16-------|
|o-----5--17----5--14----5--12----5--14----5--17------o|
|o----------------------------------------------------o|
|---3--------3--------3--------3--------3---------(7)--|
                                                   ^Second Time

|---------16-------14-------12-------14-------16-------|
|o-----9--17----9--14----9--12----9--14----9--17------o|
|o------------------------------------------------(5)-o|
|---7--------7--------7--------7--------7--------------|
                                                   ^Second Time
This isn't strictly accurate (I've changed the key, and simplified it somewhat), but it clearly illustrates how the Major third is used in two roles - as part of the G Major chord in the first section, and then as part of the relative minor E minor chord in the second section. Notice how the right hand is identical for both sections, but by moving the bass note we change the sound completely. I hope that this all made some kind of sense to you all. I've covered a lot of information this week - don't worry if it didn't all sink in straight away, it'll take time before you feel comfortable with it. However, I think you need to at least have seen this stuff to get the most from tapping. Going polyphonic gives you a lot greater choice of notes to play, theory gives you some sort of hints as to what might work. If this does cause you a great deal of hassle then send me some email, and I'll try and clear up any gray areas. I had this stuff drummed into me about ten years ago so I'm not really sure how much of a challenge this will present to those of you who haven't seen it before (That which is obvious does not need discussing!

21 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    marcusmassacre
    PS> good lesson though. have fun with all the emails you'll get from confused players. -Marcus
    marcusmassacre
    Chordfind.com and angelfire.com/bass although chordfind.com is easier. i wasn't expecting this one to be so complicated. i'm so used to you painting a picture than reciting a music theory text. but if anyone's learning this stuff, they should learn the theory behind it too i suppose. at least you foresaw that ppl like "BassMastaMuRu" would get confused haha. I believe he said(and tell me if i'm wrong),"hahahaha...wait thats not funny....and if u cant tap than u suck and ur just another guitar powerchord following, talentless little bitch who looked for a means to get in a band knowing that there is hardly any bassists....so stick it and get over urself cuz u suck" on the first lesson? A taste or your own medicine, perhaps? oh well. for anyone who had trouble learning this, try to focus more on triad study such as: there are only 7 triads in all of music. memorizing them helps too. try to memorize these: CEG, DFA, EGB, FAC, GBD, ACE, & BDF. if you have a teacher, or a mentor etc...ask them to explain triads a bit. they're pretty important later on in bass playing.
    bassmasta123
    hey plz visit my website on bass cheers www.howtoplaybass.co.uk I will be updating it all the time
    _2272_
    Well if you're beginners, then why the hell are you learning tapping?! If you don't know chord diagrams, then you shouldn't really be learning tapping. Go back and master the basics before you progress. Good lesson man.
    Bass Cat
    thats pretty awesome, sound ssoo good. i was thinking about doing solo bass stuff for a long time, but my technique was kinda lacking. this is great!
    Scourge441
    Do any of these comments have anything to do with the lesson? The lesson rocked, BTW.
    mangablade
    chordfind.com and go to 4 string instruments. then select bass. voila. i find it pretty bad tho still. i figure out chord fingerings in my head using theory knowledge.
    zurokiea
    The theory was a bit confusing, if your like me and dont get that side of it just play it and work out whats going on via the frets, then apply that to your own song. Its a progression that i believe can be moved around the fretboard or in different orders etc.