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

This should make your understanding about chords deeper, and pave you a new way of their use.

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

39 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    NemX162
    You really shouldn't alienate people in your articles by bashing on entire generes. If you hate that music so much, maybe you should be more inviting to it's fans so they can learn to be "better."
    Virtuosofreak
    Uhh... I didn't mean to bash punk rock. I don't hate punk rock. To be honest,I actually think that punk rock is good for beginners,despite it's drawbacks,because it is very simple,and it helps to develop at the very beginning. By playing punk covers you develop some endurance and can move on to something more complicated. It's just that people who play in punk bands oftenly don't really learn much,and therefore,nothing really goes forward in their bands. And one of the reasons why stagnation sneaks into your own band is that if you don't learn how music works,then your own musical capabilities are too limited. And if your musical capabilities are too limited,then the ways you can express yourself are too few. But playing well means having at least DECENT musical capabilities. If your ways to express yourself musically are very limited,then all of your music sounds COMPLETELY the same(even the chord progressions are identical on too many songs),and nothing goes forward. That is what i meant while saying "Well,that's true if you want to play in a washed-up punk band." . I am sorry,if i really offended anyone,okay?
    Virtuosofreak
    Anyway,i hope that you forgive me,and that you will find use to the lesson i've provided.
    Virtuosofreak
    One note about the solos - when you play a chord picking out each note in a solo,it often is not thought of as a chord. I can give you a few reasons why: 1.Since scales and chords are closely related,and guitar solos use scales as well,sometimes,a guitar solo contains some parts built with musical intervals(remebmer,power chords are usually made by using 2 different-note intervals,most notably the 4th and 5th); 2. In some guitar solos,certain parts are played using string-skipping,which results in a chord-like shape. A bright example of that is Guns'N'Roses' song "Sweet Child O' Mine",it's intro solo is played with string-skipping; 3. Sometimes,when writing a guitar solo,the composer may "take out" certain notes out of the scale that is used for the guitar solo,and put it in a chord-like shape. A good example of that is the beginning of the guitar solo in the "Wind Of Change" by Scorpions. ....And another note about what i wrote just now.... These 3 reasons,that i mentioned above, oftenly mix up with each other in a lot of situations,and it can get really exhausting,if you think about it very much,so uhhhhh... Don't let it go in your head too deep,because you might just break your brain with this!!!! XD
    RealUnrealRob
    Good article for beginners. Though, I would limit the ragging on certain genres, might make it a little less accessible :p
    a0kalittlema0n
    I thought this would kinda be common knowledge, but I guess not everyone knows this..
    ron4ik16
    When i was a beginner,i didn't know even half of this. Mostly,what this lesson consists of is common knowledge at all. That's what i think.
    ron4ik16
    I meant Mostly,what this lesson consists of is NOT common knowledge at all.
    shreddymcshred
    the murky sound comes from the low frequency and because of the equal-temperment tuning. your ear can start to process frequencies more accurately when they are slower, so you can hear the discrepancy better. Playing an arpeggio or scale instead helps hide direct comparisons of the frequencies.
    Virtuosofreak
    So you mean,that it is not just the low pitch,but also the same-type tuning,that makes strmming chords on bass sound murky? Or,did i get it wrong?
    Fionn Phelan
    "Well, that's true, if you want to play in a washed-up punk band" God sounds like my band, our bassist started to learn two years ago how to play so he formed the band...We all play arpeggios, solos and stuff now ut hes into Blink-182 and Offspring so when we try anything new he just says he doesn't like that song. Good for beginners, but even power chords are hard when your learning. Most kids I teach are amazed learning all the chords then to find you can just easily play power chords!
    Virtuosofreak
    I hope you didn't think that i was bashing punk rock? I don't hate punk rock,I just wanted to point out that a lot of punk-rockers don't learn much about music,and as a result,there is no actual progress.
    Virtuosofreak
    And,oh yeah,playing some solos and arpeggios is not enough. It is just the mechanical side of things. Theory is the other side. Enrichen your music theory knowledge.
    L.A.P.D.
    I didn't think this was very helpful, sort of overwhelming to the beginner with all the different scales.
    Virtuosofreak
    Well... yeah,that's a load of information there,but if you read it carefully,then everything will fall right where it belongs to.
    Virtuosofreak
    Uhhh.... It asn't mean to offend the genre itself. The statement was meant to show,that if you don't learn,then you are not going to go forward. I don't hate punk rock. It's just a fact that if you only learn some power chords,start playing in a band,and don't move forward,then you sound just like every other washed-up band. A lot of punk guitarists don't really learn how to play. Well,if you feel offended,then i apologize,because i didn't mean to offend anyone personally(or bash some music genre).
    xXWHIPxxLashXx
    I always tell people to start off their guitar playing career with an acoustic, and then once they get good at it, THEN they can move onto an electric.
    Rebel Scum
    Yeah this lesson started off with basics but then descended pretty quickly into gobbleygook for a beginner. First you're talking about what notes make up chords then your rabbiting on about scale names. Way to lose interest of beginners.
    Virtuosofreak
    Actually,if you read the lesson CAREFULLY then everything falls into the right places. Chords and scales are related to each other. You see,it is like that because chords are built from notes that are taken from certain music scales . If you don't believe me,look up some music theory,and you'll see that I am right.
    Virtuosofreak
    I will admit,that I got a little carried away,but everything i put in that lesson is PURE KNOWLEDGE. And pure knowledge is the reason why a beginner takes these lessons.
    Rebel Scum
    I never said you were wrong. The lesson took a nose dive at being at beginner level. You're using terms that are common to experienced players but without explaining what they really are, this can be confusing and intimidatng to a beginner. The lesson would be better if it was more succinct. Take it as constructive criticism.
    Butt Rayge
    This is some awful writing.
    Butt Rayge
    Let me explain myself. Your grammar is awful. Your syntax is awful. you have no logical structure to speak of. Your descriptions and explanations lack everything descriptive or explanatory in nature. Most of the useful information is shrouded in ambiguity and is at times indistinguishable from the misinformation. At best, this proves useless and at worst; detrimental to the reader. You tried to explain too much in too few words with too little thought to structure and ended up with too much crap.
    Virtuosofreak
    You're wrong,pal. I may have some problems with grammar and structure,but this lesson is not filled with bullshit. If there is some misinformation,then it's only 1-5% of all the information put into that lesson. The rest is VALUABLE information. Read carefully from the beginning,until the end,and you will see,that it's no useless bullshit. In fact,i even dare you to copy this lesson,look up some other music theory article about how chords are built,and compare the information of the other article with the information I have provided in my lesson. You will see the truth. By the way,you have problems with grammar as well,mate. Here is one of your mistakes: "Your grammar is awful. Your syntax is awful. you have no logical structure to speak of. Your descriptions and explanations lack everything descriptive or explanatory in nature." Remember,the first word in a sentence is ALWAYS started with a BIG letter.
    Virtuosofreak
    "You will see the truth." With that sentence,i meant the fact that the information provided by me in this lesson is reliable,trustworthy.
    HarrySound
    Who ever wrote this is rather offensive to genres he's not a fan of.
    Virtuosofreak
    Uhhh.... It wasn't mean to offend the genre itself. The statement was meant to show,that if you don't learn,then you are not going to go forward. I don't hate punk rock. It's just a fact that if you only learn some power chords,start playing in a band,and don't move forward,then you sound just like every other washed-up band. A lot of punk guitarists don't really learn how to play. Well,if you feel offended,then i apologize,because i didn't mean to offend anyone personally(or bash some music genre).
    Desiato
    Hmmm... This (the comments following the lesson) is strange. I felt that Virtuosofreak has provided a useful mix of information, written from his perspective. Possibly he found these things to be interesting or useful or surprising when he was learning and so he wanted to share them. He is making a contribution. I recognized there was a mix of things for "early stage" learners and some things for "folk who already know some things" and some terminology that can link to more info if you search it out. I don't think it is reasonable to attack his writing style or complain that you already know something or that what he writes isn't useful... If you already know or don't want to read it: That's OK, just stop. I'll just say: Thank you, VF.