How to Build Bass Chords and Triads

minor chords bass

A chord is composed of notes drawn from a scale in an ordered series of stacked intervals – usually thirds – that form an identifiable musical structure. Bass notes may be added to further harmonize other aspects of a song or add extra groove.

In this lesson, we will learn to play minor chords on the bass using similar fingering techniques as major chords but starting on lower string/fret.


Triads are chords composed of three notes. Although any scale degree can create a triad, the most frequently seen are major and minor scale-related ones; major triads consist of the regular 3, 1 and 5 notes found within major scale while minor scale root, 3 and 5 make up minor triads which tend to sound less complete and resolved than major ones while offering more of a melancholic quality.

Root notes of triads establish their tonal center and character, with intervallic distance between third and fifth notes determining whether or not it is major or minor. Bass players who understand how to construct such triads will be able to craft basslines with an expansive palette of tones including bright major, deep minor, diminished and augmented versions, etc.

Major and Minor Scales

Building chords typically requires more than one note. Playing it ascendingly is known as an arpeggio while other modes constitute broken chords. Try out the pattern above, altering note orders or adding multiple notes at once for maximum impact! Experimentation will lead to beautiful results!

Relative scales provide bass players with an invaluable tool, allowing them to use any major or minor scale on any tonic note – for instance C major’s relative minor is A minor and vice versa.

Major chords sound optimistic and full of hope, while minor chords sound sadder, more fragile, and delicate. You’ll hear plenty of minor chords in Beach Boys classic “California Girls,” about heartbreak; in fact, nearly 50% of its notes consist of minor chords – perhaps this combination of sadness and positivity was responsible for its success?

Major and Minor Chords

A chord is composed of three or more notes taken from a scale and stacked at specific intervals – usually thirds. This creates a specific sound and sets the atmosphere for any song.

Major chords produce an upbeat sound while minor chords create more melancholic tones. Selecting the appropriate chords to play can make or break a song on bass; using movable bass chord shapes allows for switching between major and minor sounds depending on vocalist or mood of song.

Major and minor scales share a starting note but differ in their third, which produces their unique sound qualities. Thankfully, using interval formulas (root + 3rd), we can build both triads and 7th chords from major or minor scales; minor scales must have their third flattened out to produce minor chords.


An arpeggio can be created from playing the bass note, third note and fifth note of a minor chord descending in order. By practicing this pattern you’ll discover new types of chords to form.

Minor-type scales and chords contain major, minor and perfect intervals; it’s the third that distinguishes major from minor scales and chords. Inversions allow chordal notes to change their interval size in a song for a more complex sounding bass line.

Chord inversions provide bass players with tools for writing smoother, well-executed bass lines that move more gradually rather than suddenly. Leaps may work in certain genres; however, many bass lines rely on gradual progress rather than sudden jumps to achieve fluidity and harmony inversion symbols are usually placed following Roman numerals to make writing these more fluid bass lines possible.