How to Play Bass Chords

major chords bass

Bassists differ from other musicians when it comes to playing chords; bass chords require an excellent understanding of the fretboard in order to perform properly.

Movable bass chord shapes provide an effective means of learning major chords. By moving them up and down the neck of the bass, any major chord with an alternate root note can be played easily.


Arpeggios can add depth and variety to your bass fills by giving you multiple melodic options for every chord. Arpeggios are especially helpful when playing triads as they allow you to make large fret jumps without getting trapped within a 5 or 6 fret radius.

For optimal arpeggio practice, it’s wise to focus on patterns rather than individual notes. This will allow you to internalise their sequence and develop an internal map of the fretboard that you can refer back to anytime you play one of these shapes.

Once you’re familiar with both Cmaj7 and Fmaj7 arpeggios, it can be beneficial to combine them to form one chord progression that can be applied to any song. From here you can experiment with rhythms and grooves before moving these sequences up and down your neck in order to explore various chord shapes.


A scale is a set of notes played sequentially that forms the character of a chord. Knowing a major scale provides bass players with the foundation for understanding harmonic analysis; you can play major, minor, diminished and augmented chords with just two root notes depending on which scale is being used.

Blues bass scales offer a great way to add a deep, soulful sound to your bass lines. Based on the pentatonic minor scale we discussed earlier, the blues scale has an additional chromatic note which gives it its unique bluesy sound.

Fingering major scales is easy when playing R-2-b3-4-5-b6-7 on your E string and then moving it up the fretboard using this pattern. This fingering fits any major scale because the low root note resides on E and it moves to A’s 2nd fret B-note at which time it repeats this sequence.


Chords are combinations of three or more notes played at once. They may be created through scales or arpeggio patterns and typically feature more than one note within them, providing a fuller sound than single note chords; an example would be C major chord with root, fifth and octave elements – commonly seen in rock music.

Other chord types include suspended, dominant and seventh. Suspended chords can be created by replacing the third of a chord with a second or perfect fourth note; dominant chords based on key fifths can often be seen in blues, funk, country styles.

Seventh chords possess a beautiful, almost ethereal sound and are widely employed in jazz music. They may be formed using either stacked triads or from major triads with major seventh extensions; pop and jazz notation typically indicates these chords by writing them with a dashed line connecting their name with its intended bass note that should be played.


Bass players typically do not use chords as part of their instrument’s repertoire because multiple notes down the bottom end can become unintentionally dissonant, becoming indistinct or disjointed from one another. But there may be occasions where outlining chord sequences is essential.

Chords are groups of three or more notes that share an identifiable characteristic created by their intervals. Some common chords include major, minor, major seven and minor seven chords.

Bass players use open voicing shapes to play different chords. For instance, the root of a C major chord lies at the third fret on A string (an E). Moving this shape up an octave becomes a dominant seventh chord with adding fourth fret tension and resolution adding tension and resolve – something often found in metal music. Utilizing various scale patterns over chord progression is also very useful.