How to Voice Bass Guitar Chords

major chords bass guitar

Chords are groups of three or more notes taken from any scale, and bass guitars usually possess at least four strings allowing plenty of options for chord voicings.

Triads are groups of three notes which together comprise the chord’s root, third, and fifth notes. Bass players often play different ways with triads to produce different sounds.


Triads are the foundation of all chords; without root, third, and fifth notes you don’t really have a chord; just notes being played together. A major triad is composed of root note (A), major third note (C), and perfect fifth notes (E); it can be constructed over any bass note in this way:

Your choice of voicing will alter the sound of this chord significantly. For instance, choosing an Eb as minor third will alter its overall sound compared to choosing an A as major third.

Movable bass chord shapes are great for creating spaced out intervals in the low spectrum of your bass’s range, as you can move these shapes up and down the neck to play different major triads.

Triad Voicings

Bass players use chords to create various moods and textures in music, but how they voice them can have an immense effect. Since bass guitar strings tend to be thicker and lower in pitch than their guitar counterparts, chords need to be voiced differently in order for them to sound pleasing.

Intervals are essential tools for creating powerful chord voicings, and bass players must understand how they work. A power chord on the bass guitar typically involves adding an interval (such as major third or perfect fifth ), as well as possibly adding an octave for added depth and sound.

Movable chords are shapes that can be moved up and down the neck to produce different chords, making life easier for bassists who wish to save finger movements while becoming more familiar with what notes are available on the fretboard. Figure 1 uses this technique with Cmaj7 power chord shape being moved upwards into Cmaj9 form as an example. Changing shapes around is an excellent way of developing movement skills in bass players.

Open Position Chords

When looking to increase power and thickness to your bass chords, open position is your go-to solution. These notes can be played before using a capo to add new frets.

Open chords typically consist of three or more notes, but bass lacks the high E string so can only accommodate two notes on its lower E and A strings (plus one note on the higher G string). Therefore, to form complete chords you’ll have to combine open shapes.

Some bassists also employ intervals in their open position chords – similar to barre chords on guitar but differing because you do not use your index finger to form bars! – as part of their open position chords. These intervals work differently on bass due to no such notes existing on its four strings!

Movable Chords

Movable chords refer to any chord shape without open strings that can be moved up and down the fretboard to produce the same type of chord with different root notes, for instance a major chord on bass guitar with its root on the fourth string could be moved to become a C minor chord by moving its root note up one fret on fifth string.

Movable chord shapes are particularly helpful on the bass because they enable different fingering techniques to play different notes at the same position. For instance, an E major chord form used above can be moved two frets up the neck for an alternative G triad against a D drone note (a G/B chord).

Movable chords are one of the easiest forms of bass chords to learn, as they allow access to all notes of the major scale with ease. But keep in mind that any chord must contain at least three distinct notes in order to qualify as such.