By definition a chord contains two notes or more (as opposed to just a single ‘note’) with Major and minor chords being built as triads (1-3-5 or 1-b3-5). Extending to the 7th adds some extra flavour to the sound – Major 7, dominant 7 and minor 7. Unfortunately the somewhat constrained setup of the bass guitar often limits our ability to include all four notes. Often then we ditch the 5th leaving us the root, 3rd and 7th.
Figure A shows Amaj7, A7 and Am7. All of these chords are ordered root, 7th, 3rd with the root on the low E string and obviously being movable shapes up and down the neck. Have a good listen to the sound of the voicings with the 3rd on top.
Then if we want some A string root voicings let’s check out Figure B. Now we have Dmaj7, D7 and Dm7 with the voicings ordered root, 3rd, 7th. These voicings can also be moved up and down the neck, and combined with the E string root shapes, give you lots of options all over the fretboard. Additionally the A string root voicings give you a different sound due to the order the notes are stacked.
Let’s put some of these 7th chords into practice now in the form of a 12 bar blues in C (Figure C). Using the I-V-IV (C-F-G) we’ll make all the chords dominant 7ths. Starting with C7 (root on the low E string) we can then use F7 and G7 with the root on the A string. This keeps all the voicings close and creates some cool movement in the higher notes. Notice in the C7 the two highest notes are Bb-E (7th-3rd) and these two notes move down a semi tone to create the 3rd-7th (A-Eb) of the F7. Its interesting to see that the semitone movement creates the next chord with the intervals stacked the opposite way. This also then means that moving the higher notes of the C7 chord up a semi tone creates G7 (the 3rd and 7th, B and F).
Displacing the root note and adding some rhythmic ideas then makes this simple 12 bar blues progression quite hip (Figure D). And all of this is just within a few frets on the neck thanks to the way the intervals work out. Of course you can mix it up and drop the root note completely or add some licks and fills in between, and this is just in the key of C. Try moving through some more keys (including some of the tricky ones!) and then moving onto more involved progressions. Major 7, minor 7 and dominant 7 are all easy shapes to get your hands around and will get you through lots of material (along with straight Major and minor).
Get cracking – more next issue!
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