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Bass Chords

Article from Making Music, July 1986

Four-stringed readers of Making Music show one-stringers how to go further.

In the May issue we asked for "your own fab bass chord shapes". The postman hasn't forgiven us. Sackfuls have arrived from you, the talented reader, and here's a tasty selection. So get out your rude bass guitars, turn up the volume, and try some of these.

A few of your bass chords built extra notes on to the purposefully simple ones that we showed in the May issue: the most popular with you is the root, fifth and octave three-note chord that goes like this:

Used in the position shown here, you can also whack in the open E string to give a full four-note growl, as Mike Venton of Hull noted.

A slightly more complicated extension of this came from Paul Harris in Swindon, who suggested adding a low A on the E-string like this:

We gave this a whirl, broke a finger or two, swore a bit, and then read Paul's next paragraph. "The A is played with the thumb from the front of the fingerboard. I should point out that I have double jointed thumbs." Now you tell us! Still, see if you come out of it with the same shape hands you went in with.

A chap called Mark King figures prominently in some of your descriptions of bass chords — can't think why. Mick Gregory of Rotherham came up with two good 'uns in this category: first, "a useful 11th shape à la Mark King" (also suggested by A K M Wong of Epsom):

Use this with the root E-string note on the third fret, then slide up to the tenth fret, slide back and forth between the two, and you've got another way of playing May's 'Walk On The Wild Side' bass riff. But back to Mick Gregory, whose next chord is an "unusual but easy 6th, as in 'Dune Tune' by Mark King":

Mick also comes up with a couple of nice sevenths which you can use all over the place, though strangely he makes no reference to Mark King on these (though we happen to know that the second of these is a particular fave of Mark's):

Paul Sharpe wrote to us from Shrewsbury: "There's some great chords on side one of Mark King's solo album, 'Influences'. Incidentally, there's a wicked solo on the same side but it's shit 'cos Mark King's such a slow bassist, know wot I mean?" Er, no Paul, but do carry on.

"Anyway, you can get some nice chords using notes a fifth apart. It sounds pretty good just wandering about the neck, but you might try it in a blues progression: start with a two-note chord on D on the A-string and A on the D-string, then move to G on the D-string and D on the G-string, and finally play A on the D-string and E on the G-string." Mmmm, tha's nice Paul.

Now then, a quick run of interesting one-offs for you to have a go at. First, a couple from Rik of St Annes, Lancashire (who also deserves a little space for his renaming of Sigue Sigue Sputnik as We've Got A Delay Box And We Don't Know How To Use It). Rik's chords are major and minor examples of the same idea but, as he mentions, the bottom string "doesn't help much and can be tricky to hold down — and as usual these are better played high up the neck". Here they are:

Now, D Carey of Chiswick's neat little three-noter:

A J Gallagher of Hotwells, Bristol, sent us a whole tape of bass tunes instead of doing little neck drawings like everyone else. This meant that (a) we listened to the tape and thought oh, what a clever boy, but (b) couldn't show you any of his chords. Still, a bronze star for trying.

And now, we move on to our two winners — and strangely, both use harmonics. You'll love them. Promise. First, Steve Djurovich of Hanworth suggests this simple but captivating A6, using a combination of a single fretted root note and three harmonics (marked with circles here over the exact harmonic points):

To get the best out of harmonics, Steve recommends you "use the treble pickup on the bass if one's fitted, boost the treble on your amp's EQ, and pluck the strings close to the bridge."

Bear this in mind when you play our overall favourite, which comes from Stu Grimshaw of Leeds (harmonic spots again marked with a circle):

What you do is hit the three harmonic notes marked on the fifth and seventh frets, then pluck the fretted C on the E-string as the harmonics still ring, and then hit the harmonic on the ninth fret of the G-string. Or you can try different combinations using the same shape and idea. Either way, well done Stu.

As promised, we will be dishing out a set of strings to our two winners. Now, anyone got any better ones? We've got another couple of string sets waiting. Get your pens and rulers out, and off you go.

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The Dumb Chums

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Skill Centre: Big Country

Publisher: Making Music - Track Record Publishing Ltd, Nexus Media Ltd.

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Making Music - Jul 1986


Previous article in this issue:

> The Dumb Chums

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> Skill Centre: Big Country

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