How to play chords on a bass

By | April 9, 2021


Learn the notes on your bass. You can buy a chart that shows you the names of the neck of your guitar. The strings on a base, from thinnest to thickest, are GDAE. These are the same notes as the lowest (thickest) strings on a guitar, except that they are lower in pitch. You can also find a chart online that shows you the note names of your base (see Resources).


Buy a bass guitar chord list from a music store or use one of the many free bass chord references online (see Resources). Every chord that a guitarist can play with the four lowest strings can be played on a bass. That means you can use a guitar chord in a pinch.


Remember chord forms rather than trying to learn each chord in each key. Learning these patterns and knowing the note positions on the neck of your bass will open up a world of chords with a minimum of memorization and effort. You can move these few chord shapes anywhere on your bass and play another chord without having to change the pattern.

Tips and warnings

  • Pay attention to the notes you choose. The base notes are heavier and the strings are thicker. If you put too many notes in a chord, you can disturb the sound on your bass section, especially if you play at high volume. Two or three tones are maximum.
  • Although the bass guitar is usually played one note at a time, bassists can play chords in the same way as the guitarist does. Playing chords on a bass can add depth to the music by creating a ‘fuller’ sound. However, it can be more difficult to play chords on a guitar, as the bass strings are thicker and further apart.