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Building chords from the major scale

While you will not strum chords very often like a guitar player might, you will play the notes of a chord in your bass lines. When the notes of a chord are played one at a time, this is known as an arpeggio. Playing arpeggios will be how you apply the knowledge of chords to the bass.

Basic chords are created by stacking up every other note in a major scale. In this lesson we will be using a C major scale to explain how chords are created. Below are the notes of a C major scale.

 

C Major scale = C D E F G A B C

If I start on C, and skip every other note in the scale for a total of 3 notes, this a C major chord.

C D E F G A B C
|___|___| = C
* (C major chord)

*When you are looking at a chord symbol, if you just see a letter it is a major chord. So "C" means "C major".

If you start on D, and do the same thing a Dm chord is created. Why this is a minor chord will have to be looked into a little later. So for now it is just one of those things that you have to accept on blind faith. The notes D, F, and A create a Dm chord.

C D E F G A B C
  |___|___|
= Dm* (D minor chord)

*The small m after the D means minor

The process of stacking 3 notes up in the major scale could continue until you have 7 different chords. There are 7 different notes in a major scale.

C D E F G A B C
    |___|___| = Em (E minor chord)

C D E F G A B C
      |___|___| = F (F major chord)

C D E F G A B C D
        |___|___| = G (G major chord)

C D E F G A B C D E
          |___|___| = Am (A minor chord)

C D E F G A B C D E F
            |___|___| = Bo
* (B diminished chord)

*The small circle after the B means diminished when used in a chord symbol. A diminished chord is just another "flavor" of chord sound.

These first chords that we are taking a look at are sometimes called triads. A triad is just a term for a 3 note chord.

It is a little easier to visualize how chords are created on the piano as opposed to the bass. The video below shows these seven chords and how they would be played on the piano. The white keys from C-C form a C major scale, therefore to create the basic chords you skip every other white key. This video does not have any sound.


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Page 2, How the chords function in the key



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