5 and 6 String Bass Chords

Why Bass Chords are Different

Person playing 5-String Bass Guitar
Image by KinhaBass from Pixabay

You cannot play 5 and 6 String Bass Chords the same way that you would play chords on guitar.  Strum 6 strings on a guitar, and most people would say that it’s a pleasant sound. It’s certainly something that we are accustomed to after listening to decades of music played this way.

However, with bass guitar, if you try to use the same kind of multiple string chords, it doesn’t work. The sound created is too muddy and unpleasant to our ears. So how should you play bass chords?

The type of chords that typically work well on bass guitar use 10th intervals rather than 3rds. Tenths are actually 3rd intervals played an octave higher.  This separation makes it easier for our ears to distinguish the notes. In many instances, these two notes are more than enough to support other instruments that will play higher notes.

The fact is that bass guitar is not usually called upon to play chords.  When it is, you can take those 10th intervals and add a 7th tone.  That will nicely define the majority of chords that you will want to play on bass guitar.

You can play chords on a 4-string bass, however having 5 or 6 strings is an advantage for playing chords. It is much easier to assemble chords that are more open (notes spaced apart).  That is especially true of a 6-string bass.

 Watch the video below to learn some basic Major 7th, minor 7th, and dominant 7th chords that are easy to play and that work well on bass guitar. 


Learn Basic 5 and 6 String Bass Guitar Chords

Download the sheet for the bass guitar chord shapes used in the video here.

Guitar Chord Charts Notebook  – Blank 12-fret guitar charts with TAB/staff lines – handy 6″ x 9″ size. Has page numbers and blank Contents pages. Keep your chord charts and music notes in one place.