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Chords on Fretless Bass

Since I started playing bass in the beginning of the eighties, I’ve played chords on all my basses, particularly on fretless.

Playing chords is a good way to develop your ear and make your hands stronger at the same time. It’s also very important to increase your harmonic perception, which is necessary to be able to build correct bass lines.

You can start with double stops on a 4 string bass, for example playing scales in 10ths.

Then study the basic fingerings and positions for major, minor, and seventh chords. It can take a long time to become familiar with these chord studies depending on the level of your playing and how well your ear is trained

As a jazz student, and after years of practing chords, I’ve developed my own solo versions of standards.

Below is a transcription of “Blue in Green” (Miles Davis) for a 6 string fretless contrabass guitar.

I’ve developed my techniques around the concept of keeping in mind that I want to play what I hear.

Some of the chords I’ll choose to play are more related to those used by piano players than guitar players (bar 3, 4 & 7). To play those chords I use my thumb on the fingerboard like an upright player.

Be careful with your hands. Go very slowly and try to be relaxed even when you are playing difficult chord positions.

First study each chord separately, and then try to play a progression (one or two bars). Again, go very slowly.

When you start to become comfortable with all the progressions, try to play the tune completely.

After that you can start to develop your own chord arrangements for your favorite songs, keeping in mind that it’s the music which will allow you to discover new chord positions (and not the reverse). This way you’ll grow as a musician as well as a bass player!

Hope you enjoy it!

Please click on the first link below to listen to “Blue In Green” and then click on the second link to download the transcription…


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