Skip to content

Forum

Notifications
Clear all

Lowest note in a chord?

Page 1 / 2

(@ak_guitar)
Eminent Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 48
Topic starter  

It seems like the lowest note in all of the open chords is always the root of the chord. Is that coincidence? Also, the common fingering for a C chord omits the low E string. Technically, E is part of a C chord (C, E and G). So why is it omitted? It sound bad when you add it in, so there must be an explanation. I ask this because when you go about learning piano, it seems like any inversion of a chord is valid. So there must be something more going on here. Can someone explain? Thanks.

Praise the LORD with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. Psalm 33:2-4


Quote
(@fretsource)
Prominent Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 974
 

Inversions are equally valid on guitar as piano and are used whenever required. It's just that when strumming, chords in root position tend to sound more stable and balanced so are usually preferred.


ReplyQuote
(@ricochet)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 7850
 

The lowest note in a chord doesn't have to be the root by any means.

When you start shuffling them around, you get what are called "inversions." Somebody'll come along to explain a bunch of technical stuff about them shortly, but basically they give you different sounding voicings of the "same" chord.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


ReplyQuote
(@vic-lewis-vl)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 10340
 

The lowest note in a chord is usually the root note - it's good to have the root note as the bass note. However, I'd disagree with you on the C chord to a point - yes the open E string doesn't sound too great, but if you play the bottom E string at the third fret, it's a G note and sounds fine. I always play it that way. Must be the difference between having the fifth note of the scale as the bass note instead of the third.

However, in some cases, the bass note isn't the root. The C chord I described above is one - if you listen to "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," the second chord you'll hear is Am with a G bass note.....302210. It's usually written as Am/G and this type of chord is often referred to as a "slash chord."

Another Beatles song, "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" has a sequence played like this:
E|---2---2---2---2---3--|
B|---3---3---3---3---0--|
G|---2---2---2---2---0--|
D|-0-----------------0--|
A|-----3---2---0-----2--|
E|-----------------3-3--|

D, D/C, D/B, D/A, G.....as you can see the bass line is a neat logical descent from the D chord to the G chord via the bass notes D C B A and finally G in the G chord.

Another way the bass note can change in a chord happens a lot in country music, where the bass note alternates between the root and the fifth. There's a great example of this in CCR's "Looking Out My Back Door" - tabbed out by (who else?) Wes Inman here..... http://forums.guitarnoise.com/viewtopic.php?t=7451

There are lots more examples - the band Oasis use a LOT of those slash chords I referred to before. In piano, a lot of inversions are used because sometimes it's easier to change from, say, a C chord to an Em chord by just changing the C note in the chord to a B - makes the transition easier and smoother.

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


ReplyQuote
(@general-savage)
Eminent Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 31
 

It is no coincidence, the bass note generally names or "rules" the chord. The C chord with a E bass is really some kind of E chord. D with an F# bass is possibly the most common type of slash chord, it's just easier to say D/F# and for people to understand it than it is to write it as some kind of F# chord. As fingerstyle guitarists, we will generally hit the bass note as the first note played in a chord to establish it and then possibly alternate with the 5th or 3rd in the bass without putting it at risk.
This means, if you play the C bass first and then the E bass next, it should sound much better.

General Savage


ReplyQuote
(@ignar-hillstrom)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5384
 

*Edited by Nick, let's just say Arjen disagrees with the previous post*

Inversions are very common and practical, but you need a good reason to use them as they indeed sound more unstable. Take for example this progression: G [3 2 0 0 x x] D [2 0 0 2 x x] Em [0 2 2 0]. The D will sound a bit odd but because the bassline makes sense (G->F#->E) it might sound nicer then the more standard voicings. Also remember that when you play in a band the bass-guitar will often play the root, so whatever inversion you'll play will still sound as a root position chord together with the bass. For solo performances more care should be given to the bassnote, opposed to band-context where, IMHO, the topnote is way more important in supporting the melody.

For the rest, chords are named after the combination of notes. Every combination of C, E and G notes is a C-major chord, regardless of the order of the notes. You need extremely good reasons to consider that combination of notes as a variant of an E chord (Em6 in this case) which is based on the function of the chord. In 99% of the cases it'll be a C-major chord, either in root position or inverted.


ReplyQuote
(@vic-lewis-vl)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 10340
 

The C chord with a E bass is really some kind of E chord. D with an F# bass is possibly the most common type of slash chord, it's just easier to say D/F# and for people to understand it than it is to write it as some kind of F# chord.

The C chord with an E bass note - or a G bass note, for that matter - is still a C chord. It's written as C/E or C/G to denote that it's a C chord with an E or G bass note. Same with the D/F# chord - it's still a D chord, comprising the notes D F# and A. They are inversions.

Try strumming a D chord like this; xx0232. Now try strumming it 200232, with your thumb on the F# bass note. The only difference you'll hear is a fuller D chord, not some F# variant.

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


ReplyQuote
(@hyperborea)
Prominent Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 833
 

The C chord with a E bass is really some kind of E chord. D with an F# bass is possibly the most common type of slash chord, it's just easier to say D/F# and for people to understand it than it is to write it as some kind of F# chord.

The C chord with an E bass note - or a G bass note, for that matter - is still a C chord. It's written as C/E or C/G to denote that it's a C chord with an E or G bass note. Same with the D/F# chord - it's still a D chord, comprising the notes D F# and A. They are inversions.

Try strumming a D chord like this; xx0232. Now try strumming it 200232, with your thumb on the F# bass note. The only difference you'll hear is a fuller D chord, not some F# variant.

It's an interesting idea though to imagine it as some sort of F# chord. If you look at the notes F#, A, and D on the F# scale you'll find that they are the 1, b3, and the #5 of the scale. That seems to be an augmented minor F# chord, F#m+, if I'm correct. I think a lot of thte chords that we use can be "rewritten" in other terms. Now, whether that makes any sense in the rest of the progression is another matter.

Pop music is about stealing pocket money from children. - Ian Anderson


ReplyQuote
(@ignar-hillstrom)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5384
 

There is, AFAIK, no such thing as a minor augmented triad. You have minor chords (1 b3 5), major chords (1 3 5), diminished chords (1 b3 b5) and augmented chords (1 3 5#). Personally I can't think of any situation where a 'minor augmented' chord would make any sense but I'm interested in what Noteboat has to say on the matter. You do have augmented minor seventh chords but I've never encountered one so far and I'd be very hesitant about naming a chord as such. Being captain obvious for a change: Augmented minor seventh chords are augmented triads with an added minor seventh: 1 3 5# 7b. For example, C-augmented minor seventh = C E G# Bb.

If you had to rewrite it as F# you'd have a minor triad, so it's either minor or diminished. Neither the C nor C# are present. Ommiting the perfect fith is quite common but ommiting a flattened fifth is kinda odd as it's quite an important note. So it'd probably be some kind of F#m chord with an added b6. Interesting, maybe, but you really need a good reason to annoy a musician with an F#maddb6(no5) if you can just say it's a D. Kinda wondering how you'd call a mb5 chord without the b5. F#mb5addb6(nob5)? :P

In general just go for the easiest solution, it's usually best.


ReplyQuote
(@wes-inman)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5599
 

Won't get into all the theory stuff, but chords can be played with other than the Root on the lowest note and often are.
A good example of this is Highway to Hell by AC/DC. The main riff is pretty simple:


A5 D/F# G5 D/F# G5
e--------------------------------------
b----------------3-3-3----------3-3-3--
g--2-2-2---------2-2-0----------2-2-0--
d--2-2-2---------0-0-0----------0-0-0--
a--0-0-0---------X-X-X----------X-X-X--
e----------------2-2-3----------2-2-3—-

D/F# G5 D/F# A5
e------------------------
b--3-3-3---------3-3-----
g--2-2-0---------2-2-2---
d--0-0-0---------0-0-2---
a--X-X-X---------X-X-0---
e--2-2-3---------2-2-----

These are pretty much open chords except you hold the F# on the D chord with your thumb. Play this riff with a normal D chord and listen to the big difference in mood. The F# note adds a dark sinister sound to the riff. Compare these two bass lines:


e---------------------------------------------------
b---------------------------------------------------
g---------------------------------------------------
d---------------------------------------------------
a---------------------------------------------------
e--5-5-5------2-2-3------2-2-3------2-2-3-----2-2-5-

e--------------------------------------------------
b--------------------------------------------------
g--------------------------------------------------
d--------------------------------------------------
a------------5-5---------5-5-------5-5-------5-5---
e--5-5-5---------3-----------3---------3---------5-

The first line plays a F# bass over the D chord and sounds dark. The second line plays the simple Root note. Sounds good, but not as dark or sinister as the first line.

And this is usually why a note other than the Root is played in the bass. Oftentimes the bass note will be used to lead the listener's ear. Sometimes you hear a descending bass line, sometimes an ascending bass line. This can add a lot of color to your rhythm guitar and lead the listener's ear.

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


ReplyQuote
(@general-savage)
Eminent Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 31
 

The C chord with an E bass note is still a C chord.
Vic

I understand what you mean.

But, it has an E bass note and therefore, by definition it is a E chord of some nature. Now, in the context of the way it is played, the brain may accept it as C chord if that is what fits with its expectations.

Martin Taylor often plays on the fact the brain will hear the notes it expects within a context and therefore leaves them out!

In addition, with chord inversions; the root note is usually being covered by a bass player, or the left hand of a piano. If it isn't, then it back to the rules of pscho acoustic perception, as per the above.

So then, here's a question that might help, what's is the difference between a C major scale and an A minor scale????

General Savage


ReplyQuote
(@fretsource)
Prominent Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 974
 

The C chord with an E bass note is still a C chord.
Vic
But, it has an E bass note and therefore, by definition it is a E chord of some nature.

Can you point me to any authoritative source that defines chords this way? The traditional way to define chords in common practice classical harmony, (extending to most rock and pop) is not from the bass note but the root note, which may or may not also be the bass note.


ReplyQuote
(@vic-lewis-vl)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 10340
 

Vic Lewis wrote:

The C chord with an E bass note is still a C chord.
Vic

I understand what you mean.

But, it has an E bass note and therefore, by definition it is a E chord of some nature. Now, in the context of the way it is played, the brain may accept it as C chord if that is what fits with its expectations.

NO! It isn't an E chord - it's a C chord, it contains nothing other than the C major triad, C (root) E (3rd) and G(5th.) Just because you've added an extra E note on the bottom string doesn't change the root note of the chord - it's still C! You're still only using C E and G notes - that's a C chord. It's referred to as C/E to denote it's a C chord BUT instead of a C bass note, you've got an E bass note. It's called an inversion because you're inverting - or changing - the normal voicing of the chord, and the root note - C - is no longer the lowest note in the chord. But it IS still there.....

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


ReplyQuote
(@chris-c)
Famed Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 3460
 

But, it has an E bass note and therefore, by definition it is a E chord of some nature.

Cmajor is CEG

Eminor is EGB

So EGC would be what? An Eminor with a sharp 5th?

An E augmented (E+) can apparently go E, C, E, G#, C, E which is very close to a common C form. So E, C, E, G, C, E (C major) could be called an E minor augmented? Or an E+ flat 3?? I'm a bit rough on this chord naming stuff...

Seems a little bit like saying that a guitar has strings - so you could say that "by definition" that makes it a banjo of some nature. But I don't really see why you can't say that an inversion of a C could be seen as a type of E if that suited the context. I'm really more interested in the noise than the name, so I don't mind what people call it, as long as it conveys the musical information that I need to play it. 8)

Cheers,

Chris


ReplyQuote
(@fretsource)
Prominent Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 974
 

[But I don't really see why you can't say that an inversion of a C could be seen as a type of E if that suited the context. I'm really more interested in the noise than the name, so I don't mind what people call it, as long as it conveys the musical information that I need to play it.

Yes - context is the main consideration and the best name for any chord is the one that conveys the most information, not only about its structure, but also its function. If we're in the key of C major and the chord is clearly functioning as the tonic, i.e., I chord, then calling it anything other than a C would be misleading.

There are contexts, though, where the I chord doesn't sound like the I chord but a V chord.

For example, a composition can end with the following progression:

C major: GEGC (3X201X) G major: GDGB (3X000X) C major: CEGC (X3201X)

If you play that progression, you can hear that the first chord, being a second inversion (i.e., the fifth in the bass) sounds very unstable and not at all like the I chord is expected to sound. It actually sounds like a G sus chord - that wants to resolve to its target G major chord, which can then safely resolve to the true C chord at the end.

In this context, that first C chord is called a "cadential 6/4 chord" on G, meaning, although its seen as a second inversion C major, it's being strongly heard as a G chord with the 4th (C) displacing the 3rd (B) and the 6th (E) displacing the 5th (D).
(If the E & C of the first chord have been tied over from the previous chord, as is often the case, then it may be called a suspended 6/4)
In this special context, calling it a G provides more information than calling it a C does. As was mentioned above, you'd need a very good reason to call a C chord by one of its other notes. This is one of those occasions.


ReplyQuote
Page 1 / 2