Idiot-Proof Bass Chords (2 Easy Chords for Any Song/Jam)

Get started with bass chords and avoid the mud with these 2 easy shapes.

0:42 - Why Triads Are Tricky on Bass
1:49 - Ditching the Mud with Tenths
3:10 - How to Play Tenths
4:31 - Buffalo Springfield “For What It’s Worth”
5:33 - Fleetwood Mac “Dreams”
6:49 - Alicia Keys “Fallin”
8:07 - Making Up Songs with Tenths
8:58 - Chord Progressions Made Easy
11:51 - Let’s Write a Song

Bass Chord Progressions Cheat Sheet -

If you’re doing the Beginner to Badass course, you could play these chords any time, but the theory will make the most sense once you get into Module 8.

Major and Minor Tenth Bass Chord Shapes

Here are the major and minor tenth shapes starting on an A - but you can slide these around anywhere.

Middle finger on the low note and pinky on the high note is a good fingering option because you can use it on both shapes, so you don’t have to swap fingers while you slide around.

How Tenths Work

Like I said in the video, these are called “tenths” because they’re like the third of a scale bumped up an octave. And if we just kept counting through the scale past the octave, that would be the tenth note we get to, like in this image:

There are some sexy tenths that I love at the beginning of Marcus Miller’s cover of “What Is Hip?”, before he goes into the crazy-speed double thumbing:

What’s your favorite song that uses bass chords?


I was wondering why playing a triad chord on the bass sounds so muddy. These root-10th chords sound freakin’ good!


When I heard those 10ths, my ear recognized them. I’ve heard them before, but didn’t know what they were. Thanks for putting it all together Josh!


Love Will Tear Us Apart (uses power chords, octaves, and root+note).


Very good, @JoshFossgreen . . . there will never be any shortage of things I need to learn and practice with :slight_smile: The concept of ‘tenths’ is something which helped my understanding of scales, too.

Thanks very much. Also left you a thumbs up on the Tube . . . :+1:


Great video Josh.

BTW, I received a call from Simon Cowell; he wants you back on the show.


Great stuff, @JoshFossgreen! Really super useful!

And as for your question, this is where I always come back to “Tapatah” by one of my all-time favorite bass players, Frans Vollink:


Josh, is it bad that i don’t like chords on bass and I’m really not interested in learning them? I’ve tried but I just can’t get into them.


No, it’s not bad . . . and you might like them later on, @eric.hilbun . . . :slight_smile:

@JoshFossgreen’s video is good for future reference.

Cheers, Joe


I’m in the same boat @eric.hilbun

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All good @eric.hilbun and @Lanny! Most bass gigs require precisely 0 chords. :slight_smile:

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If I recall correctly from my advanced bass theorems class, the equation is:

A = B x C²

A is the number of raised eyebrows you get at a gig
B is the number of people in the band other than you
C is the number of bass chords you play during said gig


That’s good math right there. :nerd_face: