Open Chord Bass Notes


It is a rainy day here in Austin, Tx and I currently have nothing to do except sit down with a warm cup of coffee and write about guitar stuff 🙂 I have the best job…

One of the most important concepts a rhythm guitar player needs to understand is what strings to play (and which strings not to play) as they are strumming chords. We have all heard the guitar player who strums all 6 strings all the time and his otherwise excellent skill is muddied by the constant ringing of open bass strings. Luckily for us, there is a simple trick to knowing which strings to strum at all times!

The main chord progression to a studio original piece called “Spanish Waltz” is Dm-Am-E-Am. You pluck the bass string of each chord and then strum the strings underneath twice to get the waltz feel. Say, “Bass-Down-Down” evenly as you play the pattern on each chord. When playing the Dm chord, use the 4th string as your bass note. Try it now.

So, why did we use the 4th string as the bass note for the Dm chord?

*Drum Roll Please*

Because the 4th string is the “D” string! The goal is to make the bass note the same as the name of the chord. For instance, the bass note of a C chord should be a “C” and the bass note of an E minor chord should be an “E”. Back to Spanish Waltz…

For the D minor we use the open 4th string which is D, for the A minor we use the open 5th string which is “A”, For the E we use the open 6th string which is E.

So what about a chord like C? None of the open strings are a “C” so which string should we begin strumming on?

The answer is the same for C as it is for any other chord that does not have a matching open bass string… you simply begin strumming from the string that your top left hand finger is on. So the C chord bass would be on string 5.

Playing the correct bass notes with your chords will greatly improve the sound of your strumming. Please feel free to contact me with any questions!