Today, we’ll be looking at the relationship between the terms bass note and root note.
If all of this doesn’t make much sense yet, don’t worry at all because with everything we’ll cover in today’s post, you’ll understand the difference between situations where both terms can be used interchangeably and situations where they can’t.
- Definition of the Root Note and Bass Note
- The Bass Note
- Root Note Vs Bass Note
- Situation #1 – When A Chord Is Played In Root Position
- Situation #2 – When A Chord Is Inverted
- Final Words
- Chord of the Day Quiz
- How Do You Use Root Notes?
- How Do I Find the Root Note in a Chord?
- The Relation between Chords and Root Notes
- What is a Root Strum?
- Is Learning Guitar Root Notes Important?
- Are the Root Notes Different in Different Chord Types?
- Root Notes on the Guitar
- E String
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- Hang on, but there is more than one E note in this chord? Are they root notes too?
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- Quick Quiz!
- Question 1) What is the root note of a chord named ‘D Major’ ?
- Question 4) Name The Root Note In This Chord
- Question 5) What is the root note of the chord in this diagram?
- Why do I need to understand the root notes on a guitar?
- 1) Root Notes Form The Foundation Of All Guitar Knowledge
- 2) You Must Know Root Notes If You Want To Play Lead Guitar
- 3) Root Notes Enhance Your Chord Knowledge
- Where are the root notes on the guitar?
- E String Notes
- A String Notes
- What Type of Guitarist Are You?
Definition of the Root Note and Bass Note
Right before we get into the differences between a bass note and a root note, let’s get started with the definition of both terms.
The Bass Note
The notes of a chord are often times considered as voice parts – soprano, alto, tenor, and bass.
The word bass literally means low in Italian.
Considering that the word bass takes it root in the Italian word basso which means low and is also related to the word base, you can tell a layman that a bass note is a base note.
Think about buildings (irrespective of what sort), that will always have a base – which is pretty much the lowest part (aka -“foundation”) of the building.
The bass note is the bottom support (or base) of the chord, upon which other voice parts rest on.
No matter how a chord is played, its bass note is the “base note” or the lowest note.
Every chord, no matter how complex or simple, has a note that is is derived from. That note is called its root note.
No doubt, the chord above is a major chord, but why is it that even though it consists of C, E, and G, it is called the C major triad.
“Why isn’t it called an E major triad or even a G major triad?”
The triad above is called the C major triad because it is derived or formed from the C note.
Having understood that, we can say that the root note of a chord is the note that the chord is formed from.
Now that we’ve understood what the terms are, let’s dedicate the next segment of this lesson to highlighting characteristic differences between the root note and the bass note.
Root Note Vs Bass Note
The root note is not always the bass note and the bass note is not always the root note.
Let’s consider the root and bass notes in two situations.
Situation #1 – When A Chord Is Played In Root Position
All root position chords have their root note as the lowest (aka – “bass”) note.
Attention: It is only in root position chords that a root note and a bass note are one and the same.
Situation #2 – When A Chord Is Inverted
The C major triad can be rearranged (or inverted) in such a way that a different note other than the root note (C) is assigned to the bass (lowest note).
When the C major triad is played in first inversion:
When the C major triad is played like this:
Even though the root note is C, the bass note is G.
Considering that the C major triad can be played using any of the tones it’s made up of as a bass note – C, E, or G, we can say that the choice of bass note is not limited to the root note (which is C.)
Attention: When the notes of a chord are rearranged (or inverted), the bass note will differ from the root note.
The terms root note and bass note are often used interchangeably. However, from their definition, it’s clear that the terms bass note and root note don’t mean the same thing.
While the term bass note refers to the lowest note in a chord, the term root note refers to the note from which the chord is derived or formed.
Example #1 – Eb major in Root Position
Example #2 – G major in Root Position
Example #3 – B minor in Root Position
The root note is B. The bass note is also B.
However, as you learned, this is not the case in all situations. We’re bound to have chords played in first, second, third inversion, etc, that have different bass notes.
Example #1 – D minor in First Inversion
Example #2 – Bb major in First Inversion
Example #3 – C major in Second Inversion
The root note is C while the bass note is G.
A chord can have as many as three options for a bass note and sometimes four if its a seventh chord. However, when it comes to the root note, a chord can only have one root note.
I hope you find this helpful.
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If you are a guitar player, you have to learn about chord root notes. These will help you change keys and build songs from scratch with ease. Guitar root notes start the chord, giving the name to it. It is the lowest of the three notes played, meaning it has the thickest string on the bass side of the fretboard.
The root note determines the pitch of a chord, and ultimately, of specific song sections. This reason is why it is so essential that you understand this musical terminology. To better understand the whole concept of a guitar root note, read the information provided to you below.
You must understand the answer to the question, “what is a root note?” if you want to play guitar. These concepts help you build chords, create one string guitar riffs and gain a better understanding of how you create songs. When you first encounter root notes, you may feel overwhelmed, but this section should help you.
When you play a chord on a guitar, you press on three strings on the fretboard. The lowest one on the bass side correlates with the root note and describes the song’s key. When you create a chord, and the lowest string you touch is D, for instance, you would play “D Major” or “D Minor.”
When you see a chord diagram, the root note will be number one in most cases. This label is due to it being the first out of the three. It builds up the rest of the chords because they will occur in intervals concerning the root note.
The letter you see on the guitar chart will correlate with the root note of the chord. It is where you will first place your finger on the fretboard. After, you will press the other two, then strum the strings as you typically would.
To better emphasize the information above, each of the three pitches in a chord describes the tone it. The root note will be the primary note, however. It allows the other two to exist in the order they have. It is when playing the three melodically that you can create beautiful music.
How Do You Use Root Notes?
When you understand the guitar root note of a specific chord, you can comprehend the strings to strum. As mentioned, it defines your pitch. To stay on key, you want to avoid strumming anything lower than the root note on the chord.
When you strum all six strings, there will be no melody to your songs. It will sound distorted and stoic. Some even believe that when a musician haphazardly strums everything at once, the song sounds muddy and congested. Root notes help you create music that sounds crisp, clean, and precise.
The root note is the lowest that you will place your fingers on first, as mentioned. The bass pitch found in it will define the sounds that you produce. They set the stage for the melody and the beauty that exists in it.
Root notes are not only the first ones found in a chord. They are also the beginning of a scale, whether it be major or minor. Both start and stop on the root note that is in place. Most melodies and songs come from one of the many minor and major scales. The root note essentially becomes a base of sorts that the music can fall back on.
When you understand a root note guitar-based, you will better comprehend the pattern that exists in a song. You will also know which pitch to focus on when playing. Both of these uses of root notes make your songs sound more beautiful and melodic.
How Do I Find the Root Note in a Chord?
To learn how to find the root note of a chord, you can consider any diagrams that exist on them. Look for the letter that is in the title. When you find it, you can know you located your root note.
Sometimes, the title of a chord may not be present on a diagram. To understand how to find the root of a chord in this instance, you only need to find the first letter out of the three listed. You can also look for the note listed as number one on the diagram itself.
Again, sometimes, the notes on the chord diagram look like nothing more than an open or closed circle. The one closest to the top of the image will equate to the lowest on the guitar. It will likely be the root note in this case.
Sometimes, inversions happen with guitar chords. If the three notes used were E-G-C, you know the root note was E, for instance. Sometimes the same chord may show as G-E-C. This listing is an inversion, but all you have to do is find the lowest note out of the three in this case.
The lowest notes in an inversion diagram will also be those closest to the top in most cases. This fact is helpful when you are unsure of the order of musical pitches. Many beginners struggle with this concept when first learning guitar.
The Relation between Chords and Root Notes
The root note is also the thickest string you will press when creating a chord with your hands. It is the lowest pitch out of the three. For this reason, you will find that it is the thickest string that you will press on when playing the chord.
What is a Root Strum?
A root strum occurs when you start with the first note of the chord. You will only play other strings that are below it. Remember, the first note of a chord is the root note. It is also in the title of it.
You will start by strumming the string associated with the note that is the title of the chord. You will not go above that pitch, however. Only strum any note below the initial string, meaning you make your pitch sound deeper. It is a unique sound that artists from all different genres use.
The root strum, as mentioned, has found use with artists from many different genres. One of the most common, however, is bluegrass. It makes sense that these musicians would use the root strum as they thrive on deep, Americana sounds. Often, they have a singer who performs in the bass octave too.
Rock music is another genre that commonly uses the root strum. This type of songwriting involves heavy riffs, and in the metal subgenre, low-pitched growls and screams. Again, it would make sense that these artists would more likely rely on bass notes.
You must know, however, that the root strum is a specialized technique. If you play a standard chord or scale, you will still strum all strings. You press on the notes on the fretboard, however. Doing this will create the sound that you want to make when playing a song on your guitar.
Is Learning Guitar Root Notes Important?
Most songs use chords. When you look at any piece of guitar sheet music, the creators list the various pitches you will use throughout specific parts of the song. The letter used to denote the chord, as mentioned throughout, is the root note, meaning you must understand them.
Root notes form the chords and scales of music. Your songs will not sound as they should without proper comprehension. You will, as mentioned, not understand the key of the song, meaning it may sound pitchy. If you are a performer, you must avoid this mistake.
If you are in the middle of playing a song or performing with your guitar, there is a chance that you will forget all three notes in a chord. You may also have trouble remembering all of the pitches on a specific scale. You can rely on the root note if you forget every other one as you will still achieve a beautiful sound.
With this many benefits, it only makes sense that you should do everything possible to comprehend root notes. Each fret on each line has a root note associated with it, but it is up to you to determine which you will use in your song.
Are the Root Notes Different in Different Chord Types?
Most of the information above detailed a standard chord. Here, a root note is at the bottom and played first. There are variations to standard chords, however, as seen below.
In a first inversion, the root note would still be the lowest. It would only be in a different order. The tone that would typically be higher would be the last played after you press your fingers on the fretboard to create the chord.
A second inversion occurs when the fifth note you play is the alternative lowest. Again, the root will still be the actual bass note, however. You will only play the pitches in a different order. The chord’s title will still have the root note in its name, but it will label it as a second inversion.
Finally, there is a third inversion chord. This option will use the fourth note as the lowest. The others will be higher, as they are in the previous two inversion options, though the root will remain the same. Inversions are a complicated topic for many musicians, with many experienced guitar players only using them.
Root Notes on the Guitar
As mentioned, each fret on each string, or line, has a different root note associated with it. IT is impossible to memorize all of them, however, but they are below for your needs in the chord root note chart. Pay more attention to the E and A string root notes, however, as these are the most used.
There are many variations of the root notes mentioned, as they occur in different keys and pitches. If you want to quickly learn these, you can look up the patterns that exist within the octaves.
To find the next octave of a note, you only have to go up two frets. Once you get to that location, move up two strings. This movement will take you to the next pitch that you want to play.
You will have to go over three frets if you want to go to the third octave of your root note. After getting to this location, you will still only move up two strings, however. This method will work no matter the root note guitar you want to find.
The root note B is on the A string, for instance, and fret two. You can start with this one. If you want to find the next octave for B, you will move over to number four. After, go up to the fourth fret on the G string.
Root notes are powerful tools that help you form chords and scales and allow you to know the pitches and keys you need for a song. They typically are the lowest tone you will play, creating the heaviest sound. The opposite is true, however, if you want to perform a root strum. Remember, you will only touch the strings below the root note to create this type of sound.
Root chords guitar only exist with the help of one of these notes. This statement is true whether you play an inverted or standard chord. Once again, the root note used is the title of any chord, no matter the type. This information is only the beginning of why you need to learn about this concept, however. There are many additional benefits, including the use of arpeggios, that come from root notes not discussed here.
1st string 2nd string 3rd string 4th string 5th string 6th string
0 E A D G B e
1 F Bb Eb Ab C F
2 F# B E A Db F#
3 G C F Bb D G
4 Ab Db F# B Eb Ab
5 A D G C E A
6 Bb Eb Ab Db F Bb
7 B E A D F# B
8 C F Bb Eb G C
9 Db F# B E Ab Db
10 D G C F A D
11 Eb Ab Db F# Bb Eb
12 E A D G B E
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-What are root notes, 3rd, and 5th, and how can knowing the root notes of a scale or chord benefit me?
The Fish King
Join date: Mar 2015
Those would be intervals. An interval is the distance between two notes. A root is a distance of «zero», the root of C would be the same C. A third is a distance of either 3 (minor) or 4 (major) semitones. A fifth is a distance of 7 semitones, from G to D for example.
If you don’t know the root of the scale/chord your playing how do you even know what you’re playing? If you need to play an A minor chord, you need to know what an «A» is, right? The rest of the intervals are used when you want to build scales, chords and chord progressions. Intervals are the basis of western music theory. All notes sound identical on their own, but when you play many different notes in context (=a composition) you use intervals to analyze the relationship between those notes. If you want to learn theory, I suggest you learn your intervals thoroughly.
Join date: Jul 2015
Quote by Ouri2011
They are simply notes counted up a scale, where root = «1st». Technically, «root» refers to chords, not scales, because any note of a scale can be a chord root. The root of a scale is the «tonic» or «keynote».So you could take the C major scale and start from the F note, call that the «root» (to build a chord), and count the 3rd and 5th notes up from there: A and C. (Get it?) That produces an F «major triad».
«3rd» and «5th» also refer to the «intervals», the pairs of notes involved, ie including the root you counted from. So F-A is a 3rd interval, and F-C is a 5th interval.
Things get complicated because intervals can be different sizes (in half-steps). That’s where the terms «major», «minor», «perfect», etc come from. F-C is a «perfect 5th», meaning it measures 7 half-steps, which is a very pure and strong-sounding interval. Most scales and chords have perfect 5ths, because it makes them consonant and stable.F-A is a «major 3rd», meaning it’s the bigger of the two common sizes of 3rd. It measures 4 half-steps. A minor 3rd only measures 3 half-steps: eg. F-Ab, F#-A, C-Eb, or D-F. Intervals of 2nds, 6ths and 7ths also come in major or minor sizes, but it’s the difference in sound between the minor and major 3rd which is probably the most important interval difference in western music. When we talk about «major = happy» and «minor = sad», it’s the effect of the 3rd interval we’re talking about. The 3rd is what gives major and minor chords and major and minor scales their names. (The scales contain mixtures of other intervals but it’s the 3rd that gives them their main character.)
The root is the note a chord (or scale if you use the term loosely) is named after. What matters is not really the theory, but being able to find those notes on your instrument. Eg. it’s easy enough to know that the root of an Em chord is E! But can you find all the E notes on your fretboard? Can you build an Em chord (or E minor scale) anywhere on the fretboard?E is generally the «home note» in an E or Em chord. It will be the «base» note (and usually also the «bass» note
), the most obvious or least expressive note to play. In an E major or minor scale, it’s the note that will sound most «final», so if you end phrases or licks on E it will sound like putting the period on a sentence. Of course, you don’t always want a phrase to sound final, which is why you might end on a different note. And if you want a more expressive note to play on a chord, you’d play a note other than the root: maybe the 3rd or 5th (which each have their own characters), or maybe something stronger such as a 7th, 6th or 9th. This is why knowing all those notes matters. Knowing the theoretical terms matters less (unless you want to talk about them) than knowing their sounds and how to find them.
Last edited by jongtr at Jan 4, 2017, 6:46 AM
Join date: Sep 2014
If you intend to improvise or write music, it helps to know about 3rds and 5ths (at least). See https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1717886.
jerrykramskoy what are other important stuff that i should be aware of when improvising?
Ouri2011 Obviously, listening to what else is going on. There are a lot of different aspects that contribute to improvisation. Two things that are really important
2/ chord knowledge (different chord types) and chord tones.
6 years ago
Are you stuck in a rut because you don’t understand root notes? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there! We’re going to show you EVERYTHING you need to know about root notes.
In this free guitar lesson you will learn
The root note is the in a chord. On guitar, this is usually the lowest sounding note in a chord.
The root note defines the ‘key of a chord’.
For example, if you were playing a major chord, and the root note was a ‘C’. The chord would be ‘C Major’.
Or, if the chord was minor and the root note was an ‘A’. The chord would be ‘A minor’.
To find the root note of a chord:
Learn to play this chord here: 4 Easy Ways To Play The E Chord On Guitar
In this case, the lowest note in this chord, is the low E string. (6th string.) Therefore the root note in this chord, is a ‘E’.
If you don’t know the notes are on your guitar, you can use a super-easy method. Here it is:
To learn what is the root note of a chord, look at the first letter in a chord.
For example, if the chord was A major. The first letter in the chord is an ‘A’. Therefore the root note is an ‘A’.
This works for any chord type, whether it’s major, minor, diminished or augmented. Just look at the first letter.
Hang on, but there is more than one E note in this chord? Are they root notes too?
Yes, it is possible to have more than root note in a chord.
In this ‘E chord’ there are 3 root notes in total.
They are on the:
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No. It doesn’t matter whether your chord is, major, minor, diminished or augmented. The root note is ALWAYS the same.
- C Major 7.
- C Minor 7.
The root note for EVERY one of these chords is a ‘C’. Despite each chord being different, the root note is ALWAYS the same.
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We’ve created a quick quiz which will help you learn what is the root note a chord.
Grab a pen, a piece of a paper and write your answers down!
Let’s get started.
Question 1) What is the root note of a chord named ‘D Major’ ?
Question 4) Name The Root Note In This Chord
Question 5) What is the root note of the chord in this diagram?
*Drum roll please* Here are the answers for the quiz:
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Why do I need to understand the root notes on a guitar?
Root notes are essential for any guitarist to know. Here are 3 reasons why you need to understand root notes:
1) Root Notes Form The Foundation Of All Guitar Knowledge
Without root notes, scales, arpeggios and chords wouldn’t mean anything. Root notes define the key of all of these elements.
The root note is the MOST important note in any scale, arpeggio or chord as this tells us what the key is.
If you don’t understand what the root note is, you can’t understand the key. You will never sound good if you don’t understand root notes.
2) You Must Know Root Notes If You Want To Play Lead Guitar
The root note is one of the MOST important notes on the guitar you can play. If you’re stuck on what to play, play the root note.
This note will always sound good, it’s impossible for it not too!
3) Root Notes Enhance Your Chord Knowledge
Root notes enhance your chord knowledge. If you can understand where the root notes are on the guitar, we guarantee that you will be able to play more guitar chords.
To learn guitar chords go here: Guitar Chord Chart: Learn ALL Chords In ALL Keys
Where are the root notes on the guitar?
Here are ALL of the notes on a guitar:
It’s not essential that you learn EVERY single note on the guitar. However, you must learn what the notes are on the E and A string are.
To make things easier, here are the E string and A string notes isolated.
E String Notes
All of the notes on the low E string (6th string) and high E string (1st string) are EXACTLY the same.
A String Notes
The quickest and easiest way to learn the rest of the notes on a guitar is in octave patterns.
An octave is the same note, but at a higher pitch.
Let’s use the note ‘C’ as an example. We’re going to start with a C note on the 8th fret of the low E string. (6th string.)
To find the next C note, we’re going to up two frets to the 10th fret, and up 2 strings. This takes us to the 10th fret of the D string. (4th string.)
This will take you to a C note. To find the next C:
You should be playing a C note on the 13th fret of the B string. (2nd string.)
You can also apply this concept to the C notes on the A string. (5th string.)
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