Diatonic Triads – Major and Minor Chords

Posted on October 17, 2010


Hello Everyone! It was so nice to have guest contributor Jayen Varma last week. What a great Bass player. Feel free to read his article on the Indian Tabla Slap Bass if you have not done so yet.

Ok, it is back to the grind for us. In previous articles I have talked about the intervals, the major and minor 3rds and also 5ths. This week I want to combine them. This combination will bring us one of our most common chord types, the major, minor or minor b5 (diminished) triad.


I want to give a brief review of the chord construction. Basically we take one of our major scales and on top of each degree of the scale we will place the interval of a 3rd and 5th.

Let us use the G major scale to build these triads.

If you want to play through them as chords that is fine but I more so wanted you to see how the notes are stacked on top of one another. There is the interval of a 3rd between each chord tone.

As Bassists we will primarily play these chord tones as arppeggios. That means we play them in order, one note after another.

First, I will give this to you in 2nd position. Except for the final g major chord, all notes will be played between frets 2 and 5. To stay in position, play all 2nd fret notes with your 1st finger, 3rd fret notes with your 2nd, 4th fret notes with the 3rd finger and 5th fret notes with your 4th. This helps to get you accostumed to the key in that area of your neck but to also give all your fingers a chance to work.

G major triad arpeggios:

What we want to make note of at this point is the chord symbols above each arpeggio. Basically because we are staying confined in the scale of G major and are using only those notes. Our chord qualities are automaticaly built. Notice the 1st, 4th and 5th chords all have a major quality. The 2nd, 3rd and 6th are all minor. And the 7th chord is our diminshed chord, the diminished is also commonly referred to as the minor b5.

When playing in any major key the chord qualities will remain in this exact order:

major minor minor major major minor minorb5

What goes up must come down:

Here are the arpeggios descending down through the scale.

Breaking out of second position:

Here are the arpeggios in what may be more practical areas of the neck.

All of these diatonic chords/arpeggios are the foundation in so many different songs. You may start to see and recognize them in what you know already.

Enjoy your BASS!

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