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Free Kids Guitar Lessons - How to Play Alternating...

Alternating Bass Chords:
Once you get the hang of it, alternating bass chords are quite easy to play. The hardest part of it, is getting the chords to sound clearly, without buzzing and without muting out the strings with your fingers.


Let’s look at the illustration at the beginning of this article. This is the opening 4 measures (also called bars by the way) of Yankee Doodle. First, let’s look at what this score on rhythm tells us.

  1. The first thing we look at the key signature. Since we see no sharps or flats, it indicates the song is played in the key of C. Also, most of the time the first chord in the song take on the name of the Key Signature. If you look at the first measure, the first chord is a C. (note that this is not always the case).
  2. In some musical scores you will see all the chords used in the song diagramed below the name of the song at the top of the score. This is how you will see all of the music written here. Then the actual names of the chord used are written above the Notation Score.
  3. The chord names shown above the notation score will begin to to be played on the note they are directly above. In our example above, the C chord begins on the first beat of the 1st measure and continues through the 2nd beat of the 2nd measure.
The next chord, G7, Starts on the 3rd beat of the 2nd measure and you play this chord for only the 3rd and 4th beats, or one bass note and one chord strum. The third measure begins with the C chord on the 1st beat once again an so on…..
If we think of alternating bass chords as they relate to beats per measure, in 4/4 or common time it works like this:
Total beats per measure = 4
  • 1st Beat: You play the root of the chord (more on that in a minute)
  • 2nd Beat: You strum 3 to 5 notes of the chord, depending on the chord.
  • 3rd Beat: You play an alternating bass note. This can either be a note that is one string up or one string down from the root bass note.
  • 4th Beat: You again strum 3 to 5 notes of the chord.


The Root Bass Chord:
When you are playing alternating bass chords, you almost always play the opening note of the bass chord as the root of the chord. As we discussed before, the root is just the name we give to the note of the first note of the scales key.

In the case of the C Major Scale, which is C D E F G A B C, the root is the “C” note. In the Key of E Major the root would be the “E” Note and in the key of G Major the root would be the “G” chord.

Related Articles:

How to Strum a Chord

Ultimate Guitar Chords

How to Play Chords Efficiently

Free Kids Guitar Lessons

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