Intermediate Bass: Introduction to Triads

Once we’ve gotten our hands working in sync, the next task will be to make some music with them. One of the easiest and most useful ways to create a functional bass line is to use the major and minor triads.

The triads (R-3-5) are derived from the major or minor scale in this fashion:

C major scale
C D E F G A B C (note names)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 (scale degrees)

The C major triad is the 1st , 3rd, and 5th of that series, or C-E-G.

To change that major to a minor triad, lower the 3rd, E ½ step to Eb, or C-Eb-G.

Below are a couple of simple bass lines using major and minor triads. The first one is in the style of Duck Dunn on a Wilson Pickett recording, while the second one is in the style of the Doors. I’ve included MP3 recordings as well, so you can hear as well as see these lines.

Practice them slowly and then play along with the recordings. Better yet, search out Midnight Hour by Wilson Pickett and Light my Fire by The Doors to hear these triads in action!