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I want to make some cool songs but I need one of the bass parts to sound almost the same as the main part (except lower and instead of chords I need a single note). I am very new to advanced music theory and confused. Say if I wanted to find a note that matched the chords 'C E A' 'B E A' and 'B E G' (points to anyone that can figure out what I'm remixing), what bass notes would I use?

Keep in mind I'm a complete beginner. Please keep it simple or explain stuff.

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    "I need one of the bass parts to sound almost the same as the main part (except lower and instead of chords I need a single note)." This is very important, and needs more explanation. Are you trying to make the bass match a melody line? Or perhaps the line formed by the tops of some chords? There's no guarantee that these are roots. You've got a great answer about how to find roots, but that might not be what you want. Please edit to explain more about that part; meanwhile, voting to close as unclear. Commented May 10 at 19:01
  • I recommend trying a completely different approach: don't care if you found root notes or not. Use bass notes that sound good to you! You may find something that sounds more original and memorable than boring vanilla root notes. Using inversions can make your tune sound original. (And B E A is not a stack of thirds, so a theoretically correct root note cannot be found, and bass note choice is going to be a subjective matter of taste anyway) Commented May 11 at 20:03

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Answering as OP is a complete beginner.

Let's take chord CEA as the first example. Ears are useful here. Let's make a wild guess that it could be C major/C minor, E major/E minor or A major/A minor. Narrowed it down to six options. Simply play each in turn, along with the melody, and only one will fit. If you're not au fait with theory and where notes live on the stave, this will work. When you're happy that A minor is the best fit, that will give you the appropriate bass note - root A.

BEG will be sorted in exactly the same way - six options, only one of which will be best fit.

BEA is a slightly different kettle of fish. But use the same idea. The match won't be exact, as it's not a standard triad. However, the plan narrows it down to two - E sus, or A ret. Either will fit, and will usually resolve to either, here, E or A. Again, ears to the rescue: play each, and resolve. Whichever sounds better will be the one, giving you the root bass note.

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Grab yourself some staff paper and write the three notes out. Rearrange them until they stack up, all line notes or all space notes. I tell my beginner students to make a snowman. Below are the notes C-E-A. They only line up like snowman in the third configuration:

enter image description here

For the CEA, we see our snowman when the notes are arranged from bottom to top A, C, E. The lowest note, A is the root note. (As an aside this is an A minor chord.

For the BEG, our snowman appears when the notes are arranged from bottom to top E, G, B. This is an E minor chord.

BEA is a tricky one because they are not part of a standard triad. Usually chords are arranged in thirds. So no amount of stacking them will make a snowman. The closest we can come is (lowest to highest) E-A-B. This still has a name, it is called an E sus4 chord. That means it would be an E [minor] chord, but the middle note is temporarily one step too high. Often we would expect that A to fall back down to G.

enter image description here

Your bassist should play the root of the chords, so A during A minor, E during E minor, and E during E sus4.

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  • Why did you change the order of the chords from the OP? Esus4 at the end rather than middle Commented May 11 at 17:26
  • Just was focusing on building chords and thought the sus4 was a trickier explanation
    – nuggethead
    Commented May 11 at 21:44
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How can I find a chord's root note?

Arrange the chord tone letters by ascending thirds then take the lowest tone as the root...

'C E A' 'B E A' and 'B E G'

...in thirds is A C E, (B E A can't be arranged in thirds), and E G B.

So, the roots are A, no obvious root, and E.

B E A presents two problems: no obvious root and a fairly long explanation of how to regard it in relation to triadic harmony of major/minor chords. In reality, this "chord" will be understood from lots of experience with harmony analysis and playing. But, a quick guideline is this: if one of the tones can be moved by one step, to a major or minor triad, you can regard it as a suspension, or "sus" chord, or some other kind of non-chord tone motion.

If you run through each tone in turn, move each up and down one step, you could either move the B up to C and get C E A for an Am triad, or move the A down to G and get G B E for an Em triad. That gives us two possibilities Asus2 or Esus4.

Your progression is Am ??? Em and filling in the chord as Am Esus4 Em makes a very sensible suspension resolution.

On the other hand, if you filled in Am Asus2 Em, despite the "sus" label, the move from C to B and then B again will technically create not a suspension but an anticipation.

Please keep it simple or explain stuff.

Why go on and one like this? Why bring in a bunch of counterpoint terms? Why am I not "keeping it simple?" For two reason: you asked what roots to play and you asked for things to be explained.

If you play the suspension, Am Esus4 Em, the the roots to play are A E E.

If you play the anticipation, Am Asus2 Em, the roots to play are A A E.

The difference is subtle, but in art the devil is in the details.

There isn't a right or wrong way to go, but you need to choose one. Or do something else. Ex. you could play a pedal E under the whole thing.

In notation it might be something like these...

enter image description here

The really important thing to understand is you don't actually have three chords, not if we assume simple triadic harmony. There are only two chords: Am and Em. The thing that happens in between them is not a chord but rather a non-chord tone motion. Because there are only two chords, that means you are only dealing with two chord roots.

In the two examples above notice how the suspension/anticipation and the bass notes in half notes are alternately after and before the bar line. I did that so the chord root changes coincide with the bar line. Chord changes at the bar line are a basic aspect of harmony which I followed. It does not need to work that way, but I just did what would be simple and basic.

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