Hi i'm a bass player and as any other bassist i was looking to improve my bass skills and I've always wondered how I could change the root note of a certain chord to give it a different feel. For instance, for D major I could play a F# instead of a D which would be the root note of that chord. So it means I am playing the major 3rd of D instead of the root.

My question is, is this a standard thing? Will it be ok for me to play 3rds anytime i want to give a little something-something to the song or am I looking at this the wrong way?

3 Answers 3


You can play any note of the chord on the bass and that would be a chord inversion. Playing the 3rd of the chord on the bass is pretty common. It's called first inversion.

Bassists use this technique so the can give a little color to their basslines; using all the inversions, you can create interesting basslines.

You can experiment with the inversions. For instance, the first time you run across a D chord in a song, play the root (D); the second time play the major third (F#) etc. This can spice up your song.

  • 1
    I used to do this as much as possible in one of my old bands, certainly spices up the second verse of songs to keep it from simply repeating and it never failed to keep people interested! Dec 3, 2015 at 14:02

You can play 3rds anytime you want, but it's not necessarily going to sound great. There are reasons you might want to invert the chord. If you want a smoother transition between chords you can sometimes stay on the same note e.g. you could be playing C on a C chord and then continue playing C on an F chord. You can also choose which note from a chord to play because you are aiming to take the bass in an ascending or descending direction eg C on a C chord descending to A on an F chord. It can be interesting when the bass ascends/descends counter to the higher parts.


A lot of the time bassists are sort of expected to play 1s, in mainstream music. They are often alternated with 5s. Sometimes a 1-3-5-3 fits well in 4/4 time. You could use a 1 on a I chord, and stay with 1 on the following IV chord, called a pedal note. A nice change on a I -IV is use a 1 on the I, then a 3, which then moves to a 4 on IV, one fret higher - or, to be even cleverer, play the note one fret higher than the 4 at the end of the I bar, dropping down a fret to 4 on IV. It depends a lot on the song. An 'in your face' song will sound better with 1s and 5s, whereas a more melodic song will benefit greatly from using 3s. And it works for minors too. On some songs, even a slide between 6 and 5 fits nicely.

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