I'm having trouble understanding whether there is such a term as a leading bass note.

Suppose there are three instruments: piano, bass and guitar.

  1. The piano plays A in bass and A,E,G in right hand.
  2. The bass plays F note below piano A.
  3. The guitar plays an FM7: F,A,C,E chord.

In result we get notes F,A,C,E,G but what chord is that if piano plays one bass note and bass guitar plays another?

  • The lowest sounding note is special. I doesn't matter which instrument is playing the lowest sounding note. Of all the notes being played at the same time by all the instruments, the one that has the lowest fundamental frequency is the note that would be considered the "bass note" for music theory purposes. Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 16:34
  • This is a fairly hypothetical question, but if the pianist voiced the chord like that, I would be looking for another pianist!
    – user19146
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 2:41
  • @alephzero Why is that? I often voice a harmony that way, if someone is playing say a C chord I might play an inverted Em chord to add the Maj7 and add colour to the harmony. Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 4:58
  • Root and 5th are the best notes to have in a lower register. Thus, the pianist's left hand should be doubling the F or playing a C. The A will sound murky and a bit dissonant.
    – ScottM
    Commented Jun 29, 2018 at 2:29

3 Answers 3


Well, first of all, FACE is not an F7 chord, it's an Fmaj7. To be F7 the E would have to be flatted.

Secondly, if the intended harmony at that point is either F7 or Fmaj7, then the bass note of F is the primary bass note, and the low A in the piano is a harmony note.

Thirdly, I would avoid using the word "leading" in this context, because a "leading note" is the seventh tone of a major scale, and at the next change moves up to the tonic, hence is thought of as "leading" to the tonic, which is of course not what you meant!

I should also add that the G in the mix is simply an added Second in the chord. (If it resolves downward eventually to the F, then it is a Suspended Second.)

  • I forgot to add the big M. Sorry. At firat I thought this to be an Am7 chord with F, but if the Bass player is playing F then I suspect it should be an FM7 with G. Am I right? Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 16:19
  • 1
    Sus 2s are generally regarded as taking the place of the 3rd. So, since there's an A (3rd) in there already, the G will make it Fmaj9. Without the E (maj7), it would be called Fadd9.
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 16:29

FACEG gives F major 9, whichever note is wherever. More often than not, the lowest note will probably be F - the root, but could be voiced so that it's any of those.With an F at the very bottom, it's going to be Fmaj9 in root position.


There is always a danger of musicians treading on one another's toes whenever you have 2 instruments that both play chords playing together. Usually the guitar and piano take turns supplying the chords by prior arrangement. Or, one will provide the rhythm whilst the other supports this with punches and stabs.

Anyway, one possibility for your hypothetical scenario is that the complete chord is an Fmaj9. It really depends on function and where that G is in the mix (is it a 2nd or a 9th?) The result is the same. In this case it would probably sound like a dog's breakfast.

  • I often like to arrange my instruments in such a way in which they will play complex chord harmony but won't repeat each other. For instance I have a piece where the guitar constantly plays a sequence CGC-CG-CGBb-EbF, the bass plays C, then Ab in 4 bars, then F in 4 bars and Bb in 4 bars, afterward back to C, while I play above all this, when the Bass plays F, I play Ab chord. That's an intro to a song. Commented Jun 29, 2018 at 5:32

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