27 February 2009

Beginner Guitar Open Chord Bass Runs

This article shows beginner guitarists an easy way to play bass runs with simple open chords. A bass runs is a series of notes played on the bass strings of the guitar as you move from chord to chord. They are a simple way to liven up basic guitar chord accompaniments and make them sound more dynamic.

In this article you'll learn about chromatic bass runs and then see how to use them on a simple A and D chord progression.

Chromatic Bass Runs

Chromatic bass runs are the easiest to learn. They use adjacent frets so you don't have to worry about finding scale notes. The chromatic bass run moves one fret at a time to end on the root note of the new chord.

In the examples that follow you'll learn some three note bass runs that lead up to the new chord's root. The bass run notes are played on beats two, three, and four of the bar leading up to the chord change.

Example Bass Run, Step by Step

This example shows you bass runs between A and D chords. You play each chord for two bars, the first bar is played normally and on the second bar you play the bass run to the next chord.

Work through the steps below slowly as you read them. Once you've memorized the movements try to play through the example in time.

Right, let's get on with the example, you can see the tab for the whole example at the end of the description.

1. Start the first measure with a strum of the open A major chord as you count "one". Now finger the 2nd fret of the A (or 5th) string with your index finger (you can let go of the A chord) and pick it as you count "two".

2. Now place your second finger on the 3rd fret of the 5th string and pick it as you count "three". For the last note of your bass run place the third finger of your fretting hand on the 4th fret of the 5th string and pick it as you count "four".

Notice that we're now one fret below the D note - 5th fret of the 5th string - that we're aiming for.

3. Now move your fingers to the open D chord shape, and strum it as you count "one" of the next bar.

4. You then play to the end of the bar using whatever strumming pattern you like. On the next bar we'll do another bass run to move back to the A chord again.

5. The bass run to the A chord will be identical to the previous one, except this time you play it on the 6th string. Strum your D chord once on beat "one" of the bar, then release the D chord, put your index finger on fret two of the 6th string and pick as you count "two".

6. Move up the frets one at a time with the second and third fingers on beats three and four. You should be at the fourth fret.

7. The final note of the run is the A root note played on the open 5th string. Finger an A chord and strum it as you count "one".


This article has shown you chromatic bass runs that use a series of notes on adjacent frets to lead into a new chord. The simple example shows you how to play a chromatic bass run on the open A and D chords.

Chromatic movement is only one way to create bass runs, but it's one of the easiest to begin with as you don't have to worry about scales to find the right notes. Simply move one fret after the another to the root note of any chord and you can't go wrong.

If you want to improve your guitar playing, learn this example and then try applying the same idea to other chord changes you know.

Got a question or comment on this lesson? I'd love to hear from you, use the comment form or click the "Post a comment" link below.

More bass run lessons you might enjoy:

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major in bass - Alvin said...

Thanks for the article,

May be some how i have problem with A and D chords, but looking and apply by lessons, i will overcome from it soon

Thanks once again.

Gary Fletcher said...

Hi Alvin,

Thanks for the comment. If you want some help with those chords, try these D chord and A chord lessons. You might also like to try these tips on effective chord fingering.


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