Piano Chords With Alternative Bass Notes
Initially, piano players learn to play each chord with the root note as the bass
note, the lowest pitched note in the chord. However, the root note in a chord does not have to be the lowest
The root note is determined by the relative pitch of all the notes in the chord. As a result, piano chords with
alternative bass notes can be played. These chords contain the exact same notes as the chord with a root for the
bass note and are musically the same.
However, changing the bass note does change the tone of the chord. In some cases, you may find certain bass
notes sound better or are easier to play in some chord
Any note in a chord can potentially be used as the bass note. For example, A minor can be played as A, C, E or
C, E, A or E, C, A. All of these variations sound similar, but add a slightly different tone to the song. In most
cases, the alternative bass note is likely to be the fifth note. In the case of A minor, the fifth note is the E
The reason that this is common is because the fifth note is in perfect consonance with the root note. The fifth
note does not have a very distinct tone when placed over a root note. The minor feel in the A minor chord comes
from the minor third note, C. In some cases, using the color tones, like the C in A minor, does not sound very well
or may sound like a different chord in some situations.
Piano chords with alternative bass notes have no special circumstances
where they are an obviously better option. Musically, it is still the same chord as when the bass note is the
root of the chord. The overall color of the chord is still the same. The only difference is that the chord
sounds slightly different.
Using the alternative bass note is more a matter of subjective preference on the part of the piano player or the
composer. However, in some cases, piano players might use an alternative bass note if it takes less effort to hit
this version of the chord than to move to a version of a chord with the root bass note.
One chord variant, rootless chords,
inherently have an alternative bass note. This type of chord does not play the bass note at all, so the bass note
has to be something other than a root note. However, rootless chords are not very common and mostly found in jazz
Rootless chords are difficult to use because you need other musicians to create a solid tone center around the
root for a rootless chord to sound right. In effect, another instrument is used to play the root note in place of
Overall, playing piano chords with alternative bass notes is more of a stylistic technique than a required one.
Depending on the music you are playing, you may not even encounter these types of chords.
However, it is a good idea to keep these in mind when playing or composing. Even if you do not prefer the tone,
using an alternative bass note can sometimes be a pragmatic option in fast chord progressions where you do not have
much time to change the position of your hands.