When you learned the major scale diatonic chords, you learned one set of shapes where the scale's tonic was on the E-string and another set where the tonic was on the A-string. While there are many possible shapes and positions where you can play these diatonic chords, knowing just these two positions gives you a usable position to play in all keys.
In this lesson and the next, we will do the same and learn the minor scale diatonic chord shapes using a minor scale position with its tonic on the A-string.
The A-String Minor Scale Position
First, let's build a new extended minor scale shape using the key of C Minor:
You should recognize the one-octave natural minor scale shape from prior lessons starting on the A-string. In this position, we add a ♭7th, ♭6th, and 5th on the E-string below the one-octave minor scale you already know.
This position and these chord shapes will apply to all minor keys anywhere on the bass fretboard. You can move it up and down to play in other keys.
Ready to learn the diatonic chords in this new position? Remember, the diagrams below show you the arpeggios for the seventh chords. To get the triads, just leave off the 7th. In the exercises you'll practice both.
The i Chord – Minor Triad/Minor 7th
In a minor key the i chord is a minor triad or minor 7th chord. Remember that you can think of these chords as every other note of the minor scale.
In the key of C minor, the i chord is Cm, or Cm7.
The ii° Chord – Diminished Triad/Half-Diminished 7th
Chords are always numbered root, 3, 5 or root, 3, 5, 7. Just as you saw with the major scale chords, the numbers are shifting up with each chord. The second note of the minor key is the root of the ii chord.
In a minor key, the iiØ chord is a diminished triad or half-diminished 7th chord (also called “minor 7 flat 5”).
In the key of C minor, the ii° chord is Ddim, or Dm7♭5.
The ♭III Chord – Major Triad/Major 7th
In a minor key, the ♭III is a major triad, or major 7th chord.
In the key of C minor, the ♭III chord is E♭, or E♭maj7.
As we've done before, here I have you going lower with a sort of “upside-down” shape where the root is high and the other chord tones are lower. Since bass players need to play a lot of low notes, these shapes are important.
This is a good example of where you can apply my Imaginary String Technique. If you're playing a 4-string bass, imagine an extra string below the E-string. Now picture the first major triad/major 7th shapes we discussed in earlier lessons. You can see how it's the same shape only lacking the low note on your “imaginary” string.
Of course, if you have a low fifth string you can just substitute the low root note for the high one. But, these other shapes starting on a high root note are still important to play and recognize no matter how many strings you have. They apply to any number of strings.
The iv Chord – Minor Triad/Minor 7th
In a minor key, the iv chord is a minor triad, or minor 7th chord. Notice, like our ♭III shape, this shape moves lower to keep you from shifting around and to give you access to lower notes.
In the key of C minor, the iv chord is Fm, or Fm7.
Be sure to do the exercises for these first four chords of the minor scale.
In the next lesson I'll show you the rest of the minor scale diatonic chords in this minor scale on the A-string position.