In this lesson I show how you can limit yourself to practising with only the root and 5th of each chord while still coming up with an interesting bass line.

Roots and Fifths

The last few lessons on this subject have explored ways you can spice up your playing by adding ghost notes, approach notes and other types of variation. Today, we are going to ignore all of this and strip back to basic roots and fifths. It is always worth trying to make the most out of a limited pallet before trying any other approaches to add interest to your line, as it is important to get the groove and the chord tones first.

The root and the fifth work perfectly for stripping down a part as they are two fundamental chord tones that you can rely on in almost any situation. In a major key, you can use a root and a fifth over any chord except the 7th as this has a flattened 5th.

Let’s start with a root and a fifth in the key of C:







We are going to apply the pattern above to the following I vi IV V chord sequence:





If we play roots and fifths over this progression then we already have a solid bassline, although it could sound a little bland.

Just because we are limited to two chord tones doesn’t mean we have to only play two notes. We can use different octaves of each note to give us a broader pallet and expand our note options.



Don’t forget that the tones you are using will occur below the root as well as above. Here are all the available roots and fifths in our sequence:


Once you know what notes you have available to you and where they are, you can start coming up with your own basslines. Here are three to get you started:




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