Ways to Practice Chords
Ok. You've decided that you want to learn chords, but how exactly do you practice chords?
Well...... how does a guitar player or a keyboard player go about getting their mind and hands around chords?
Exactly. You do as they do. Since they have to deal with full chords more often than you do, maybe following their lead is a good idea?
Below is a list and description of some of the best ways that I've found to practice chords on the bass.
1. Practice playing chords over tunes.
One of the best ways to learn to play chords is to grab a bunch of lead sheets, fake books or the like, and practice playing the chords to the tune as a chordal instrument would.
2. Practice playing with others.
If you're lucky enough to have some other musicians that are willing to sit down with you and go through some exercises, get them to play a melody or improvise over a chord progression as you practice taking the role of a guitar player or a keyboard player and play chords. Be careful not to try to get in their way.
This is an excellent way to practice and I recommend that you do this if you can.
3. Practice playing related chords.
One thing that I've found extremely useful is to practice chords that only have one or two different chordal or scalar tones from each other.
For example, if I'm practicing a Maj7 chord, I might also practice a 7 and a 6 chord at the same time. This solidifies that the root and the third are the same (making sure that your fingers get used to that shape) and that there are only a few minor differences between the different chords and their shapes.
4. Practice playing Extensions.
If you're playing a chord (Again, I'm going to go with a Maj7), it's very easy to throw a 9th or an 11th on to that chord.
The effect that this has is that it reinforces the connection that those chords all have to one another.
This is very easy and useful and a great thing to practice.
5. With other Chordal Instruments.
Nothing lets you know how you're doing with chords more accurately than playing along with another instrument that also plays chords.
For example, if you play a chordal piece with a keyboard player, you'll get an idea of not only how to phrase chords a bit differently, but also how your chords sound in comparison to them. This is a great way to practice using your ear and figuring out the differences between different phrasings and voicings of the same chord in a variety of circumstances.
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