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Connecting Chords with Bass Runs (Guitar Lesson)


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Orville Johnson

Connecting Chords with Bass Runs

Orville Johnson demonstrates how simple chord progressions can be spruced up with bass runs. The classic song "Oh! Susanna" is used as an example.

Taught by Orville Johnson in Beginner Acoustic with Orville seriesLength: 12:04Difficulty: 1.5 of 5

Scene 1: Introduction

Once you have developed the ability to play different chords and switch between them, it will make your music more interesting and flow better if you connect them. One way to do that is a series of bass notes called a bass run.

In this lesson Orville Johnson demonstrates bass runs with the classic song “Oh Susanna.”

Scene 2: The Chords and Bass Notes

To review, make sure you are familiar with Orville’s rest-stroke technique. Pick the bass note of the chord on the first beat and then let the pick “rest” on the next string. On the next beat follow through and strum the rest of the chord. Repeat this pattern with an alternating bass line.

Scene 3: Using Bass Runs

When picking notes for a bass run, make sure that you use notes from the scale of the key you are currently playing in.

One easy way to make a bass run is to choose notes from the scale that are in sequence, that lead directly to the root note of the next chord. For example, when switching from G to D, you may choose to play the notes B, C, and then the D chord. That would be the 3rd and 4th note of the G Major scale, leading up to the 5th, which is the D chord.

Scene 4: The Second Half

One thing to note here is that is best to play these bass runs with down-strokes of your pick. Though you can do much more complicated things with bass runs and chord changes as you gain experience playing guitar, by just adding two or three notes before a chord change can help make your music flow better.



Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.


johnicejohnice replied on March 10th, 2016

pdf does not match

jossbahiajossbahia replied on January 6th, 2016

this lesson helped me a lot

guloguloguyguloguloguy replied on December 21st, 2014

I think that it'd be very helpful if you could suggest some other common, popular, often used, or nice sounding chord progression sequences that could be played, and augmented by adding in some various "bass runs" to help connect the chords. Also, what sorts of timing and 'rhythm' patterns work best with these sorts of "bass runs"?...

bucharubucharu replied on September 13th, 2014

PDF materials show "Bluegrass Lesson 11"...

bungalowbillbungalowbill replied on February 28th, 2013

I like that hammer on in the chorus solo on the C chord.

frwyguyfrwyguy replied on February 3rd, 2013

These bass runs really do spice up the tunes great. Thanks buddy!

adriftadrift replied on March 24th, 2012

Great lesson I knew a couple of runs by rote but now I can figure out my own. Thankyou

sward1sward1 replied on March 15th, 2012

great lesson and looking forward to putting bass runs wherever i can get away with it ,cheers

robabrobab replied on July 6th, 2011

I really enjoyed your lesson and the use of scales to move from one chord to the next. Thanks.

Beginner Acoustic with Orville

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Discover the essentials with Orville Johnson by learning some of the most popular topics and techniques in beginner guitar.



Lesson 1

Overcoming Beginner Challenges

Orville talks about some challenges you will likely face as a beginner and offers some advice that will help you overcome them.

Length: 13:05 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 2

Flatpick and Strumming

Orville talks about flatpicks, how to hold them, and how to strum with them.

Length: 13:29 Difficulty: 1.0 FREE
Lesson 3

Fingerpicking and Patterns

Orville Johnson introduces some basic fingerpicking patterns.

Length: 6:58 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

Metronome and Practicing

Orville Johnson explains why it is important to practice with a metronome. He also covers some practice strategies that will help minimize your frustration.

Length: 21:35 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 5

Practical Theory Part 1: Intervals

Orville dives into part 1 of his beginners' guide to practical theory. In this lesson, you will learn the basics of intervals.

Length: 17:30 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Practical Theory Part 2: Scales

Orville Johnson takes a look at scales in part 2 of his practical theory mini-series.

Length: 18:40 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 7

Practical Theory Part 3: Chords and Construction

Orville Johnson jumps into part 3 of his practical theory mini-series. This lesson is about chords and their construction.

Length: 21:08 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 8

Practical Theory Pt. 4: Modes

It's now time to tap back into the practical music theory portion of this series. Continuing on with part 4, Orville now discusses what modes are and how they are really just scales with Greek names.

Length: 19:50 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 9

Basic Blues Shuffle

Orville Johnson demonstrates a basic blues shuffle. This incredibly easy rhythm piece will have you sounding like a blues great in no time!

Length: 12:38 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

Connecting Chords with Bass Runs

Orville Johnson demonstrates how simple chord progressions can be spruced up with bass runs. The classic song "Oh! Susanna" is used as an example.

Length: 12:04 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 11

Voice Leading

Orville Johnson talks about the concept of voice leading. This concept will help you play chord progressions that flow better and sound more harmonious.

Length: 10:20 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 12

Major Chords

Orville Johnson teaches the basic major chords in this lesson. He also explains the best way to change from chord to chord, a challenge for many beginners.

Length: 19:23 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 13

Note Values

Orville Johnson jumps into some light theory with a lesson on note values.

Length: 7:51 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 14

The CAGED System

Orville Johnson takes a beginner's look at the CAGED system.

Length: 8:14 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 15

Open D Tuning

Orville Johnson introduces open D tuning and encourages exploration of its possibilities. This tuning is great for a broad range of playing styles.

Length: 24:04 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 16

Open G Tuning

This time, Orville Johnson introduces open G tuning. This tuning is great for a broad range of playing styles and sounds pretty without even fingering a chord.

Length: 21:28 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 17

Beginner Fingerstyle Techniques

This lesson is perfect for the beginner looking to develop dexterity and independence in the right hand fingers. Orville guides you step by step through basic rhythm concepts and fingerstyle exercises.

Length: 26:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 18

How Does a Capo Work?

This lesson presents any beginner with the information needed to understand how a capo works. This tool enables you to change the key of a song without learning any new chord voicings.

Length: 22:07 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 19

Beginner Lead Techniques

Orville introduces basic techniques that can be used to play lead guitar. This lesson includes a primer on hammer-ons, pull-offs, bends and harmonics.

Length: 22:14 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 20

Orville's Guide to Practicing

Orville dispenses a lifetime of accrued wisdom on the subject of practicing and learning. This lesson is only 16 minutes long, and it will not only change how you learn the guitar, but can also be applied...

Length: 16:38 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 21

Creating New Chords

This lesson is all about creating different types of chords. This does steer the lesson towards music theory, but the information is invaluable and infinitely applicable.

Length: 23:05 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only

About Orville Johnson View Full Biography Orville Johnson was born in 1953 in Edwardsville, Illinois and came up on the St. Louis, Missouri music scene, where he was exposed to and participated in a variety of blues, bluegrass and American roots music. He began singing in his Pentecostal church as a young boy, in rock bands in middle school, then took up the guitar at 17,with early influences from Doc Watson, Rev. Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, and Chuck Berry. In the early 1970's, Orville spent several seasons playing bluegrass on the SS Julia Belle Swain, a period-piece Mississippi river steamboat plying the inland waterways, with his group the Steamboat Ramblers.

Orville moved to Seattle, Washington in 1978, where he was a founding member of the much-loved and well-remembered folk/rock group, the Dynamic Logs. Other musical associates include Laura Love, Ranch Romance, File' Gumbo Zydeco Band, Scott Law, and the Twirling Mickeys. Johnson, known for his dobro and slide guitar stylings and vocal acrobatics, has played on over 100 albums. He has appeared on Garrison Keilor's Prairie Home Companion, Jay Leno's Tonight Show and was featured in the 1997 film Georgia with Mare Winningham. His musical expertise can also be heard on the Microsoft CD-ROMs, Musical Instruments of the World and the Complete Encyclopedia of Baseball. He teaches as well at the International Guitar Seminar, Pt. Townsend Country Blues Week and Puget Sound Guitar Workshop.

Orville released 4 recordings in the 1990's: The World According to Orville (1990) Blueprint for the Blues (1998) Slide & Joy (1999) an all-instrumental dobro tour de force and Kings of Mongrel Folk (1997) with Mark Graham. He also appeared on 4 discs with the File' Gumbo Zydeco Band and produced Whose World Is This (1997) for Jim Page and Inner Life (1999) for Mark Graham. In the 21st century, he has released Freehand, a new Kings of Mongrel Folk disc, Still Goin' Strong, and been featured in the soundtracks of PBS' Frontier House and the Peter Fonda flick The Wooly Boys as well as the compilation cd Legends of the Incredible Lap Steel Guitar.

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