Chord Tone Essentials

(39 customer reviews)


Unlock The Door To A World Of Musical Possibilities

Chord Tones Are Your Key To Better Bass Practice. 53 Step By Step lessons that will change your bass playing forever!





Chord Tone Essentials

Create Bass Lines, Fills and Solos Through ANY Chord Progression

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‘Chord Tone Essentials provides literally years of material for you to work on and improve your bass playing.’ David Kilborn – Canada

‘Chord Tone Essentials is a great course. I have played guitar for 40 years and thought I understood a fair bit of theory but Mark’s approach is an eye opener.’  Trevor Boyd – UK

‘Chord Tone Essentials was a great experience. I don’t think you could ever progress from an intermediate level without this foundation – eliminates just noodling on Pentatonics! ‘ David Willis – USA

Check out more reviews of the course in the Reviews tab above!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Chord Tone Essentials Course?

Chord Tone Essentials is a complete, step by step guide to understanding chord construction principles and how chord tones can be applied to every area of music from bass lines to melodies and solos. Note: This is not a ‘bass chords’ course. The chord tones are presented in arpeggio form.

What level of player is the course aimed at?

The course is aimed at any player from beginner to advanced level.

What Will I Learn?

After completing all 3 Modules you will understand the construction principles behind EVERY chord you’re ever likely to see, you’ll know the notes of EVERY chord, you’ll have the ability to see chord tones and arpeggios over the entire fretboard and you’ll be able to apply all of this knowledge to every area of your bass playing.

How Long Are The Lessons?

The lesson lengths vary but the complete course is over 8 hours in length and provides an entire lifetime of practice material.

How is the course presented? Do I Download Anything?

The course is hosted on the Talkingbass website so there are no video files to download. There is a lesson material zip file containing all of the course material arranged in appropriate folders.

39 reviews for Chord Tone Essentials

  1. Matthew (verified owner)

    I had come off one year of private lessons and purchased this course as a way to continue my learning at a less expensive alternative to in-person lessons. I know in-person lessons are ideal, but I’ve found that this course has actually helped me more. Mark is a great teacher, and these lessons build on each other in a clear and defined direction towards a goal. Thank you Mark!

  2. C.T. Matsumoto (verified owner)

    This is a more general review that applies to all of the courses I have from TalkingBass which include this one and volume 1 and 2 of the sight reading course. To me Mark’s lessons standout above all the other courses I’ve put money into. One thing I very much appreciate about Mark’s courses is the small steps approach that stays on topic! Many other courses I’ve bought tend to get lost in the explanation, a mix of explaining how to do it, and what you can do with it. Mark in very clear fashion states single concepts and explains only how to execute it, and does not get lost in showing a million examples that tend to make things more confusing for me. The other thing that stands out is the amount of lesson material. There is a lot and the lessons fully cover the course topic. The mix of detailed explanation and the amount of lessons, make it easy to reference concepts when you need to go back for a refresher. If my digital copy of the chord tones book were a real copy, the pages would already be suffering from too much wear and tear.

  3. Ben (verified owner)

    Previously had enjoyed Mark’s free content, decided to take the plunge with this course. being self taught I had many gaps in my music theory knowledge, and this course has managed to bridge many gaps for me and aspire me to learn much more. Highly recommended to anyone considering.

  4. Steve Hodgkinson (verified owner)

    Mark’s courses are absolutely fantastic! I’ve recently taken up bass after many years on the guitar and was frustrated trying to material aimed above the grass roots stuff and what would, instead, teach me how to become a bass player (rather than a guitarist playing the bass… there’s a real difference in both style and approach!).
    Each course is extremely well put together and fully focused on the learning – no fluff!

    I’ve enrolled on three courses now and they are all great. Chord Tone Essentials though, is exactly what I needed for understanding bass lines and how to write my own.

    Hours of material and study that’s yours forever. All for the price of one or two private lessons. No brainer.

  5. Manoli Olizon (verified owner)

    Great course. Takes time. Thank you.

  6. jim ford (verified owner)

    Well, Well, Well. having several of Mark’s courses and hearing him talk about this course as a recommendation to further your understanding of Musical development I thought I would give it a try. This is not a course that you get through in a month. There is so much material and practice Etudes that I can see that it is necessary to slow why down and learn each lesson in the course until you can fully understand how chords are built and then how to apply each step upon what you have learned in previous lessons. Without doubt upon completion of this course I will be where I have always wanted to be as a Bassist. So if your dream is to be a great bassist then this course will propel you to your dream.

  7. Paul Schloff (verified owner)

    Having tried several of Mark’s courses, I have found them all to be excellent, but this Chord Tone Essentials class is the most valuable to me. I’ve played guitar and ukulele without discipline for over ten years and started bass only a few years ago. This course provided me with a step-by-step program to learn the basic structures of chords, arpeggios and the fretboard. While the Bassic Fundamentals course gets you started on the bass guitar, this course provides the structure which enables you to more easily learn riffs and songs. Hence, I find this course to be the foundation for other courses and for the journey of becoming a more proficient bass player. I have found it best to take it slowly and learn each step before moving on. I expect it will be over a year before I complete the entire course, although I am simultaneously attacking the Reading Essentials course volume I. As you progress, you have the option to return to previous lessons to address any challenges that you may encounter. If you were to pick one advanced course beyond Bassic, I think you too will find this course most valuable.

  8. Barney Kister (verified owner)

    I just finished this course last night, well I finished the video, the content and complete absorption of it will take many months to fully imerse. I play 1 to 2 two hours everyday and this course content will be using half of that time everyday as work all of this into my practice routine. I started back playing bass 4 months ago after having played professionally for most of the 1970’s and picked up the bass again for a few years in the late 1990s so this last break prior to starting up again has been 24 years. When ever a I pick up a bass and just play a little something, my hands would go to old patterns that I used many years ago, some of those were right, some very pretty good and some just plain sloppy or wrong from the perspective of music theory. I now find my hands going to new patterns learned in this course and other of Marks classes and they are not just patterns, I am now see note and cord relationship. I have often wondered over the past several months if I would ever get past the muscle memory of my old habits and that has finally started to happen. The circle of 4ths has been most helpful for the muscle memory and the spelling exercises (my wife calls it my “spelling bee”) have really helped with knowledge of the fret board and not relying on E and A strings to figure out the notes on the D & G strings, which in the midst of a song does not work. Mark comments on how he does not expect one to absorb all of this content on the first pass and that it will takes months or even years to fully command all of the drills and details presented in the course and that is a very true statement. As per other courses, Mark does provide some teasers of for other classes such as the scales course and walking bass. I have both of those lined up to engage next but certainly need to practice the content in this course. The only thing I think that Mark should cover in this course in the beginning is a discussion on how folks learn. I view his courses and play along and enter content into may practice. I specifically highlight areas that I need to return to better comprehend. Some of these lessons I have watched several times, stop and practice and watch again. Others I get a little more quickly and can just practice the work book to continue the absorption of the material. My point in that is if you are not planning on returning to video and content multiple times, it might be good to take several days or even a week between lessons to give yourself time to fully absorb the content. This course represents a big part of music theory and combined with several other classes I sure it will all come together nicely.

  9. Walter (verified owner)

    I started playing the bass a little more than a year ago, with essentially no musical experience prior to starting. I completed Mark’s Starter Pack and then moved on to Chord Tone Essentials. This course has provided the musical foundation that I was missing. It took me the better part of a year to complete the entire course, with some lessons taking weeks to fully absorb before feeling comfortable moving on to the next lesson. There are some lessons I keep going back to review as my brain and fingers become more familiar working with each other. I can imagine a scenario where I continually go back to some of the lessons as my growing experience allows me to pick up more and more nuances that are presented. There is a TON of material in this course!

    Mark’s approach to teaching works so well for me. He delivers concepts/techniques in bite-sized portions that are easy to comprehend and easy to focus your practice on. I don’t ever feel like he’s left me behind or that I need to have someone else explain what he’s talking about. My playing has improved dramatically from what I’ve learned in this course.

  10. Stephen Hallett (verified owner)

    This is the first talking bass course that i have subscribed to and the first to complete. It has taken me almost 12 months to work through it and there is such a vast supply of material that i know i shall revisit it many more times. Some lessons took me more than 3 months to complete, but when i began the course i knew only 3 or 4 notes on the fingerboard, and i can say with confidence that i have learnt at least 50% of the notes now just through doing this course. It is a must for progressing onto more detailed courses. I plan to do the Scale essentials next. Thank you Mark for such a comprehensive course.

  11. Jim Farley (verified owner)

    This is a great course to help a bassist advance their skills regardless of how much experience they have. Even though I marked this course complete, I don’t think I’ll ever be finished with it. This course is loaded with so much reference material that I plan to revisit it often to polish up my playing. The downloadable workbooks and backing tracks provide excellent supporting materials for the course.

    Mark has a great teaching style and each lesson is presented with a mix of theory, technique, and practical demonstrations.

  12. Krzysztof Zielinski (verified owner)

    I have completed the first module of the Chord Tone Essentials course and I am impressed how simply and straight to the point it presents the concepts. Everything is applied to bass guitar in every lesson so we clearly see how they are useful. I had also a clear understanding of what to practice after each lesson’s video. This style of teaching appeals to me a lot. I highly recommend this course to everyone who wants to get familiar with chord tones for bass lines as well as chord tone soloing.

  13. Jose Laboy (verified owner)

    I started with the Scale Essentials and quickly realized that Mark is a great teacher. He breaks it down to manageable bits, so anyone can grasp the musical concepts and apply them on their schedule. After finishing the Scales course, I jumped into Chord Tone Essentials. I just love Mark’s style of teaching (I can tell he really likes teaching–whoever gets in-person lessons, consider yourself blessed) and the thoroughness with respect to the materials presented. Once again, I’m very satisfied with the quality of the lessons. Obviously, you have to commit to put in the work, but Mark gives you the tools and the path to follow, so it falls into place. I completed the course and have moved on to Simple Steps to Walking Bass and Chords for Bass Guitar. My journey continues…

  14. Alain M (verified owner)

    Along with the Jeff Berlin course this is the best chord tone course out there.

  15. Gary F (verified owner)

    Fantastic course, great value for money, well structured, packed with useful information and all very clearly explained. I’ve definitely improved my basslines since taking this course. I now have a much better understanding of the music theory and how to use it, I feel confident that I can write more melodic basslines and fills that fit the chords better and am better at playing basslines in different positions across the whole fretboard. It’ll provide many years of useful exercises to work on and I will keep going back to it for reference in the future.

  16. Alexander Arroyo (verified owner)

    Simply put, this is a must have course for any bass player. This a basic fundamental in my opinion that should be learned in the beginning. This course is the difference between just learning shapes and patterns and hoping to land on the right notes in a jam or creating a bassline for a song, or learning chord tones and moving within those shapes or patterns to land on notes purposely knowing that they are in harmony (pun intended) with whatever chord your jamming or creating over! Just on the jamming front, it’s such a real estate opener on the fret board! Thanks for taking the time to make this course Mark, I really appreciate it, and have recommended it to others!

  17. Liam Goethals (verified owner)


  18. Stephen Hallett (verified owner)

    Excellent course material. So much in there and easy to follow. I am into the second module of the course and have learnt so much. I am not in a hurry just enjoying the learning experience. Mark is an excellent educator and his accompanying videos are so useful. I would recommend this and other courses to anyone who wants to learn or just improve their playing and knowledge

  19. Elkmar Winter (verified owner)

    Great insight on the bits and pieces chord construction and even more important the application into playing bass lines.
    Lots of stuff to learn and use.

  20. Lee Kennison (verified owner)

    I recently completed the Chord Tone Essentials course, which was excellent and well worth the investment. There is a lot of material included, which will provide a lifetime of practice material.

    The first part of the course covers the theory behind chord tones, and how chords are built. The second module covers the more practical aspects of playing these triads and 7th chord arpeggios all over the neck, including connecting them together and covering multiple octaves. The third module goes into applying these chords in a musical context, including combining the chord tones with non-chord tones using melodic devices, such as neighbor and approach notes, passing notes, enclosures and chromatic notes.

    I will be returning to elements of this many times over since they contain key elements of an ongoing practice. It is not the type of course that you go through once and are then done. It will provide a good reference to return to for many years to come.

  21. Emily (verified owner)

    Mark gets to the point, gets across the knowledge, and you have access to lots of lesson materials to practice with. Great course for learning an essential aspect of being a bass player. I use it on guitar noodling, too.

  22. Dick (verified owner)

    I took the course simultaneously with the Scale Essentials course. My comfort level both playing and improvising have evolved steadily and reliably. Most importantly for me, I’m able to discuss material with other musicians on their level.
    On to Walking Bass.

  23. Dave Dixon (verified owner)

    Brilliant course. I’m only part way through and I have gained so much knowledge already. I started by purchasing one course and was so impressed with the way Mark shares his knowledge that I purchased 3 more courses in less that a week. I’m happy to say my playing and my understanding have both become significantly better.

  24. Christoph Weik (verified owner)

    Excellent course to give insight into bassline construction throughout any
    chord progression. I haven’t been playing bass for a long time and this course really helped me to solidify my understanding of chord tones.

  25. Graham (verified owner)

    A thorough coverage of chord tones with enough exercises to keep me busy for years to come.

    Clear explanations and lots of examples. Just add lots of time and practice to improve not just your bass playing but also your all round musicality and musicianship.

  26. Benn Haynes (verified owner)

    I am a 79 year old senior citizen and took this course after the Basic Fundamentals and Walking Bass courses. This was prior to Marl’s video suggesting the order of courses. He was correct in his suggestions. However, the Walking Bass course did make it easier to understand some elements of the Chord Tone Essentials course. Taking the Chord Tone Essentials Course followed by the Scale Essentials course definitely results in a better understanding of the Walking Bass Course. My plan is to repeat most of the Walking Bass Course after finishing the Scale Essentials Course.
    I like the fact that Mark gets down to business in all his courses. Each lesson builds on the previous lessons and his teaching style is excellent. He can also “walk his talk’ regarding what he is teaching.
    I will never be a fantastic bass player and my musical goal is to be better than I was six months ago.
    Thanks Mark for spending the amazing amount of time it required ( and still requires ) to develop a great product at a more than reasonable price.

  27. Bill Owen (verified owner)

    Like many others, I played bass in a high school garage band. I was OK, but I never really understood a lot of what I was doing. Now, after many years away from the instrument, I found Mark’s courses, and for the first time I am beginning to understand what bass playing is all about. This course is an EXCELLENT introduction to music theory, without being boring; indeed I think I know more theory and how to construct chords than my classically trained pianist wife. And after being mostly stuck in first position, I’m learning how to move about the neck, greatly expanding my playing. Kudos to Mark on this and the other great courses he has put together!

  28. Mark Lowden (verified owner)

    First off, I need to explain that I don’t really consider myself a bass player. I’ve been playing guitar for over 50 years and also mandolin for the last 7 years. I had played bass in a country / rock band for a few years in the early 80’s, and just recently started playing bass again with a group of neighbors because it adds so much more to the sound than having 3 guitars backing up a vocalist. That said, I have been working on learning some jazz tunes on guitar and started playing around with them on the bass. This led me to explore Mark’s walking bass course, and that led me to the Chord Tone Essentials. I think this is a fantastic course not only for bass, but for anyone wanting to play a musical instrument. Mark presents the information in a way that makes sense when you are watching the course and practicing, but also when you are actually jamming. Although I am only about 65% though the course so far, it has helped me in all my musical endeavors. Thank you, Mr. Smith for such a great presentation.

  29. Earl Duncan (verified owner)

    This is a great course for helping me ex[and my understanding of chord tone essentials.

    I am unlocking more of the fingerboard due to this course!

  30. Avi Gabay (verified owner)

    this is a great course
    i spent a lot of time on the free courses as they have so much data, however after completing this course i am sorry i didn’t do it 2 years earlier
    the course is very organized and structured, it builds up the knowledge gradually and start the journey to become someone who understand music rather than just play song covers
    there is lifetime practice material, but you do not need to be an expert in one lesson to move to the next (i found myself practicing more every day as the practice is fun and effective)
    i highly recommend this course, i really enjoyed it and i feel it moved me to the next level, defiantly opened my appetite to do more structured courses

  31. TOMMY LEAD (verified owner)

    Working through this course at the moment and enjoying it. Very well laid out , I can see it could be easy to skip ahead as for some reason we all like to practise the things we can already do and avoid the hard bits. Stick with it the only person you are cheating is yourself, some of these exercises will last you months when applying them to all chord types and running cycles. Thanks for rejuvenating a stale practise schedule. Great course.

  32. Rick Roach (verified owner)

    Chord Tones Essentials is quite possibly the most beneficial electric bass course you’ll find on the PLANET! Why do I make such a bold declaration? Two reasons….. #1: after completing the course, you’ll UNDERSTAND how chords are created, and how chords can be APPLIED to your bass playing. To me, chords are similar to the words of any language, and chord TONES are the “ABCs”. Once you understand the principles taught in this course (and practice what you’ve learned!), your understanding of this “music language” will improve DRAMATICALLY. You’ll also learn every note on the fretboard. #2: Mark Smith is a PHENOMENAL teacher. He has a gift for explaining things very clearly. ALL of his courses are professionally developed and easy to follow.

  33. Michael Floyd (verified owner)

    I have tinkered with the bass for years, but never really had a full understanding of this magnificent instrument. I stumbled on by accident and watched a few of Mark’s free videos and I was hooked on his teaching style. I needed a step by step approach with a thorough explanation of why I am doing something, not just somebody telling me what fret to hold. That is when I started taking the paid courses. It is exactly what I needed. It is by far the best online bass courses on the internet, at a very reasonable price. I can’t thank Mark enough for the strides I have made on my bass playing. It is what I look forward to doing after work every day.

  34. Gregory Donohoe

    I’m a retired educator just getting into bass guitar. I find Mark’s courses to be excellent, his pedagogy spot on. His presentation is enthusiastic and engaging, while being focused and to the point. The focus is on learning the material, not how “cool” the teacher is or how fast he can play. The material is broken down into bite-size topics, with easy-to-follow demonstrations and plenty of practice exercises. The lessons are well-organized and logically sequenced. Excellent supporting material is provided: backing tracks and sheet music. Highly recommended.

  35. Remi Berthelet (verified owner)

    Mark has put together a great tool to introduce us to chord tones and harmony. I’m gigging in a funk, R&B, blues trio and this course has made our voicings and inter-play between the bass and guitar so much more tasty as my understanding of chord tones, arpeggios and improving basic fretboard knowledge has been jump started. As the lead (and only singer), the harmony knowledge has improved my vocal improvisation as well. The drills and exercises are invaluable reference material. As Gary says above, this will be a reference for me for life.

  36. Diego Vargas

    Definitely a game changer. If you want to understand the basics behind bassline construction and apply these concepts to real life situations, this course is for you.

  37. Gary (verified owner)

    You will be able to reference this course for years.

  38. erica bunce (verified owner)

    Are you looking to take bass playing to next level? If so, the Chord Tones Course is the way to go! Prior to this course I was mostly a memorizer of other musician’s bass lines. Now I am understanding how they create these bass lines and I am on track to create my own. I agree with others that have taken this course, there is a lifetime of practice material in this course and this course will stretch your brain to apply many different ways to play the notes of a chord all over the neck, and how to take these notes and create a bass line or solo that has rhythm and melodic quality. To say the least this course is well worth the money!!!!

  39. ANDREW MALESKI (verified owner)

    I picked up and put down instruments my whole life. This is my 3rd attempt at playing bass. I always started with Scales and learning to read music but I never understood why learning scales is important. This course has really set me on a path of understanding how/why music works. Not just some patterns to memorize on the bass to play up and down with no thought behind it. This course has not only helped me understand how to play the bass better but has helped me start to think musically for the first time. There are so many “Ah-Ha!” moments within this course. If you are wondering how some players just know what the right notes are while improvising a solo or bass line this is the BEST place to start. You will get familiar with the notes that outline a chord. What everyone else in the band is most likely playing. Having this knowledge will unlock so many doors into taking the first steps toward musical freedom and expression. ***Disclaimer*** This is not a course you just complete/finish. Some of these lessons may take some time to get down. I honestly feel that I will be using/revisiting some of these lessons for years to come and will still get great stuff out of them. This is not the fast track but in my opinion, it is the right track. 5/5 and then some.

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