Welcome to this lesson on the Alberti Bass for guitar. The Alberti Bass is a type of rhythmic accompaniment that comes from the classical era. This technique is named after composer Domenico Alberti. The Alberti bass may have a fancy name and may be spelled wrong according to Microsoft Word but the concept is quite simple indeed. The Alberti bass is an arpeggio style rhythm where the lowest note of the chord is played first. After that you play the highest note of the chord. Next you play the middle note of the chord then finally the highest note of the chord again. The Alberti bass can famously by heard in Mozart’s piano Sinatra number 16 or more contemporarily (relatively speaking) in Elinor Rigby by The Beatles.
So why am I discussing some old form of rhythmic accompaniment? Well the answer is a simple one. This technique sounds really cool on the guitar. Furthermore, when played on guitar, the Alberti bass is rather versatile. It works well in both rhythm and lead situations and with either a clean tone or a rock/metal tone. The Alberti bass can be used all over the fretboard both high and low. It can do a great job sitting in the background supporting a melody and it can also be moved to the forefront too. Furthermore it sounds good in both major and minor.
In this guitar lesson I’m going to show you how you can incorporate the Alberti bass into your guitar playing. I’ll you examples of how to use it effectively in both lead guitar and rhythm guitar.
Alberti bass on guitar
The first thing you need to do though is properly understand the Alberti Bass. Listening to the Mozart piece I mentioned earlier then trying to spot the same pattern In Elinor Rigby would be a good place to start. I’ve already explained the idea in the opening but perhaps a little more detail and an example would help you digest it a little easier.
Example of the Alberti bass in D major on guitar
The example above is a D major triad broken down into an arpeggio. The arpeggio is played in a very specific way with the notes in a certain order. The root (D) is played first followed by the 5th (A) followed by the 3rd (F#) followed by the 5th again. Therefore, the Alberti bass is 3 note chord broken down with the notes played in the following order – root 5th 3rd 5th or, lowest highest middle highest or in this example, D A F# A. This is a very simple concept that you can get a lot out of.
First let’s look at using the Alberti bass in a rhythm section. Often in rock or metal music, we choose to use the muted power chord as accompaniment for the melody during verses. The Alberti bass can be used instead in some of these situations or maybe you could combine the 2. Take a look at the next example in the key of A minor. The chord progression is I VII VI VII. The first run through uses muted power chords of A G F G followed by the second run through which uses the Alberti bass meaning that the chords are no longer power chords. They’re now broken down 3 note chords. A minor G major F major G major. The Alberti bass part would remain muted as it’s still acting as support.
Alberti bass rhythm for rock guitar
The Alberti bass can be used like this in a situation to give a composition a little bit of variation which is never a bad thing. The example isn’t necessarily structural instruction. You could use it combined with muted power chords in a verse similar to what you just saw. Alternatively you could also use it as accompaniment for a full verse or a rhythmic approach to a bridge or as the supporting rhythm for a solo or cleverly use it sporadically for a bar or 2 or even less than a bar like this.
Rhythm for rock guitar example 2
Before we move on to lead guitar, let’s take a look at another rhythm example. We’ve done muted heavy tone rock so let’s look at something clean and calm in a major key. The chord progression that would sit behind this is Dmaj7 F#m7 Em7 Dmaj7 Gmaj7 A7. Here is what an Alberti bass rhythm accompaniment could look for that chord progression.
Another example of Alberti bass rhythm on guitar
Notice how the 7ths never come into play? The Alberti bass never strays from the root 5th 3rd 5th formula.
Now let’s move from rhythm to lead guitar and see how we can use the Alberti bass in the forefront instead of the background.
As discussed, the Alberti bass is a very specific thing so we can’t change the notes that are played or the order which they are played in. If we did, it wouldn’t be an Alberti bass would it?
We can change how and where we play the notes though which is what we’re going to do.
As for how, we’re going to remove the palm mute that we saw in a couple of the examples allowing the notes to ring out. As for where, we’re going to move everything to the 2 highest strings which means the A minor progression from earlier will look something like this. Again this is just an example. You can take this concept and use it as you wish. Playing a whole progression is not the only option and definitely shouldn’t not be over used.
Alberti bass for lead guitar
Just changing 2 things has taken this from the background to the foreground in a way that is ideal for using in guitar solos or any other instrumental situations. Just a word of warning though. The Alberti bass for lead is best used sparingly. Don’t repeat it too much or for too long or it will soon become boring to the listener. Use it in small doses then move on to something else.
You could also use a lead looping Alberti bass in the foreground and allow a rhythm to gradually build up in the background. Or, you could include little Alberti bass snippets in other licks like the example shown here.
Lead guitar example 2
The Alberti bass is just another weapon to add to your arsenal that you can call upon when the right situations arise. You’re fairly limited in what you can do with it but it sounds really good when utilised correctly.
This is certainly something different. If you enjoy infusing this kind of sound into your guitar playing, why not try some of these neoclassical guitar licks? You could also try going in a completely different route and learn some blues. Try this lesson on the 8 bar 16 bar and 24 bar blues.
Hello. My name is Ryan J Mellor and I play the guitar. I’m also the creator of Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat. I’ve ben a guitarist for many years and my guitar playing has been described as “above average”. My guitar and music knowledge is somewhat impressive but most importantly, I have a passion for creating great guitar and music related content.