In music, alternating bass, or alternate bass, is a performance technique on many instruments where the bass alternates between two notes, most often the root and the fifth of a triad or chord. The perfect fifth is often, but not always, played below the root, transposed down an octave creating the 4th interval. The alternation between the root note and the fifth scale degree below it creates the characteristic sound.

What Does Alternating Bass Sound Like?

In the video below you can hear it in action:

Alternating bass is used in blues, folk, country, and even rock music. In fact, it’s a very important force behind thousands of songs.

Examples of songs that use alternate bass include:

  • “Blues Eyes Crying In the Rain” by Willie Nelson
  • “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash
  • “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” by Bob Dylan
  • “Long Haired Country Boy” by Charlie Daniels Band
  • “Cover Of The Rolling Stone”
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