As a bass guitar player, your job is to enhance the chords played by the bass guitar. That is NOT to say that a bassist will not use bass guitar chords, but a bass chord should be used sparingly so as not to overpower the song. It is essential for a bass player to understand chord structure and theory in order to do this, so here we go.
A chord is three or more tones played together that have a harmonious sound. Note that chords are THREE or more notes; two note combinations are called diads and are a very different ball game altogether. bass guitar chords are not played as often as guitar chords. This is because of the tendency of deep tones to be a bit muddy.
To combat this effect, bass players will reference the notes the notes of a chord; this is called outlining and simply “refers” to a specific chord. I have heard it explained in a spelling parallel. Guitarists may say an entire word (chord) while bassists spell the word out. For instance, guitar may say the word “CAT”; a bassist will spell out “C-A-T”. I hope that is a clear analogy for you.
Let’s look at an example using a C major chord. This chord is comprised of the notes C, E and G. while the guitar is sounding the chord as a whole, you could play just about ANY combination of those notes. The bass chord could be sounded as C-C-E-E-G-G or C-E-G-E-C or even arpeggiated. As long as you remain within the notes of the C major chord, you are good.
Now we have mentioned arpeggios, so we need to explain those a bit. An arpeggio is the notes of a chord played individually. In C major, those notes are C, E and G, so you could play a series of those three notes up and back down, like a scale, except you will have only 3 or 4 notes to play, not 7.
Now like we said, bass guitar chords are played, but should be used intelligently and sparingly. A bass chord, for example, is used to fill some sonic space within the song. Be careful not to take up to much of that space, though. Learning bass guitar chords is an integral part of your bass learning, but the important thing is that you understand the structure of chords and how to outline them or play within them properly.
Remember that the role of the bass player is to enhance the basis of the chord, not take it over. For this purpose, knowing the chord patterns will allow you to be emphatic in your bass line. An emphasised bass line is an interesting bass line.
So how to learn this skill is probably on your mind. I know it sounds a bit heavy, but it really is easy. Learning bass guitar chords online is the best way I have seen yet. The written tab is there and you get audio and video to help you along. Add the fact that you can move at your own pace and in private and you can see the benefits clearly.
So go get yourself an online bass guitar course which teaches bass guitar chords and let the world hear your music!