Homophones for Music Lovers: Turn up the Bass and Play a Chord

homophones

Homophones for music lovers.

Homophones are words that sound alike but have different meanings. Many homophones also have different spellings, and all too often, people mix them up.

The result is an onslaught of misspellings throughout the written universe.

Although these mistakes are understandable, they are problematic since they are contagious. If someone sees a homophone used incorrectly or misspelled enough times, they will assume the usage is correct and adopt it.

Thus the errors spread.

Ideally, we’d make sure our language doesn’t contain these types of words. I’m sure we are creative enough to come up with completely new words, but unfortunately, language evolves of its own accord, so we must make do with what we have.

Today, we’ll look at two sets of homophones that have connections to music. The first set of homophones is bass and base. The second is chord and cord. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to use only common definitions of these homophones.


Homophones: Bass and Base

Both words, bass and base, rhyme with the following words: ace, face, lace, and race.

Bass

In music, there’s a word that’s generally used in lieu of the word low. That word is bass. There’s a bass clef, a bass guitar, and even bass speakers, which make cars go boom. All of these indicate sound that is low in tone. As you can see, this word can function as both a noun and adjective:

  • On piano, the left hand plays the bass clef while the right hand plays the treble clef. (adjective)
  • Charlie Pace played the bass. (noun)
  • Those bass speakers are too loud! (adjective)

It’s not a fish! Bass is an odd word because it looks like it should be pronounced to rhyme with class. Actually, when referring to fish, it is pronounced that way. Just remember when talking about sound and music, it’s spelled b-a-s-s and the a is a hard vowel.

Base

This word is not nearly as fun, even though it sounds just like bass. Its meaning usually indicates the bottom or core of something. It can also mean that from which something comes. This versatile word can function as a noun, adjective, or verb.

  • The base ingredient is flour. (adjective)
  • It looked like a home run but he only got to third base. (noun)
  • We don’t base our opinions on falsehoods. (verb)

Base sounds just like bassĀ but its spelled differently and doesn’t inherently deal with music or sound.

Homophones: Chord and Cord

Chord

In music, when you play three or more notes simultaneously, that’s a chord. The word chord is also used to refer to emotion.

  • Can you play a C chord on the guitar?
  • That episode really struck a chord with me.

Cord

You know that thing that connects your computer to the wall? That’s a cord. The same word refers to lengths of string or thin rope, such as the drawstring cord in the waistband of your sweatpants. A cord can also be a unit of volume. This word is a noun.

  • Can you plug this cord into the wall?
  • Tie it with a cord!
  • I just ordered a cord of firewood.

Mastering Homophones

Many people struggle with homophones, but they’re actually pretty easy to learn if you just take the time. If there are any homophones that cause you grief, either because you can’t seem to remember which is which or because when you see them misused, your peeve meter goes into overdrive, then leave a comment telling us all about it.

About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.

Comments

8 Responses to “Homophones for Music Lovers: Turn up the Bass and Play a Chord”

  1. Nasir says:

    Thanks for the post on Homophones!

    However, the use might still pose problem since the pronunciation varies in British English which dominates the Commonwealth Countries and, of course, the American English. In other words, since I am sure that more is to follow on the subject, it will benefit us if British pronunciation is also mentioned. The immediate word that comes to my mind is NASTY, where A is pronounced as A in “cares” in American English; whereas in British English it is pronounced as in “father”. This is important for people who learn English only as the Second Language.

    • Hi Nasir, There are many differences between British and American English with regards to both spelling and pronunciation. I’m based in the States, so Writing Forward addresses American English. This site is not for ESL students, although they may find many helpful resources here.

  2. cmdweb says:

    Leaving aside the obvious, I see examples of all of these ones regularly in documents written people who should know better.
    effect, affect
    stationary, stationery
    who’s, whose
    pole, poll
    compliment, complement
    principle, principal
    desert, dessert
    lead, led.
    I think it’s largely because some people associate spelling with the sound the words make and some associate spelling with the way they look on the page. I’m very much visual on-the-page based.

  3. t. sterling says:

    Some dude at Radio Shack was getting a little too technical with me and insisted on calling a “cord” a “cable” and it really struck a chord with me. I really didn’t care what it was as long as it did what I needed it to do. Besides, it said “wire” on the package.

    What episode were you watching? And should I assume that show featured this Charlie Pace who plays bass you speak of? :)

  4. Joan Mathews says:

    don’t know if this is a homophone, but I never know the difference between alright, and all right. Is there a difference? When do you use each one? It’s become a real problem for me; I would so much appreciate someone telling me if there is a difference and if so, how and when I should each form. (I do enjoy Writing Forward and look forward to receiving it). Sincerely, Joan Mathews.

    • Hi Joan, I wouldn’t include alright and all right with homophones. Grammarians are in dispute over these two words, so you might want to do some research before deciding how to use them. My suggestion is to start with the dictionary, then google a phrase like “alright vs. all right” and see what you can find out. I’ve also added these to my notes; perhaps I’ll write an article on the subject in the future. Good luck!