Slash Chords

This lesson builds directly on the Chord Inversions lesson, so I suggest re-reading that one, if you have not read it yet.

That lesson introduced the slash notation, for example, C/G, pronounced C over G. In that lesson, the slash notation was used to choose an alternate bass note from the notes that are in the chord. The notation can be expanded, though, and you can play any chord over any other bass note. Because of the way they are written, I call these types of chords slash chords. You might also see them called alternate bass chords or compound chords. All it means is you play a different note in the bass, but it opens up a whole bunch of possibilities, especially when songwriting.

I already showed some examples in the Chord Inversions lesson. Here I’ll show some more possibilities. One of the most common uses of slash chords is to have a cool or funky bass line played along with the normal chords. The easiest and probably most common example is the descending bass line in the key of C. This shows up in Mr. Bojangles or in Paul Simon’s America.

Here’s an example in tablature of how to play a descending bass line in the key of C, transitioning to an F chord and G chord.

  C               C/B              C/A              C/G

 F                                 G

This example should give you some ideas for how you can use slash chords in your own songs, and what to do with a slash chord when you come across one in a song.

One cool note about the above example. Take a look at the fingering for C/A. Now compare it to Am7. They’re exactly the same chord! That’s one of the cool little coincidences that show up all the time in music theory. It works because the notes in a C chord are:


But when you add the A in the bass, you get:


which happens to be the same notes as in Am7.

My Chorderator web-app can automatically generate fingerings for any slash chord you can come up with, so I suggest heading over there and trying out some more. The possibilities are pretty much endless.

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