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Slash Chords

Don't let slash chords confuse you too much. No, they are not the chords that the guitarist from Guns and Roses uses, they are something different.

A slash is this: /, so a slash chord should have one of them in its name. These are all slash chords: G/B, C/Bb, F/G, Cmaj7/E.

The symbol on the left of the slash is a chord and the symbol on the right is the bass note. So the slash chord G/B means that you have to play a G triad over a B bass note. If I wanted you to play this chord, I would probably say; "Play G on B" or "play G over B."

There are basically two types of slash chords: one is an inversion of the chord itself, this makes the bass note (notated on the right of the slash) the 3rd, 5th or 7th of the chord. In the other type of slash chord, the bass note functions as the actual root of the chord. There is a gray area where these two types of slash chords overlap.

Triad Inversions

The first type of slash chords we will deal with are just simple triad inversions. Simply by voicing any triad with the 3rd or 5th in the bass will yield a slash chord. Ex: A simple C major triad voiced with the third, E as the bass note will yield a C/E slash chord, voiced with the 5th, G as the bass note will yield a C/G slash chord. When the triad has as the bass the root, it is said to be in root position. With the 3rd in the bass, 1st inversion and with the 5th in the bass, 2nd inversion.

Play each inversion below. The roots are in black for reference:

The previous chord examples are just a few of the many triad voicings that can be constructed, see if you can come up with some more voicings of major triads. After you figure some more of the major voicings out, try to come up with the minor shapes also.

Bass Movement

Why would you want to use the inversion anyways? - These kinds of slash chords are often used to simply create chromatic bass movements in your chord progressions. Take a look at the chord progression below:

Although the bass movement works fine, we can create a smoother bassline by playing the G chord in 1st inversion. This will make the bassline for the first two chords descend chromatically:

Lets take this concept a step further. Play the "before" version...

And now the "after" version. Check out how the bassline is completely chromatic for the first four chords:

The first inversion major chord (3rd in the bass) is probably the most commonly used of the inversions. While triads in root position and in their inversions are the rule in pop and rock, you aren't likely to find triads in root position very often in Jazz, the 1st inversion major triad however can be found from time to time. Check out the example below:

I used the previous chord progression in one of my own songs, "When Love Greets You" (Real Audio, 1.3 MB).

Creating contrary motion - I'm going to show you how we can use slash chords to create contrary motion. In the chord progression below, the chords all descend in whole steps...

And once again the "after" version. While the chords descend in whole steps, the bassline ascends creating some musical interest.

Seventh Chord Inversions >>