Playing And Understanding Slash Chords

Slash Chords

Slash chords are chords in which the root note of the chord is not the lowest pitched note in the chord. These types of chords are closely related to inversions, the concept with which you are already probably familiar. Studying the animation below to review the concept of inversions.

Inversions, quite simply put, are merely a re-ordering of the notes in any chord. In the example above you see the three notes that comprise a C major triad ( C – E – G) played in every possible order the first inversion has E has the lowest note and the second inversion has G. On a keyboard and in the world of musical theory this is quite neat and clean, it buttons up really neatly. Of course, this will not be the case on the guitar as the instrument is full of idiosyncrasies and apparent contradictions.

Let’s see how this concept of inversions relates to the art and science of playing slash chords on the guitar. First, what exactly is a slash chord? A slash chord is one that calls for a noot other than the root to be played as the lowest pitched note in the chord.

chord26

As you can see from the music notation in the illustration above, guitar chords are not theoretically perfect in that they contai lots of doubled notes and the notes in the chord are not always in the set order of “Root – Third – Fifth”.

Most Common Slash Chords

With Slash chords just about anything and everything can go. I have seen entire books devoted to the subject of playing a triad against each every note in the chromatic scale! In the right context just about anything will fly, even a chord that may sound bizarre or dissonant by itself will sound great taken in the proper context, as part of the right sequence of chords or chord progression. Below are the slash chords that are the most useful and commonly used ones. For ease of understanding I have listed them below in the key of C.

KEY
C
C
C
C
Name Of Chord
C over E
C over F
C over G
C over D
Chord Symbol
C/E
C/F
C/G
C/D
Theory
3rd In Bass
4th In Bass
5th In Bass
9th In Bass

chord27

Slash Chord Reference Charts

Slash chords are used throughout the example below. The interesting thing about this example is that it is based on one chord sound only: C Major. That chord is then given 7 different bass notes -one for each member of the major scale. Remember, with slash chords just about anything and everything can work. Of course these slash chords can be used individually or as part of a progression.

SLASH CHORDS BASED ON C MAJOR

chord28

Next, lets systematically review a number of slash chords that are variations of the most common first position chords: those with root notes of either A, B, C, D, E, F or G.

SLASH CHORDS BASED ON A MAJOR

chord30

MUSICAL EXAMPLE

SLASH CHORDS BASED ON A MINOR

Just below are two of the more practical slash chords based on an A minor chord shape. Knowing how to play, name, and use these slash chords is just one more thing that a professional knows and an amateur doesn’t.

SLASH CHORDS BASED ON D MAJOR

The diagram below details themost useful slash chords based on the common knowledge chord form of D Major. There are two versions of the D/F# (D over F sharp) chord that are routinely found in modern popular music.

chord34

MUSICAL EXAMPLE

The musical example below employs 6 versions of the basic D Majord sound to create an interesting and musical part meant to replace a prolonged, static D Major sound. Note the use of the D/E (D over E) chord in the first 4 introductory measures. This sound called “9th in bass” is one of my favorites and has always coundexd to me like it creates a sparkling sound and a feeling of expectancy.

SLASH CHORDS BASED ON D MINOR

The example below uses various versions of D minor (slash chords) in the open position to create a winning fingerpicking part. Once again, the ability to use these kinds of chords

SLASH CHORDS BASED ON E MAJOR

A theme of this lesson, using every member of the major scale as the bass note of a slash chord,is applied to the common knowledge E Major chord. If you are a songwriter, learn to hear and think of slash chords -they’re real game changers.

chord36

MUSICAL EXAMPLE

Below is a musical example using a basic E Major chord sound a several slash chords to create motion and interest. Study and play these musical examples in order to learn how to use slash chords in your playing and writing.

SLASH CHORDS BASED ON E MINOR

As I have said before, in the realm of slash chords just about any and every slash chord you can imagine will function if used in the proper context. Use the following graphic to become familiar with slash chords based on an E minor chord form.

chord39

MUSICAL EXAMPLE

These musical examples are intended to give you a grasp on using these tricky and beautiful chords. These chords are quite versatile, the short piece below places the E minor slash chords in a jazzy setting. You could correctly analyze this as an E minor with a minor scale bass line, this is a lesson on slash chords however where we are learning how basic triads interact with bass notes other than the root.

SLASH CHORDS BASED ON F MAJOR

Here are the most useful slash chords that are derived from thr basic F Major shape. After playing and studying the musical examples in this lesson you should be able to create an interesting part based on the F major sound using a few of the slash chords pictured below.

chord41

SLASH CHORDS BASED ON F MINOR (With Musical Example)

Next study the most useful slash chords that are based on a first position F minor chord. The musical example is another piecs written in the jazz or swing style.

SLASH CHORDS BASED ON G MAJOR

Finally, study ancd play the most useful slash chords that are derived from the basic G Major shape.

chord43

chord_tail_05

Testimonials

“My first experience with the guitar was taking lessons from Karl Aranjo as a high school student. His lessons were more than just a collection of tips and riffs: they were a method. As I look through GuitarU.com, I get to take a trip back through those lessons and am reminded about I loved about them. His strong focus on the fundamentals quickly draws a connection between general music theory and the particulars of how that theory can be applied to the guitar, even allowing us as guitarists to use our instrument as an abacus-like tool to enhance our musical insight. In high school, Karl’s lessons got me up to speed to jam with my friends and in the school band almost immediately. In the almost 20 years since I left high school and had my last lesson with Karl, the things he taught me have continued to serve me well; I’ve played almost continuously in a variety of styles (jazz, rock, funk, folk), both as a hobby and as a part-time professional (currently playing with San Francisco’s Smash-Up Derby). If I hadn’t grown up in the same town as where Karl taught, I might have missed out on a lifetime of fun playing the guitar. With GuitarU.com, wherever you are, you can benefit from the same quality instruction that I had!

-Grahm Ruby

“Mr. Karl Aranjo is one great teacher to work with. When working with him, he is very flexible, and will teach you all the basics and fundamentals you will need while learning how to play the guitar. From learning basic chords to crazy licks and solo’s. You will become an expert in no time and looking like a professional guitar player. In my experience, I learned to master chord progressions much easier and understand it in a better perspective. In my music career/hobby, it has given me nothing but success to play in a band as a front man/rhythm guitarist, compose my own type of music, and as well as songs that I really wanted to learn how to play on the guitar. Learning through Karl Aranjo was a great experience and has helped me understand the guitar a lot easier, I would not have wanted this learning experience any other way.”

-Julius Isaac

“I had the pleasure of being a guitar student of Karl’s for several years. Karl advanced my playing ability a great deal very quickly by giving me a perfect combination of guitar technique, theory and assigning songs that motivated me to continue learning. I highly recommend Karl for all level of guitar players no matter if you are a beginner or advanced.”

-Tom Hunt

”Karl Aranjo is a great and experienced teacher with an extensive knowledge of guitar playing and theory. His thorough online course, GuitarU.com covers the whole spectrum from the first time beginner to advanced.”

Blake Aaron- Internationally Known Recording Artist

”Karl helped me dive into the blues when I was first starting out, and learning how to improvise opened up many doors for me on guitar. He has a vast knowledge ranging many musical styles, and i would recommend him to anyone trying to learn the instrument!”

Eric Cannata Young The Giant