An introduction to Slash Chords

This is the first blog post in a new series that is designed to demystify the basic music theory around constructing new and exciting chords. The series is aimed at both beginners and intermediate players. The objective is to help you expand your understanding of how to build these chords, use them in your own playing to add extra depth to your songs and to experience Rapid Guitar Results by expanding your current chord-based repertoire.

Unveiling the mystery of Slash Chords

Ever heard of a Slash Chord? No, it’s not a chord invented by Slash, the cool cat in the top hat. Although, fun fact, Slash does indeed utilise Slash Chords in the iconic tunes you’ve jammed to by Guns N’ Roses and across his various solo ventures. But here’s the kicker—they’re not exclusive to rock. Slash Chords are sprinkled throughout every genre of music, adding depth and melody to our favourite tunes.

Demystifying Slash Chords

Let’s break it down for all you beginner and intermediate level guitarists out there. Picture this: you’re strumming along, and suddenly you come across a chord that looks unfamiliar and has a different character to its sound. It doesn’t sound like a standard major or minor chord. It has an extra intriguing note to it. What’s the deal? Well, you may have stumbled on a Slash Chord, which is where the lowest note you hear – the bass note – is different from the root note. Confused? Don’t worry; we’ll clear it up.

Understanding the basics

In your standard chord, the root note is usually the lowest sound that you hear. You build up from there by adding the third, the fifth, the seventh, and so on (constructed from intervals of the chord’s scale). But with Slash Chords, we’re flipping the script. There’s a different note at the base, and we signify this by adding a slash after the main chord.

Let’s get practical

Take a simple chord like D Major or D Major 7. Typically, the lowest note you’ll hear is D. But with a Slash Chord, we introduce a new bass note. For example, D Major 7 with an A bass note becomes DMaj7/A. Simple, right? It’s read as “D Major 7 over A” or “D Major 7 slash A”.

Playing with possibilities

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. Slash Chords can have any note after the slash, usually found within the chord itself or “borrowed” from another scale entirely. They’re a nifty way to indicate chord inversions without diving into the complexities of more advanced music theory.

Let’s experiment

Take a C7 chord (C – E – G – Bb). Any note besides the main one (C) can be written as the bass note. So, C7/E, C7/G, and C7/Bb indicate E, G, and Bb as the bass notes, respectively. But you’re not limited to notes within the chord; you can get creative and add any note that you think sounds good.

The effect of this will be to create a thicker or more exotic version of the existing chord. This has its own benefits because it creates additional pleasing, melodic movement within your chord progression. You might go from a standard A minor chord and then move into the Slash Chord, which is A minor over G (Am/G). By using the Slash Chord as a variation, your ears will be pleased with the melodic movement that is created by moving between those two chords.

This is a great way to get more mileage out of a chosen chord in your favourite chord progression.

Harmonising in harmony

When playing Slash Chords, the note after the slash – the bass note – is often played separately from the chord before the slash.

🤓 RGR nerdy fact: When playing Slash Chords, the Slash Chord can set up the opportunity to create a walking bassline. This resolves nicely down or up to the next chord in the chord progression.

Unlocking musical magic

Now, here’s the kicker: Slash Chords can be heard in everything from The Beatles to modern pop songs. Why? Because they make chord progressions smoother. Picture those classic I, IV, and V chords – we encounter them everywhere. Slash Chords add sparkle and depth, and help the chord progression flow seamlessly.

The cool thing about Slash Chords are that they are related to inverted chords, but can also have a borrowed bass note that doesn’t belong to the original chord. “What’s an ‘inverted chord’?”, I hear you ask. Stay tuned for the next post in this series that will demystify this concept, too!

A real-world example

Take “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac. The chord progression goes from C Major to G Major with a B bass note, to A minor 7, and back to G Major with a B bass note. That G Major/B slash chord allows the bass note to descend smoothly, creating a seamless transition between chords.

More examples of Slash Chords: the C/B is used to great effect in Credence Clearwater Revival’s Have You Ever Seen The Rain. The Am/G chord is used in While My Guitar Gently Weeps by The Beatles.

Unleash your creativity

So, next time you’re strumming your guitar, keep an ear out for Slash Chords—they might just be the secret ingredient to levelling up your musical game! Dive in, experiment, and let your creativity soar. Happy strumming!

If you’re feeling frustrated by your lack of progress on the guitar, send me a message or email me at paul@rapidguitarresults.com and let’s you rapidly on the right path to enlightenment. Better information leads to better playing!

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