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Slash And Burn (Slash Chords Intro)

Darrin Koltow (383) · [archive]
Style: Theory/Reference · Level: Intermediate · Tempo: 120
Pages: 1

Slash and Burn (slash chords)

By Darrin Koltow

This article represents the viewpoint of the author. As with anything read on the Web, it would be wise to verify all information with a reliable source, such as a music teacher or music textbook.

Let's get something cleared up right away: slash chords are *not* different from the chords you already know. When you hear someone using the term slash chords, this person is simply applying a different way of looking at an existing chord.

Example: E7 can be written as E/D. Now, hold your horses before you go and play this. That E/D is a pretty ugly E7. In other words, it really doesn't sound like an E7. It isn't a "proper" E7. It doesn't get invited to E7 Christmas parties, and A would be mortified at the thought of being preceded by this E/D. Why? We're getting away from the main point, but it's important to explain: ya don't want to have the 7th of a dom 7 in the bass. You want the first or the fifth. In this case, that means the E or the B.

Okay. Back to the E/D. What's great about notating E/D is that, unlike reading "E7," reading "E/D" gives you a clue about the voicing of the chord. That is, you know the D is in the bass. The "E7" notation doesn't tell you that.

Where would you see slash chords notated? You'll see them all over the place, but you'll see a lot of them when the composer is *creating a melody in the bass line* -- especially a chromatically descending bass line. Let's illustrate this:


Check out that first chord. What the heck is that? Well, if you forget about slash chord notation for a moment, you might call it a Gmaj#11, add 9, or something like that. But, who wants to read that?

Bring our memory of slash chord notation back into your mind, and you'll call that first chord simply a F#minor/G . Highly hip. That's a heckuva lot cleaner looking than Gmaj# blah, blah, blah, isn't it? And, the slash chord notation also communicates more clearly the true progression: it's just a ii-V-I in E. However, running along the bottom of that ii-V-I, I decided I wanted a bluesey bass line. Play the tab again, and you'll hear what I mean: G, F#, E. We're in the key of E major, but I dig the blues, so I put the blue G in there.

The next time you're struggling with the chords when reading a piece of music, and you don't see the chords notated in slash notation, take a look at the bass line. Is there a melodic bass line going on there? If so, rewrite the chords in slash notation and see if they don't make more sense.

Pick up more timely, original tips on playing guitar at MaximumMusician.com, where we always "play out."

Article by Darrin Koltow