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Slash Chords

by Chris Tarry
Slash chords are used for a few different reasons. The first is from the compositional point of view.

A lot of times the composer wants slash chords that outline, over a few bars, a chromatic theme in the bass part. This is just so the composer get's the desired effect of that chromatic bass line happening where they hear it. A classic version of this is the first four bars of the tune "My ... Valantine".

Listen to this below and check out the chromatic bassline work it's way all the way from C to the Ab chord that starts bar 5. The track builder can't show slash chords so this is actually whats being played in the first four bars:

Cmin | CminMaj/B | Cmin7/Bb | Cmin6/A

If we take a closer look we see what is really happening in this example.

The first chord Cmin is played with the root in the bass.
The second chord is CminMaj7 is played with the major 7th in the bass B.
The third chord is a Cmin7 with the b7 chord tone Bb in the bass.
The last chord has an A in the bass because the chord is a Cmin6 and the 6th on that chord is an A.

So, we notice that a slash chord is simply a way of writing a chord and telling the bass player which chord tone from that chord to play in the bass.

There is another type of slash chord.

This kind of slash chord is generally written with a straight line. for exambe B over E. Notice that the first chord B has no chord quality attached to it. This, along with the straight line, means some type of triad over another type of triad. In this case a B triad over an E triad. These types of slash chords tend to be used to simplify a complex chord voicing for chordal instruments. We would still play a B in this case.


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