What are “slash chords” ?

by Eric Vandenberg

“Slash chords are chords consting of a triad and an additional bassnote which does not have to be necessarily part of the triad. ( D/F# has a bass note which is also featured in the D triad ( D-F#-A ), while Am/G i.e. has a bass-note which is not featured in the triad ( A minor triad: A-C-E )

As an example for
constructing a typical slash-chord, imagine an A Major triad ( A- C#- E ) and add a C# in the bass ( that means, the lowest note you fret and play is the C#... the chord is pictured in the TAB at the bottom of this “essay” ).
The chord we now have is referred to as A/C# ( meaning “A major on C# bass note” )You could also simply think of it as a certain inversion. A min/D could also be interpreted as an inversion of Amin11, but to make clear that the D is the bass note, we use the slash-chord-name for that chord.
The chord we now have is referred to as A/C# ( meaning “A major on C# bass note” )

I´m gonna repeat myself: There are
two kinds of slash-chords. One kind consists of chords with a bassnote that is actually a part of the triad ( i.e. A/E, A/C#, Amaj7/G# ).
The other kind consists of chords with bass notes that are not featured in the chord ( i.e.
Amaj/G, A/F# etc. ).
Try to experiment with that concept, try to write some chord progressions featuring slash chords and see what it does...

When it comes to asking “
How do they sound ?”, I can assure you that you have heard them being used for sure... here are some examples of songs that feature slash chords:

“Best Of Both Worlds”- Van Halen
“More Than Words”- Extreme
“Freebird”- Lynyrd Skynyrd
“With Arms Wide Open”- Creed
“It Will Be Me”- Faith Hill
“Highway To Hell”- AC/DC
“Always With Me, Always With You”- Joe Satriani

By naming those examples ( which are taken from different styles of music ) I tried to show you that slash chords are a common tool in modern music, and are an integral part of the musical “vocabulary” of many great songwriters.
So, when you are writing a song next time, try to include some slash chords, try using them instead of just using the regular major-minor-chords... it might give you a bunch of new possibilites and open some new doors for you...

Here are some more examples of how to fret some slash-chords. No actual exercise or
composition, just a display of four different slash-chords:
 

Have fun, experiment, explore...” Eric Vandenberg

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