How Do I Play Slash Chords?

Many of you will have come across strange looking chords such as G/B or D/F#. This doesn’t mean you can choose which of the two chords to play, or that you play one chord then the other! Rather, “G/B” is actually a single chord. The note before the slash (G/) tells you the overall chord to be played, while the note after the slash (/B) tells you which note is to be played in the bass of the chord. For example,

G/B = a G chord with a B note in the bass.
D/F# = a D chord with an F# note in the bass.

You could think of the “/” as meaning “over”, as in “G over B”. In other words, the B in the bass is sitting under the rest of the chord.

The Theory Side of Things

A chord is composed of more than 2 notes played at the same time. For example, a G chord is made up of the notes G, B and D. With a regular G chord, the note G will be in the bass. However, it is also possible to put the B or D in the bass, which you’d see written as G/B or G/D. These are known as inversions.

Occasionally, you’ll get a non-chord note in the bass, such as G/A or G/F#. These can be a simple way of writing out more complex chords (e.g. you could write Bb/C rather than Csus9). They can also often be a way of showing a moving bass line over a static chord. For example, you might see a progression like: C, C/B, C/Bb, C/A. The C chord is staying static while a bass line is moving underneath it (from C to B to Bb to A).

Common Guitar Examples of Slash Chord Usage

C, G/B, Am or it’s closely related cousin C, C/B, Am (notice the bass in both these examples is walking down from C to B to A).
G, D/F#, Em or it’s closely related cousin G, G/F#, Em (again, the bass is walking down – this time on the 6th string – from G to F# to E).

Help – I Play Ukulele! What Should I Do?

Most ukuleles don’t have bass notes (certainly not re-entrant gCEA tuned ukes!), so the majority of the time I would suggest ukesters ignore the bass note after the slash. So when you see a G/B, just play a G chord! The exception to this is if the author of the chord chart is trying to outline a particular chord movement by using slash chords. I see this sometimes online, and – while often not technically correct – you can usually figure out what the author intended, particularly if there’s an accompanying chord chart. If in doubt, just ignore the note after the slash! For example,

For G/B just play G.
For D/F# just play D.

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You Are My Sunshine Chords

Download here: You Are My Sunshine Chords

A classic singalong tune, You Are My Sunshine was first recorded in 1939, and is a great one for beginner ukulele players.

Although it’s in a different key, I’ve linked to the lovely Elizabeth Mitchell version – a quick YouTube search will reveal hundreds of others!

Strumming

I normally suggest uke players stick to a simple, steady down-up-down-up strum:
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
d u D u d u D u

If you like, you can put a slight emphasis on beats 2 and 4, which adds a bit of interest and makes the rhyhthm bounce a bit more.

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Glen Campbell – Wichita Lineman Chords

Download the full version here: Glen Campbell – Wichita Lineman Chords

Download the simplified version here: Glen Campbell – Wichita Lineman (Simplified)

Wichita Lineman features some fantastic chords – it’s a great workout for more advanced guitarists, with rich major 7ths and interesting slash chords. If you’re in doubt about any of them, I’ve included a full list at the bottom of the page.

Simplified Version
Beginner to intermediates can try the simplified chord chart, which still features a tricky Bb barre chord (x13331, or you could try 688766). For an easy version of Gm just bar across the 3rd fret of the thinnest three strings (xx0333), or for a fuller sound try the bar chord (355333).

The Bb/C Chord
Bb/C is not as tricky as it sounds – you just lay your finger across the 3rd fret (x33333). The C after the slash (/) means to play a C note in the bass of the chord. Technically, in order to do this you need to mute the low E string, but don’t worry too much – it still sounds quite good if you do play that string. The chord is also known as C7sus4 or C11 – I’ve gone for the slash chord “Bb/C” way of naming, as (to my ear at least) Bb makes for a better substitute chord than C. So, ukulele players can just play a Bb.

Strumming

You could just play this with steady 8th note downstrums (8 per bar), or you could do something a bit like this:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
D D D DUD D D DU

It’s best not to be too rigid with it – you can add small upstrums wherever feels right. Just be sure to keep the downs steady and consistent. Also, you can put a slight emphasis on beats 2 and 4.

Chord Reference

Looking at the live videos, Glenn Campbell tends to use the first set of chords where I’ve suggested two different options (i.e. around the 5th fret) – but he does have a full band and orchestra behind him! The second set of chords sound great for solo acoustic playing:

Fmaj7: x87555 or x33210
Bb/C: x33333
Bbmaj7: xx8765 or x13231
Fmaj7/A: xx7755 or x03210
Dm7: xx7565 or xx0211
Am7: xx5555 or x02010
G: 320003
D: x00232
Dsus4: x00233
Cadd9: x32030
G/B: x20033
Gm/B: x10033
A7sus4: x02030
Bb: x13331

All chords are listed from thickest string to thinnest.
X means mute a string (or at least try not to strum it!).

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George Ezra – Blame It On Me Chords

Download the chords here: George Ezra – Blame It On Me

Blame It On Me was another one brought to me by one of my younger guitar students. While just three chords, it is a great tune for working on strumming and feel. It is also a good one for beginners to work on their G to C changes – a difficult one when you’re first starting out!

If you are struggling with the Gsus4 (which Ezra plays on frets 320013), you can just play a regular G chord. The Fmaj7 is played as x33210, and Ezra alternates between the C and Fmaj7 to create an intro chord riff, which returns as a fill throughout the song.

Ukulele players and guitarists without capos can play along to the live versions – all the versions I’ve heard have been in the key of C.

Strumming

Suggested strumming pattern for the verses:
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
D D _UDUD D _UDU

Suggested strumming pattern for the intro:
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
D D _UDUD DU _UDU
C________F____C

Notice the Verse strumming pattern is just the same pattern repeated twice (D D _UDU). I have included the “_” underscore as a reminder to leave a space there where there would be a downstrum (but keep your arm swinging downwards!)

Intro/Fills
The Intro is slightly trickier – I have marked out where the chord changes are underneath the strum pattern. Ezra hammers onto the F chord with his little finger after the downstrum on the C on Beat 3, and then returns to the C chord for the last “UDU” of the pattern. As always, listen to the recording as much as possible to get the sound of this into your ear, as it can be hard to get the nuances from the written page!

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John Newman – Cheating Chords

Download the capo free version here: John Newman – Cheating (Bm Version)

Download the bar-chord free version here: John Newman – Cheating (Easy Version)

This song was brought to me by two of my younger students, 8 year old Bodie and Louis. We looked at it with the capo on fret 2, using simplified partial chord shapes (e.g. G as xx0003, C as xx2010). Without the capo it makes a good bar chord workout for more advanced students. Ukulele players will need to play it in Bm to match the original recording key.

In a full band situation advanced players may want to try partial chord shapes up the neck, as you can see John Newman’s guitarist playing in this live band version. These are mainly chords played on the top four strings, based around the 7th fret (e.g. Bm: xx9777, A: xx7655, E: xx7775).

For the solo singer/guitarist you are better sticking to the full open chords, as in this live acoustic version. The more advanced of you can work out some of those licks too!

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