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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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The plan is to post information relevant to music teachers, students and other musicians: things that are exciting me, thoughts about teaching, links to useful info… Basically whatever’s moving me at the moment and making me think or look at things in a new way.

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