Slash chords

Recently, I’ve had several students ask about slash chords. The question usually sounds like this: “What the heck does this chord mean: C/G?”

That is a slash chord. Before I answer the main question, let me point out something we all take for granted. When we see a chord, C for example, we correctly assume that the root of the chord will be used as the bass note. In this case, a C will be the bass note in the C chord as outlined in black:

C chord

Now, lets look at the slash chord C/G. The note to the left of the slash is the chord’s central tonality, in this case a C chord. The note to the right of the slash is the note that will be used as the alternate bass note, in this case G. That means we have to use find a G that is lower than the C that we’d normally use for the bass note. The alternate bass note can also replace the root if a lower-pitched alternative can’t be found. The C/G chord would look like this. Notice the G is now the bass note in the C chord:

C chord with G in the bass: C/G

So there you have it. A slash chord is used when you are playing something other than the root in the bass. Simple as that!

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