What Are 'SLASH CHORDS' On Guitar?

What Do 'Slash Chords' Mean For Us Guitar Players?

Tommaso Zillio

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slash chords guitar

Have you ever heard the term ‘Slash chord’ and wondered what that is?

Well, it’s simple, really. Any chord played in a song by Guns’n’Roses is a ‘Slash chord’.

Thanks for reading! See you next…

…oops! Wait, that’s ‘Slash chords’ with a capital S.

You were probably thinking of lowercase ‘slash chords’, which isn’t a proper noun – subtle, but very important distinction that capital letter is! Oh, the joy of the English language…

A ‘slash chord,’ put simply, means play this note underneath this chord.

So again, thanks for reading, and see you next…

… Ok, ok, let me actually explain this a little bit further.

A slash chord contains two parts, one on either side of the slash. If our chord is C/G, the two parts are C and G.

  • The first of these two notes (left of the slash) refers to a chord.

  • The second of these two notes (right of the slash) refers to a note

To play our slash chord, we simply play the chord on the left of the slash, then play the single note on the right of the slash anywhere below the chord.

Slash chords must always have the single note played at a lower pitch than any other note of the chord, and they must always be played on a guitar tuned a half step down and on a Gibson Les Pau…

… nope, sorry, I capitalized the ‘S’ again. Forget about those last 2 points.

While this explanation of slash chords may help to understand what they are… but how do they sound?

It may be more helpful to see and hear a few examples of slash chords, what makes them work, and how you can come up with some of your own.

For that, just watch this new video, featuring 12 straight action-packed minutes of slash chord examples, explanations, and expenditures (…I couldn’t think of another ‘ex’ word)

Watch the video here:

  • Are you interested in all this talk about chords?
  • Do you want to learn absolutely everything there is to know about chords and harmony on the electric guitar?..
  • … and make great music with it?

Check out my Complete Chord Mastery guitar course, where you can see lessons and examples applied directly to the guitar and skyrocket your knowledge of harmony on the guitar fretboard.


Hello, internet, so nice to see you! One of you asked a great question about slash chords. So let’s go and read it.

Can you explain slash chords, when to use them and why and why not? Why are they good for you?

Slash chords are one of the, in my opinion, greatest invention of music notation because they allow you to write complex things in a very compact notation that is easy to play. Okay, and easy to understand.

Okay, so how do they work? Essentially, you have a slash, that’s why it’s called slash, you’re going to have one name on the left and one name on the right meaning one name, like a note or something like that.

So for instance, you can have something like C, slash E, okay? Now, those two things are not the same thing. That’s the key to understanding slash chords, okay? The first symbol is a chord which could be major, minor, diminished, augmented, seventh, whatever, okay, any chord, but it’s important that this is a chord.

That second symbol, it’s not a chord, it’s just a single note. These is the most important thing, if you go away from this video with one thing, that’s the thing, okay, on the left is a chord on the right, it’s a note.

Now, how do you play? you play this chord here, but you make sure you play this note here below all the others, or if you want, this is your bass note. Okay?

Now this note can be in this chord or not, in this case, it is because C major, it’s C, E, G, so E is one of the notes of C major, okay, but it doesn’t have to, it could be a note outside of the chord, the important thing is that this is a note and it is your bass note, okay?

At the bass, that’s the lowest note you play. The lowest note you play changes the whole sound of the chord, okay? Because if I play a C major chord is this.

Bass, normal, seemingly, but if I play a C with a base of E, this is called C slash E or C with a bass of E, if you want to go with a long form. It sounds still like a C chord, I can I can use an even lower E and it’s still a C chord, in this case, because the E is inside the C but it sounds in a different way.

It’s an inversion of the C chord. Okay? I don’t want to go deep in inversions right now, the idea is essentially, the simple way is you play this chord, and this one should be the lowest note whether it’s in the chord or not.

Now, at this point, it depends where you are. Okay? Because this point is different if you’re playing by yourself, or if you’re playing with a band, okay? If you’re playing by yourself, you have to do everything yourself.

So you need to find a way to play the chord and the bass note and make sure you play that bass note, otherwise it doesn’t sound right. Okay, let me take a different example than this because I mean, that’s pretty tame.

Okay, it’s nice chord but they could be more interesting than that. Okay, an interesting one for instance, is having something like G with a base of A. Now again that’s a G major chord, that’s an A note, only. The A note is not in G, okay, but this kind of chord sounds great.

It’s a chord that you hear in fusion, you typically move it by a couple frets.

Now, the thing is if I had to spell these chord using the standard notation meaning usual chord notation, you’d have to think that that’s an A chord because the base is an A, okay. The notes in this chord are A, G, B, D in this is the G chord and the A is the base.

And so this is an A seven because G is the seven, okay, actually, that’s the seven, that the nine, that the four or eleven, you could call this either an A9sus4, or sometimes just call these an A11, okay depending on who you ask, makes sense?

So that okay, and if there are also the more complex chords if you want to play a G minor with a base of A, this will be an A11 with a flat nine or A7b9sus4, you see that the name becomes longer and we sound this way.

So writing them in slash form makes it easier for you. Okay, so if you are alone again, you have to play both of them, you have to play the chord and the bass and so it pays to have a thorough knowledge of the fretboard.

To get this kind of knowledge of the fretboard I will recommend one of my courses is called complete chord mastery. And in just the first few session we go through how to get all the triads around the fretboard.

And so when you start doing the slash chords, it becomes super easy to do, okay, and you can check the course with the link on the top right.

If instead you’re playing in a band, and with this, I mean any kind of ensemble where there is a bass instrument, it could be a bass, okay, like a standard band that you have a bass, but it could also be a piano player, okay, that is playing those low octaves. piano players do that all the time, they hog all the low frequencies every single time.

So in this case, you don’t really want to be there playing you let them play the bass, okay. Or it could be either in other ensemble, okay. You never know. I mean, sometimes you’re gonna play with a marching band and then it’s the tuba, okay, whatever.

As long as they have a bass instrument, what do you do? You play the chord, but you don’t play bass. You let the bass player or the piano player, tuba player or whatever, playing the bass note, you just play the top chord, okay. And for good measure, play it high.

Okay, so don’t play the G. These way too many notes, just play the top three strings maybe, or maybe go even higher. Okay, so you stay as high as far away as possible from the bass, because it sounds better with the other instruments, believe me, other instruments will fill up the gaps. They do. That’s what they do by default, okay, especially piano players, they fill up all the gaps.

Okay? You just play high. Make sense? So, it depends where you are. If you are by yourself, play both sides. If you’re in a band, ignore what comes after the slash, play the chord and play it high. And again, this simplifies a lot, right?

Because, let’s say the typical situation is that you are filling in for a guitar player in a jazz band, stuff like that has actually happened before, okay, they call you and say we have this show in three days. And then four hours of repotoire, it actually happened, okay. And so what do you do, you can you can rehearse with them, sure. But at the end of the day, you are reading from the chord chart.

Okay, so some songs are full of slash chords, you just ignore the second part play the top part, they have a bass player, they have a piano player, they have a number of people playing in that the bass part, you can safely ignore that they will actually thank you for that. Because you’re not hogging their frequencies. Okay, you’re not there playing over their bass, which sounds horrible.

Okay, you’re playing in a different area of the frequencies, we’re gonna play only high frequencies. Make sense? So, that will be the idea. Okay, how do you use them? Well, that’s the thing.

You can put any chord and then you know, okay, some of them will sound great. And some of them will not sound as good because it depends on the combination, but in principle, there is no rule against anything here. Okay?

If you’re getting started with those, I will recommend to pick a specific key C major, and try the triads and using the other notes of the key as bass.

Okay, so you have C major with a bass of C, C with a bass of D, C with a bass of E, C with a bass of F, C with a bass of G, and with a bass of A, and a semitone bass of B.

So again, some of them sound great. Some of them don’t. Okay, so, one of my, my favorites is slash chords and the one I really like. And again, that’s completely subjective. Okay, absolutely completely subjective. But the, the slash chord I like is when between the bass and the top chord, there is an interval of a fifth.

Okay, so, G is a fifth above C. Makes sense? So if I go from here to here, I have a fifth. Possibly a perfect fifth. Okay. Why? I just liked it. Okay. G with a bass of C, is just a great chord. Okay. A minor with a base of D. It’s a great chord too.

And they can go on and on and on. And all the other ones essentially, okay? They just sound good to me. Especially again, if the interval is a perfect fifth, okay?

And I’m not the only one who likes them. If you ever heard the band Steely Dan, they use this chord all the time. Okay, you’re gonna hear it, okay? Do with the base of C. Again, the interval is a fifth from the bass to the to the chord, the interval is a perfect fifth.

And this chord can be major, or minor, okay? Or it can be a seventh or something else. Or even augmented or diminished, but major, minor tend to sound better.

There’s a very sparkly chord, okay, because once you align the bass and the triad Major, minor a fifth above, all the harmonics in the bass align with the harmonics of the top three notes. I don’t want you to do the mathematics here. But let’s say oh, the harmonics align and they give this kind of sparkly and nice sound.

So that’s a little trick that you can use, okay, for slash chord. But again, those are the ones I like, and they use for specific harmonization. But really, there are no rules. You can put any note in any chord and start them however you want. And that’s all there is to know about slash chord.

Of course, there’s more than that. Okay. That’s what there is to know get started. But there is way more than that. And I cover all those slash chords and other things in my course, complete chord mastery. Check it out on the top right, and we covered them directly on the fret board so you can play them too.

Okay. Now, if you liked this video, if you liked this trick, smash that like button, subscribe, and don’t forget to click on notification. Guys remember to click on notification because if you don’t YouTube will never send you any alert when I put up a new video then why are you gonna subscribe?

Okay, and then if you have any questions, different questions, I do want to want to get answered comments about these or you want to share your own favorite slash courts. Right them in the comment. I enjoyed hearing from you. I enjoy answering your questions. I just enjoy being here with you guys. That’s the thing. Okay, this is Tommaso Zillio of musictheoryforguitar.com, and until next time, enjoy!

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