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Slash Chords

A recent Piano Wiz session with Beverly resulted in her suggestion that I share
some of the contents from that session with everyone here. Thank you, Beverly! 

Slash chord (or compound chord) symbols seem to throw a curve ball to some people, so
I thought I'd shed a little light on the subject here.

Slash chords generally represent two different scenarios, though they are both treated the same way...

Here's an example of one scenario:


The first part of the symbol (in this case, C) tells us the actual chord we are playing. So here we have  C Major chord. The second part of the symbol (the G here) tells us which note is to be played at the bottom of the structure. So, we are to play a C Major chord with the note G at the bottom of the structure (or furthest to the left on the piano keyboard). Notice that both of these letter names are part of the C Major chord. Playing the G which is the 5th of the chord) at the bottom results in playing a C Major chord in 2nd inversion. The G could be played close to the other chord tones or quite a distance away, as in the bass area.


Listen and appreciate the different "sound texture" that you you achieve when playing this than if you were to play a C at the lower area of the piano instead of that G. Remember, slash chords don't exist to make life more confusing... instead, they exist because of the great sounds that result!

It would be fine to play the entire chord and
the G once again in the lower area of the piano as shown above, though simply playing a C Major triad in 2nd inversion would also satisfy this symbol, as shown here:


(If the concept of inversions is new to you, you may want to consider this program, as it places a focus on playing right hand inversions for the purpose of accompanying melodies in your songs)

Here's the other scenario:


What does this chord symbol ask of us?

As in the first scenario, the first part of the symbol tells us what chord is to be played. Also, the second part of the symbol tells us which note to play below the chord. Notice, in this case, that both letters are not part of the G Major chord. Therefore, the A is to be played in addition to the G Major chord, specifically below it, such as in the bass area:


Go ahead and play this and you'll hear something quite nice!

Remember, in both scenarios, the first letter in the symbol represents a chord... the second letter represents a single note.

Just a few other examples of some slash chord symbols you may come across:

C/E, Emin/A, A/B, G/F#, Amaj7/B, B-/F# (there are so many more possibilities!)

So, the next time you see one of the slash chord symbols, instead of approaching it with hesitancy, have an appreciation for the fact that the composer had a specific sound in mind and then go at it with enthusiasm! Now, you can achieve that sound with confidence!


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