#1
I was wondering what the point of using slash chords was if you can just play the standard major/minor chord voicings. I found a song called "Tonight" by elton john and notice the use of slash chords. But why?

I know slash chords are good for playing modally but besides that why use them and do you have to?
#2
Using the slash chords, also known as inverted chords, changes the voicing of a chord. So rather than play a G chord I-iii-V (G-B-D), play a G/B, which would be structured iii-V-I (B-D-G). This just causes a shift in where the intervals are and creates open spaces where there were none before. Just sounds cool.

But in terms of having to use them, no, but they do add alot.
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#3
A ''slash chord'' is an inverted chord - a note other than the tonic will be in the base, which offers a broader range of notes you might want to feature in a bassline. This can keep a progression from sounding too stagnant with strictly parallel voices between successive chords, and also make for a more independent bassline, free from the ''confines'' of following a standard open chord's melody note.
The most common voicings for a triad are root position, first inversion, and second inversion, featuring the tonic, third, and fifth in base, respectively. For example, a C major chord in root position will feature a C in base, while a C with an E in base (written as C/E) is a first inversion chord, and a C with G in base (written C/G) is a second inversion chord). There are many more possibilities, stretching far beyond featuring notes relative to a triad, but understand those fundamentals is a good start.

You don't ''have'' to use inverted chords, but I'd advocate playing through a progression with your ''basic'' shapes, and then with the inversions recommended by the score. I'm sure that the latter will have more of an appeal once your ear becomes a little accustomed with the slightly modified intervallic structure, since the overall harmonic content will likely be more elaborate and catered-specifically for the song. Be sure to listen specifically for the lowest note (or bassline) of each version you play through; what is your opinion on each?

As for being useful for playing modally, I really don't see how an inverted chord is any more valid than one in root position, provided you understand how to establish a modality rather than a tonality.
Before anybody else posts, I'd say that understanding the merit of inversions is much more important than associating them with modes; the consensus here is that modes aren't particularly important in contemporary music and not to be worried about unless you understand their history, and given the number of threads mentioning them with misinformation... another regular might have a bit more of an aggressive stance toward the mention of the ''m'' word.

I'm sure somebody will come along and post an example of the value of inverted chords, though, but I'll drop by this thread later today.
Last edited by juckfush at Dec 24, 2011,
#4
Inverted chords give you tons more options when writing chord progressions. Imagine how boring music would be if all everyone used were root position chords.

Example:
Let's take the progression G, D, Em. Play them in their standard open chord root position forms (with some bass accenting) and we get this:

|---3---2---0-|
|---3---3---0-|
|---0---2---0-|
|---0-0-0---2-|
|---2-------2-|
|-3-3-----0-0-|

Inserting a slash chord in there can give a nice bass line. So change G, D, Em to G, D/F#, Em.

|---3---2---0-|
|---3---3---0-|
|---0---2---0-|
|---0---0---2-|
|---2-------2-|
|-3-3-2-2-0-0-|


Notice how the bass line goes down rather nicely? That's just one possibility that inverted chords opens up.
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Last edited by rockingamer2 at Dec 24, 2011,
#5
^I was just going to give that example, but with C - G/B - Am

Quote by eteam_sammy4him
So rather than play a G chord I-iii-V (G-B-D), play a G/B, which would be structured iii-V-I (B-D-G).

Roman numerals are used for chords, not notes. That would be 1-3-5 and 3-5-1 respectively.
#6
okay, what do modes have to do with inversions?

also, realize, the song is written on piano, where "slash chords" require much less effort than guitar and arguably are a lot more functional when you're moving in the lower register.
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Last edited by Hail at Dec 24, 2011,
#7
Quote by Hail
okay, what do modes have to do with inversions?

TS may thinking about playing chords within the mode while keeping a drone.
I wouldn't really treat something like that in the same way I treat inversions, but maybe with the "slash chord" mindset it might make more sense.
Last edited by sickman411 at Dec 24, 2011,
#9
more smooth bassline; especially helpful for piano players
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#11
Just to clarify something: not all slash chords represent inversions. Sometimes it's just meant to represent a chord being imposed over a moving bassline, and the bass note that it's imposed over is actually not a chord tone at all, or it functionally turns it into a completely different chord that could possibly be renamed without the slash.
#13
Quote by Unreal T
I was wondering what the point of using slash chords was if you can just play the standard major/minor chord voicings. I found a song called "Tonight" by elton john and notice the use of slash chords. But why?


Like a lot of musical questions, this one is best answered by using your ear.

Sit down at a piano, if you can, and play a C major. Now play a C/E and C/G. Listen to them, hear how they sound different. (Those are the two most common slash chords for C major, but of course there are many other possible ones).

Others have mentioned how the use of slash chords can give the feeling of a moving bassline, and that's an important part of it. Having a stepwise moving pattern in your chords is a technique which ties them all together - obviously a bassline is the most obvious place to do this, but it's not the only place. For example, you see this internally in the chords of the Beatles "Hold me Tight."

Even though it's technically the same chord, an inversion can simply have a different feel to it - it feels like a different chord. This gives you more harmonic flexibility.

eg, take a look at the guitar line Cadd9 (x32033, G/B (using the x20033) voicing, A7sus4 (x02033), G (32033).

This is a very common pattern in the key of G (a popular guitar key). Notice how the use of the inversion prevents the progression from feeling resolved until the final chord. If you replace that G/B with a G, not only do you lose that gently falling feeling caused by the descending bassline, but you also lose the landing - rather than feeling like the progression is leading you to that G major, it feels cyclic.

Which is fine if you want it to be cyclic. But maybe you don't. Maybe you want to feel like you're going somewhere. And omitting that one low G note gets you there. Pretty neat, huh?
#14
Slash chords usually tell you what note the bassist/pianist is playing (the lowest one)


C/G is a C major chord, with G being the lowest note. The Beatles song "Girl" (as well as many others) has a couple of them. I mention this one because it's the one I'm learning the now. There's a Fm/C and a Gm/D. Fm chord with a C in the bass, Gm chord with a D in the bass. You get the idea.


Slash chords are something I'm just beginning to use in my own compositions so someone else in this thread could probably tell you how best to use them (and if they do I'd be interested to) Of course just experiment and analyze the Elton John song you mentioned.


I'm willing to bet the reason the slash chords are there is that it provides some colour and tension/release to keep things interesting.
#15
Quote by Unreal T
I was wondering what the point of using slash chords was if you can just play the standard major/minor chord voicings. I found a song called "Tonight" by elton john and notice the use of slash chords. But why?

I know slash chords are good for playing modally but besides that why use them and do you have to?

You can yield more interesting root movement in the bass with slash chords. Take a perfect cadence in A Minor. Depending on whether you use a 1st or 2nd inversion, you can approach the i from below or above respectively, stepwise.
---------7-5
-5-5-----9-5
-4-5-----7-5
-2-5-------
-----------
-4-5-----7-5

Or a chord progression like: C - G - Am - G - B7 - Em

By using slash chords you can create a chromatically descending bass line.
-----------0
-1-3-1-0-4-0
-0-0-0-0-2-0
-2---2-0---
-3-2-0-----
-------3-2-0

Edit: See what you can do using a 2nd inversion.
Last edited by mdc at Dec 26, 2011,
#17
ok so I am usually use to basing everything off of the root of the chord when I am using standard chords when I write and to figure out where I like to go next ( I think its called voice leading?). But now when I use the slash chords should I be thinking strictly in terms of the inverted chords new root note to determine where I want to go next? Or should I be thinking about the real root of the chord if it was in standard position to determine where I should go next.

ex. if you were in the key of C and you were on an F and then went to a C/G would that be considered a 4 to 1 progression ? Or would it not because G is in the root. Not sure if it should go to a standard C voicing or if its okay at the C/G voicing if you were to end the song.
Last edited by Unreal T at Jan 4, 2012,
#18
No, it's fine. That'll still be considered IV - I. Although more accurately IV - Ic. If it was at the end of a song, it'd be considered a plagal cadence.

Chords don't have to be root position.
#19
ok. and you know how they say that a chords root note ( in standard voicing) is the most important note? well, is the bass note still considered the most important note of the slash chord? Or is the most important note the original root?

ex. if you had Em/B should the most important note be E or B?
Last edited by Unreal T at Jan 5, 2012,
#21
Quote by Unreal T
ok. and you know how they say that a chords root note ( in standard voicing) is the most important note? well, is the bass note still considered the most important note of the slash chord? Or is the most important note the original root?

ex. if you had Em/B should the most important note be E or B?

The most important note depends on what you want to hear and how you want the harmony to move. Voice leading.

Like in your previous post, F - C/G. If your goal was to create stepwise root movement between chords IV and I, then in this case, the G is quite important.

Incidentally, if you wanted to approach the C/G stepwise from above, then the 3rd of F (A) will be an important note.

F/A - C/G

Voice leading aside, in terms of chord tones, and what notes define a chords type and function, then 3rds and 7ths are the most important.
#22
Quote by Unreal T
But now when I use the slash chords should I be thinking strictly in terms of the inverted chords new root note to determine where I want to go next? Or should I be thinking about the real root of the chord if it was in standard position to determine where I should go next.


There's no simple answer to this question.

You need to develop your ear so that you understand the sound of slash chords, and then let it guide you in your writing.

Until that point, I'd just encourage you to be aware of them, particularly with the possibility of walking basslines, or breaking the cyclic nature of a pattern like I demonstrated in my earlier post. Or be aware of the times when the repetition feels a little too cloying.
#23
Quote by ouchies
Root/third are the most important. The bass note doesnt really matter but usually theres some type of movement going on/momentum from the bass note


The bass line is the most important part of the music.

Quote by Unreal T

I know slash chords are good for playing modally...


Last edited by griffRG7321 at Jan 5, 2012,