How to Play Chords Like Jeff Buckley, Part 2

Another look into Jeff Buckley's style of guitar playing, featuring slash chords and movable chord shapes.

Ultimate Guitar
In this lesson we'll analyse some more of Jeff Buckey's guitar playing sound, and work out how we can incorporate a little bit of that sound into our own playing and songs. I'll be concentrating on two very prominent details of his chordal playing, which are his use of slash chords and his guitar parts that revolve around moving shapes to different positions on the the fretboard.

Slash Chords

A slash chord is most simply defined as a chord with a note other than root in the bass, with bass defined as the lowest pitched note of the chord. This note is usually another note in the chord (the 3rd or the 5th, like Am with a C bass note) and can also be a note from outside the chord (like D with an G in the bass).

Slash chords are written as two notes with a slash in the middle, like D/F#, G/D or Em/C. The first one represents the chord and the second one represents the bass note. We say G/B as "G over B" because it's a G chord over a B bass.

When playing with a bass player, the note he plays for a chord will determine what note the listener perceives as the bass note. What I mean by this is that if we, the guitarist, play a C/G chord BUT the bass player still plays a C note underneath it, then to the listener it still sounds like a regular C chord with a C in the bass. On the other hand, if we play a regular C chord but the bassist plays on F underneath it, it will change the entire character of the chord, and we call that sound C/F. We're playing a C over the bassist's F.

For those that are into theory, some Slash chords can also be written as extended chords. For example, C/F can also be heard as Fmaj9.
1 5 7 9
F (C E G)


Slash chords that use a note from the original chord as the bassnote are more common in popular music, and are used a lot by people like Elton John and Dream Theater. In D/F#, the F# is the 3rd of D, so the chord is still a regular D, but it takes on a different character because of the different bassnote.


That covers everything you need to know about slash chords! Let's look at how Jeff Buckley uses them in his songs.

Example 1

Example 1 is from "Lover You Should've Come Over" (1:24) and shows how to use slash chords to create linear motion in the bassline. This means the bassline moves to the next note above or below the previous one. This section features the chords Bm - D - G. However by making the bass note of the D chord chord an A, we get a descending bassline of B - A - G. Try it out yourself:

Bm D/A G

The idea of this is that the bassline sounds much smoother so the chords flow better. It's a similar concept to voice-leading.

Example 2

Example 2 is from "Lilac Wine" (1:15) and utilises the same idea of motion in the bassline. The simplified chords would be G - G7 - C - D7, which is a standard I - IV - V chord progression. It is made more interesting in this song by using a descending bassline that plays the notes G - F - E - D. Notice how this bassline is playing the notes in descending order. Try this out:

G G/F C/E D7

Note that this isn't the actual part that Jeff plays in the song. He plays the simplified chords and the bass player plays the low notes. We can do this anytime when we write songs by arranging for the bass player to play notes other than the Root of the chord, such as the 3rd, 5th, or 7th. In the example from "Lilac Wine," F is the b7th of G7, and E is the 3rd of C

Generally when we do this in our sounds, a clean sounds work well, and not playing too many low notes on the 6th or 5th strings will also make it sound cleaner as there will be less clashing with what the bass player is doing. Listen to "Lilac Wine" and you'll hear the ideal sound I'm talking about.

Example 3

Example 3 is from Jeff's version of "Hallelujah" (1:13). It is an 8 bar long sequence of chords that uses two slash chords (G/B and B7/D#) to create a smooth ascending bassline. Each chord is played for 1 bar, except the 2nd and 3rd chords which are both half the duration. Listen to the recording for the timing and arpeggio patterns.

G/B C D Em C D B7/D# Em
(with capo on 5th fret)

The G/B sounds great because the bass note is just a semitone away from the bassnote of the next chord, C, meaning that the chord change sounds smooth and is also easier to play. The use of the B7/D# is really cool because it creates a chromatic bassline between the D and the Em chords. It's also easy to get to from the D chord because only two notes change. This means it links really smoothly between these chords. Try to remember this shape next time you're playing a B7 chord!

Considering the bassline is really good way of improving your sound, both when playing chords solo on guitar, as well as when writing for a full band. In solo guitar arpeggio parts having a smooth bassline makes the shapes easier to play and sound more melodic. When writing for a full band, having the bass player play notes other than the root can really add another dimension to a chord progression. To get started on this, come up with a simple chord progression and try changing the bassnote of one of the chords to a note that isn't the root, for example the 3rd, 5th or 7th of the chord.

More Chords

Movable shapes is a concept that loosely means taking one chord shape on the fretboard and moving it up and down by ear, often with use of open strings ringing with the chord shapes.

Using open strings is a really easy way of creating complex, interesting sounding chords. You can try just taking regular bar chords and lifting your first finger of the high E and B strings to create some cool sounding chords. Try this exercise of taking a power chord with the root on the 5th string, and move it up the neck while including the B and E strings.


Play through these chords and notice how different each chord sounds from our regular barre chords. This is the core of the concept I'll try to show you in this lesson, as many of Jeff Buckley's songs use this idea. For the theory-minded people, the above chords would be written as: Bmsus4, Cmaj7, C#m7, D6/9, E5, Fmaj7#11 and G6. Essentially they are just more colourful version of the power chords, with the open strings supplying the colour.

Example 4

Example 4 is from "Eternal Life" (00:45). It resemble a standard G chord moved up two frets and is played as follows:

The open D and G strings function as the 4th and the b7th respectively, making it an A7add4 chord. There is a semitone between the notes on the A and D string that gives this particular shape its tense sound, and it sounds lot hipper than a standard A7 or Asus4 chord.

We can get a similar result by doing the same thing with a C major chord.

C Dadd9add4

Try this with other shapes and other positions too, there are nearly unlimited possibilities here. Also remember the A chord from "Eternal Life" and try to use that in your own playing.

Example 5

Example 5 is from "Grace" (1:11), and is the chords used in both the verse and bridge of the song. The song is played in drop-D and the shape we're moving about here is a 3 string power chord on the lowest 3 strings. We move down chromatically from F like so:

The chords written out in full are Fmaj9#11 (no 3rd), Em and Eb#5b9. On the last chord the high E string sounds a little harsh so is probably best left out.

You can take this idea and move it about to different positions to come up with our own chords. Here is the same shape applied to different positions. This is still written in drop-D.

G6 A9 Cmaj7 Dsus4add69 

The A and the C chords sound really colourful with the open strings, and the D chord sounds really unique. Some positions work better than others here due to some clashing with the G string (try the 11th fret and hear for yourself!). If we start adding the 3rd on the G string then we can get even more chords. I'll write this one out in standard tuning. Imagine playing a major barre chord and lifting your first finger off the top two strings. Here are my two favourites:

F#7add11 Badd4

These chords work great with arpeggios because of the way the open strings sound against the fretted notes can create some unusual harmonies.

Example 6

The chorus of "Mojo Pin" (1:41) has a similar vibe and uses the same Fmaj9#11 chord as above (by the way, don't worry about memorising these long technical names, it's really just a fancy F chord). The main chords used are:
Fmaj9#11 D7sus2 D6/9

The last two chords are almost the same, with the two notes just shifted up two frets. Despite their simplicity, these chords sound huge on the recording, and that is partly due to the amount of open strings and different notes used. These chords sound so much bigger than just playing F - Dsus2 for the chorus.


There are a lot more examples that illustrate the same concepts that I couldn't fit here, and they'll all be in part 3. Try to start using slash chords in your own playing today, as well as trying to come up with new sounds by taking simple shapes you already know and moving them to new fretboard positions. Alway remember to use yours ears and let those be the judge of whether or not something works!

About the Author:
This article was written by Dan Carr, a professional musician and guitarist from London, England.

17 comments sorted by best / new / date

    What's kind of cool about Jeff Buckley's chord techniques is that he uses a lot of cool concepts. For example, the slash chord techniques he uses are all about voice leading in the bass.
    These lessons are ****ing great. I rarely learn anything from lessons on UG, but these are so well-written. They are easy to follow with examples from the songs, and they contain a little theory but not too much to overwhelm you. Is there a way I can subscribe to you, so that I get notified when you upload the next part? Also. When you're done with Jeff Buckley, you just pick another artist (or band) and do the same. A band such as "Days Of The New" would be very interesting, but you could also pick a more popular band like Dream Theater.
    cheers! I have one more part of Jeff Buckley left, expect it in a week or so. After that I might just choose a general topic and use examples from different bands.
    so like basic inversions and guitarists totally over complicate the most basic of musical things. Modes are another funny one for guitarists to over complicate and make to be big things ha
    I believe the first chord in the chorus of Mojo Pin is actually this : : e|-----0---- B|-----0---- G|-----0---- D|-----3---- A|-- ---3---- D|-----3----
    It's a C9
    If you're reading it like that it's a C maj7 sus 9/11 with the 4th in the bass (F)
    *sorry C maj 11, by NetoCoupon" style="background-color: transparent !important; border: none !important; display: inline-block !important; float: none !important; font-style: normal !important; font-variant: normal !important; font-weight: normal !important; font-size: 11px !important; line-height: normal !important; font-family: Verdana, Tahoma !important; height: auto !important; margin: 0px !important; min-height: 0px !important; min-width: 0px !important; padding: 0px !important; vertical-align: baseline !important; width: auto !important; text-decoration: underline !important; background-position: initial initial !important; background-repeat: initial initial !important;">didn't see E note