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    Kirks Guitar and Music Primer
Slash chords are chords that use a note other than their root as bass note and get their scary name from the forward slash that appears in their name. As we have learned, chords require at least three notes to qualify as chords and those notes are the Root, third and fifth (1-3-5) of their scale. The most common, and most stable sounding, way of playing chords is to use the root as the lowest note. But, it doesn't have to be the root, the third and fifth can also be used. These variations are called inversions and can be written into the chord progression as slash chords.
I know ... more confusing gobbledegook. The good thing about guitars is that you don't need to be conscious of all these numbers and letters. Once you know the various shapes for these chords, you can just move them up or down the fretboard to find all the others and never have to worry about the details. Remember that for these first and second inversion chords, you can usually play them by holding the full shape and leaving some stings out. For example, an E/B (which is an E chord played over its 5) can be played by omitting the bass string in an open E chord. It therefore follows that any other major chord played over its 5 can be found by omitting the bass string in all the E form barre chords. Here are some shapes, but there are many more ways to play inversions, in fact the whole fretboard is a patchwork quilt of inversions once you know how and where to look.
This is the shape for a major chord played over its 5, a second inversion. As you can see, it's just the E form barre chord with the bass string muted. You probably won't hear much difference in sound from a full chord, but in the context of a moving bass line, it works well. For the chords: E/B, F/C, G/D, A/E, B/F#, C/G, D/A and F#/C#, G#/D#, A#/F, C#/G# and D#/A#
This is the same as above only this time it's the A form barre chord we're working with. Once again, the string that has the root has been muted. The low note is now the 5 of the chord, not the root. For the chords: E/B, F/C, G/D, A/E, B/F#, C/G, D/A and F#/C# G#/D#, A#/F, C#/G# and D#/A#
This is the movable shape for a chord played with its third as bass note instead of the root, or a first inversion. Here you need to avoid playing or strumming strings 1 and 6. For the chords: E/G#, F/A, G/B, A/C#, B/E, C/E, D/F# and F#/A#, G#/C, A#/D, C#/F and D#/G
Here is the movable D form shape for a first inversion. You need to mute, or avoid playing, those two bass strings. For the chords: E/G#, F/A, G/B, A/C#, B/E, C/E, D/F# and F#/A#, G#/C, A#/D, C#/F and D#/G

Don't worry too much if you're just getting started about these chords. You can always simply play the first letter and not worry about the slash and the bass note, but you'll see how useful they are after a while, once you remember where they all are and which notes are which. Obviously, you will need to know the names of all the notes of the fretboard, but that is something you'll need to know anyway. There are more flavors of slash chords, though, in fact you can insert any scale note under it's parent chord ... some sound a little odd, but it's often the context that they're found in that makes them work. They usually come about because the composer wants to hear a specific bass line in the piece and since slash chords are all about bass notes, it's the logical way to write them out.

One fairly common chord is the 11th, which is more often than not written as a slash chord instead. A 'C11th', for example, can also be written as 'Bb/C', in other words a Bb chord played over a C bass note. The chord has become so extended that a whole new chord has been formed by those extensions (the Bb bit) but it's still, nevertheless, a kind of C chord. The root (C) is proof of that. It's a lot easier to understand and 'see' 11th chords when written as slash chords. Rather than try and juggle all those numbers around and decide which to leave out (there aren't enough strings on a guitar to accommodate the full chord), the slash chord way of naming them takes all the hard work out. Read more about about 11th chords here.


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