# Slash Chord Question

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Orangeclawhammr, Jul 26, 2012.

1. ### Orangeclawhammr

Nov 15, 2007
Redford, MI
I have come across another theory question with these singer/guitarists I've been playing with. One of them brought a song with an "A/D" chord. The other guitarist thought that I should play an "A' as the root for that chord. I explained that that notation means that I should be playing "D". I have no question about this. What I want to clarify is if my playing my D with their A chord (A - C# - E) makes the A chord a Dmaj7.

Thank you in advance for your replies.

2. ### patas75

Jan 26, 2011
Duarte, CA
Or you can look at it as a A13 (A C# E G B D). The beauty of theory

3. ### conebeckham

Jun 27, 2008
Bay Area CA
D-A-C#-E would be the chord tones for an "A/D."
a Dmaj7 would be D-F#-A-C#, right?

So, you can see the difference.

4. ### the_stone

Nov 3, 2007
Fort Worth, TX
"A/D" could mean a few things, based on the context of the song. As has been mentioned, it could mean an A major triad with a D in the bass, which would imply a Dmaj9 chord (D F# A C# E). Or it could imply an Asus chord, where D serves as the chordal 4th.

5. ### the_stone

Nov 3, 2007
Fort Worth, TX
Not sure if I agree with this interpretation, for 2 reasons:

1. Common practice usually dictates that when a major triad (here, the A C# E) has the chordal 11th added (the D), the 11th is raised to avoid the dissonant semi-tone between the chordal 3rd and 4th (the C# and D). In this case, the full chord would normally be spelled A C# E G B D#

2. Also, usually the "/" notation usually means either a chordal inversion, or a poly chord is meant to be played. In the case of a chordal inversion, it's generally the 3rd, 5th, or 7th that are placed in the bass, and not the extensions (i.e. - chords usually aren't inverted to the point where the 11th is in the bass). If the chord in question was A/C#, A/E or A/G, I might agree with that interpretation.

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6. ### Warfender

Oct 25, 2009
I agree with Stone ^

7. ### 4MalSupporting Member

Jun 2, 2002
Columbia River Gorge
I work with a few singer song writers that bring that style of notation. Generally it means they want me to play an A under their D. Whether it holds to theory or not, generally they keep calling me back... It's their tune after all.. Once they are comfy that I am comfy, They'll usually let me work with the changes to craft a bass line that supports the tune... Like Nashville charts, those are usually just an expedient way for the writer to get folks on the same page quickly...

8. ### Crazyeelboy

Feb 20, 2006
Moscow, Russia
I believe that literally, A/D would mean an A major triad with D in the bass, but it would seem that a D major triad with an A in the bass would be a lot more common and mightbe what wasintended. I'd expect the rest of the song would provide context.

9. ### Alvaro Martín Gómez A.TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

When a four-note chord is split between two instruments, alternate bass is a practical way of notating it. In this case, the guitar/piano just has to play an A chord while the bass plays the real root (D). Both instruments combined create a Dmaj7 chord.

There are gazillion examples of this practice, but here are two that instantly come to mind:

1- The guitar riff for Toto's "I'll Supply The Love" is made of E, A and B power chords repeated throughout. But every second time, the bass plays a C# while the guitar plays the E chord, transforming it into a C#min7 chord. Since the guitar keeps playing the same thing (E), the chord chart can be written like E/C# at that point.

2- This tune starts with the piano playing an Amin chord followed by a G. For the second time, the bass plays an F and an E. Amin then becomes Fmaj7 and G becomes Emin7, but they could be written like Amin/F and G/E.

10. ### Snarf

Jan 23, 2005
Glen Cove, NY
Disagree. The guitar is following to the VI chord. No inversion. Chords of the song are thus: E major (there is a third present in the guitar) B5 A5 for the intro. When the bass comes in, it's E major, E/G#, A5, etc. Then the second half of that section does go to the VI chord without an inversion.

To the OP: A/D is implying a hybrid chord, because D is not a chord tone of A major. So in A/D you have an A major triad and a D major triad being played concurrently. Asus4/D or A7sus/D would be valid as in a sus chord, the 4th is a chord tone. I wouldn't be surprised if that's what you're guitar player means with the A/D chord symbol.

You can have any combination of numerators and denominators in a chord symbol, and they will all produce hybrid chords, except in situations where the denominator is a chord tone contained within the numerator. That's why you can't have E/C# in the Toto song, because E/C# is E G# B C# E#, which is not happening in the song.

11. ### Alvaro Martín Gómez A.TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

I used the term "power chord" just thinking of the "character" the riff, but actually all three chords (E, B and A) have the third in the recording. My apologies for the confusion. I insist that the full chord when the bass plays C# is a C#min7, specially since the highest harmony voice sings a B at that point (you can compare it with the final a cappella harmonies, where the highest part actually sings a C# instead of a B). Anyway, could you please elaborate on the E# part (in bold)? In all honesty, I don't know where that comes from. As far as I understand, E/C# means from low to high C# - E - G# - B (C#min7).

12. ### Snarf

Jan 23, 2005
Glen Cove, NY
Well yes, when the bass plays a C#, it is C# minor. Which is why I questioned your use of E/C#, because 1. it is incorrect notation, and 2. neither instrument is really playing an E chord. Sure, if you respell C# minor, you can get an E chord, but functionally that just isn't happening in the song.

So E/C#. Since C# is not a chord tone in an E major triad, this tells you that the chord symbol is telling you to play an E major triad and a C# major triad concurrently. That's why the E#, because it's the third of C# major.

Using E/C# to denote C# minor makes no sense. C# is not present in an E major triad. Therefore, having a C# in the bass is totally changing the character of the chord, making it a C# minor triad, and totally negating the E character. That's why a chord symbol like E/C# denotes a hybrid chord, because it CAN'T be an inversion. This is why E/C# and C# minor are totally different chords.

EDIT: I just wanted to add this: I can see your reasoning behind how you use that chord symbol. There is some logic to it, but it is a very roundabout way of notating something for which a simpler explanation exists. Plus, you'll run into serious trouble with other musicians if you're writing a chart.

13. ### Orangeclawhammr

Nov 15, 2007
Redford, MI
Thanks, everyone. I'm going to have to read all of this a few dozen times. Meanwhile, when we played the song the way I thought it should be played. It sounded fine to me. It all goes to show how much I have to learn, though.

14. ### MalcolmAmos

Yes, just tell the 6 string guy to get the A you'll get the D. And a R-3-5-7 would work.

15. ### the_stone

Nov 3, 2007
Fort Worth, TX
Just don't be discouraged if/when you get confused by music theory, and keep asking questions.

Something that doesn't get mentioned enough on these boards (and may not make sense to you right now) is that a large part of theory terms and concepts that we use were originally formulated back in the 1700's to describe the music of that time period - CPE Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and others. As musicians, when we're first introduced to scales, chords, harmony, chord progressions, suspensions, etc..., they are defined and shown to us as they were applied to the music back then (in general; there are plenty of people who's first introduction to theory was through 20th-century techniques). The fact that the concept of major scales, minor chords, inversions, and such can apply to both a Mozart symphony and a Toto song speaks to how well this system works, but it's not without its limitations, considering how radically music itself has changed in the past 100 years, never mind 300 years.

It's as if you were trying to fix a 2012 BMW with the manual for a Model T - some of the basics might be the same, but a whole lot has changed as well.

16. ### bassfuser

Jul 16, 2008
Is "if" or "when" played by the bass?

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Like ScottBass says. Try to learn something everyday. It all adds up over time.

17. ### Snarf

Jan 23, 2005
Glen Cove, NY
I would argue that yes, this is true of "classical" music, but I feel that besides the blues, which has it's own system of analysis, pop music can be analyzed with 300 year old techniques. Really only the timbre is significantly different. Harmonically, quite simple, if you compare it to real harmonic innovators like Mahler, Tchaik, and Stravinski.

18. ### DWBassThe Funkfather

Dang it.....just play a D under his A. That's what it means. Nothing more, nothing less!

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19. ### FebsSupporting Member

May 7, 2007
I strongly disagree with this. The use of a slash is commonly understood to refer to an inversion or a non-chord tone bass note, not a polychord.

Take the following very common progression:

E E/D# | E/C# E/B |

In that context, the E/C# would be clearly understood to mean an E triad with a C# bass. It would not be understood to mean a polychord consisting of an E triad over a C# triad.

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20. ### Snarf

Jan 23, 2005
Glen Cove, NY
If I'm supposed to play a line cliche, usually I see it like this: E /D# | /C# /B |

So yeah, if you have that kind of thing in context, the intention becomes obvious. But apart from a line cliche, and having a E/C# chord outside of that context, it is an E triad over C# triad. That being a fact, I won't argue that point any further.