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#1131068 - 11/11/08 09:35 PM slash chords...
fiebru1119 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/13/06
Posts: 12
Loc: Orlando, FL
I had a theory question about slash chords. From my understanding they are used for the purpose of notating an otherwise overly complicated chord in a simpler, more "user" friendly notation.

Ive seen them range from a simple Bb/C more complex ones like full 7th chords with extensions over a separate root note like Gmaj7/A etc..

My question is, from a scale/improvisation perspective, what should you be playing? Harmony based on the right hand "triad" or based on the bass note? Like in the above example, the Gmaj7/A would be like a Asus13add9 chord? I dont know if Im wording it correctly lol so you would improvise with some sort of scale based on a A being a V chord, right? But would it be ok to use the G major scale? I want to know a quicker way of deciphering where the "harmony" is.. in the triad above the slash or the bass note?

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#1131069 - 11/12/08 12:59 AM Re: slash chords...
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
Slash chords main purposes are: to create a walking bass line and to specify wich inversion to use.

So usually you have the slash chords creating passing tones within the primary key. So what is before the slash wins over what is after, so to say.

So for example over a Gmaj7/A you can use the G major scale, the D major scale, the B minor scale and the E minor scale.

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#1131070 - 11/12/08 07:49 AM Re: slash chords...
anderssweden Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/06/08
Posts: 38
Loc: Sweden
fiebru1119,

You're absolute right about "purpose an otherwise overly complicated chord in a simpler, more "user" friendly notation."...

About scale/impro. perspective the easy way is to use the upper chord (structure) - i.e Gmaj7 (g,b,d,f#) in this case. If you want to find propriate passingtones you should perhaps look at the surrounding chords to analyse what key you might be in. If the G7/A appears as a V it's in the key of D major. Therefore you could use these tones as passing tones as Danny suggested. The scale is called A mixolydian a,b,c#,d,e,f#,g because it's reference is from that bassnote A. (A dominant scale for dominant chord)

In more complex situations where the scale might be some what excotic.. like F#/A you could do the easy way out and only play on F# triad to be safe or you have to find a scale and incorparate the basstone and other passing tones that you think is beautiful, perhaps a,a#,c,c#,d#,e,f#,g (this is a symmetrical scale - diminished) but again the surronding chords may suggest another "mode" so it's not just that easy to just say that this chord only works with that scale. There are many scales that works with same chord and there are a lot of scales... It's a long and interesting way to explore chord functions, scales etc but to not get too far from your question, one big purpose with slash notatation is to simplify the reading or to force the intepreter to play a ceartain "voicing" of the chord.

Hope this helps
Anders

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#1131071 - 11/12/08 11:27 AM Re: slash chords...
pianojazz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/06
Posts: 359
Loc: dearborn, mi
I don't disagree with what's been written above - but I tend to think of the slash as a means to tell the bass player what to play - because without it, a bass player would not normally play that particular bass note. So the slash (to me) specifies the bass note of the chord - more than just a note IN the chord - and this is a very important distinction because we hear from the bottom up. As far as what to play when the chord is a something/something else - that also depends on the key, the song itself, who I'm playing with, the mood, the moment and who is listening - and, in all honesty, I don't believe has much an impact on what I ultimately play when soloing.
_________________________
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#1131072 - 11/12/08 10:01 PM Re: slash chords...
fiebru1119 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/13/06
Posts: 12
Loc: Orlando, FL
Thanks for the replies.

Your responses have actually made me have a couple more questions.. ;\)

I am a bass player (by default) and pianist 2nd, that being said, I agree with pianojazz's statement about telling the bass player where to go and in most cases it does help guide the harmony in the composer's direction. But going back to my original question, when playing in a full band scenario, bass player included, where does the chord really come from - the root or the upper structure? If on a D/C chord (C lydian or Cmaj6#11?) what would I do if i wanted to play a root less left hand voicing? Dmaj7 wouldnt work because of the C# becoming a b9 to the bass players C right? play a V D chord perhaps as F#-B-C-E or an inversion thereof? This is what gets me..

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#1131073 - 11/13/08 02:02 AM Re: slash chords...
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
 Quote:
Originally posted by fiebru1119:
Thanks for the replies.

Your responses have actually made me have a couple more questions.. ;\)

I am a bass player (by default) and pianist 2nd, that being said, I agree with pianojazz's statement about telling the bass player where to go and in most cases it does help guide the harmony in the composer's direction. But going back to my original question, when playing in a full band scenario, bass player included, where does the chord really come from - the root or the upper structure? If on a D/C chord (C lydian or Cmaj6#11?) what would I do if i wanted to play a root less left hand voicing? Dmaj7 wouldnt work because of the C# becoming a b9 to the bass players C right? play a V D chord perhaps as F#-B-C-E or an inversion thereof? This is what gets me.. [/b]
Generally the upper structure. The root is just a passing tone within the upper structure. Usually the passing tone is a 7th or 6th or 9th or the slash chords indicates an upper inversion.

You can think of this as if the bass note was being borrowed by an additional interval in the upper structure.

So if you have C/B, you can mentally imagine to slide the B over the C chord (switching it from left to the chord to the right of the chord) and you realize you have a Cmaj7, hence this is where the harmony/chord really comes from.

If you mentally switch the bass note in a slash chord, to the higher voce of the chord, you will always seen that the bass note is always an additional tone of the main chord (the one coming before the slash)

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#1131074 - 11/13/08 12:28 PM Re: slash chords...
pianojazz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/06
Posts: 359
Loc: dearborn, mi
I see where you're coming from - you're trying to find some kind of rule that will tell you explicitly what you should or should not play when you're improvising, under a given circumstance, e.g., a slash chord - the problem is - there is no such rule. You need to stop trying to alalyze the music and start listening to it - your ears will tell you what's right & wrong - what works and what doesn't. This is where art comes in and analysis goes out. Don't get me wrong - there's nothing wrong with technical analysis - but that comes after the fact - the rules follow the creativity - never lead it - so set aside the theory and start trusting your innner-ear.
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#1131075 - 11/13/08 12:38 PM Re: slash chords...
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
We can approssimate a rule by saying that a scale, based on the bottom note of the slash chord, will sound dissonant; compared to the scales based on the upper structure.

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#1131076 - 11/13/08 02:12 PM Re: slash chords...
anderssweden Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/06/08
Posts: 38
Loc: Sweden
Rule or not, there are always many perspectives. There are also many ways to develop your creativity and your ear-training/hearing/cognition/reference/perception etc.

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#1131077 - 12/08/08 04:15 PM Re: slash chords...
Rob Mullins Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/10/04
Posts: 309
Loc: LA CA
Hi,
The teacher that straightened this question out for me was George Russell whose book "The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization" pointed the way. I guess now that book is very pricey and might be hard to find. George's ideas about tonal organization solved most of the Triad over bass note issues for me.
GMaj7/A is something I don't even have to think about at this point-I just think of a G major scale with the 2nd note of the scale in the bass.
_________________________
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Two openings in my private lessons program starting in Nov.

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#1309141 - 11/20/09 11:19 AM Re: slash chords... [Re: fiebru1119]
-ls Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/23/09
Posts: 10
Loc: Berlin
There are three possibilities for a Slash Chord: tell what specific note goes to the bass - as part of a bass line intended by the composer/arranger -, indicate a particular chord inversion (which is basicaly the same as telling which note goes to the bass) and indicate a chord over another chord.

Gmaj/A is the same as A7sus4(9). The scale you're gonna use depend on the function of that chord in the music, but basically, you're gonna avoid the C#, so the scale will be pretty much the same. Avoid the C# is not a rule, but you should use it carefully, as the third and the fourth together in a sus4 chord may sound too hard at first or out of context.

Quote:
where does the chord really come from - the root or the upper structure?


You should not think as 2 different things with the bass and the chord structure, they are all conected and have a meaning together. The Harmony is within the combination of upper structure chord and bass note. You sould guide yourself from the Root of the chord, which is not the same as the note that goes on the bass.

Quote:
If on a D/C chord (C lydian or Cmaj6#11?) what would I do if i wanted to play a root less left hand voicing?


A D/C chord is basically a D7 chord with the 7th on the bass. I guess thinkin on upper structures is a bit harder than on the chord itself, but this is just me. If you know where does this D7 chord come from, you will know the scale which it's based on... after that, you know which notes you can use to create your rootless voicing. Another easy way of thinking is: change the root for the 9th and the 5th for the 13th, this always works. An F#-B-C-E is a Cmajor(#11) - Lydian - chord is a commom LH rootless position for a D7 chord.

- pianojazz:

Quote:
I see where you're coming from - you're trying to find some kind of rule that will tell you explicitly what you should or should not play when you're improvising, under a given circumstance, e.g., a slash chord - the problem is - there is no such rule.


Hmm... sorry, but there are rules. You can do whatever you want when improvising, but the rules are there and, as you said, they were extract from an earlier work or art. They serve as a learning guide (or as an explanatory of something that does not sound good, it may save you a lot of time) and by following them you may not, necessarily, create a work of art, but it will avoid, at least, one from creating an ugly and meaningless stuff. You may even choose not to follow them at all, but even by doing it, you need to know them.

Hey, anderssweden:

Quote:
In more complex situations where the scale might be some what excotic.. like F#/A


What kind of scale or from where does this chord come from? I could not think of it nor understand it. Could you help me with that? Thanks!

Take care!

--
Lucas

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#1309169 - 11/20/09 12:03 PM Re: slash chords... [Re: -ls]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
I agree that most slash chords are pretty explainable, they are usually inversions or emphasizing the upper structure.. but you have weird ones like E/C F#/C, B/C, and so on.

I guess for E/C you can just think of it as Maj#5 play A melodic or harmonic minor

F#/C-You can just think of it as C7 b9#11 .. so you can use diminished scale, Db melodic minor ..etc

You also have chords like C/Db Eb/E F#/G A/Bb... they are based on diminished scale, so you can use the same half step/whole step scale on them.


B/C-I don't really have explanation for this one.. I guess I might emphasize the nots on B triad...

The only scale I can think over F#/A is is the half step/whole step scale

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#1309256 - 11/20/09 02:11 PM Re: slash chords... [Re: etcetra]
Jazz+ Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/04
Posts: 838
Loc: Banned
Mark Levine explains B/C pretty well on page 142 of The Jazz Piano Book.

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#1309367 - 11/20/09 05:29 PM Re: slash chords... [Re: Jazz+]
-ls Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/23/09
Posts: 10
Loc: Berlin
Ah, now I got it!

This notation way is a bit confusing. When is a triad over another triad, like with the B/C on page 142 of Levine's book, we write it in a different manner. A "B/C" tells me that I need to play a Bmajor and the bass note will be a C.

Quote:
but you have weird ones like E/C F#/C, B/C, and so on.


A E/C is just a Cmajor(#5), some may say it's easier to think on, I don't like it. On that "E/C", we think of "an E major triad with the C on the bass" and with the "B/C" we have "a B triad over a C triad", otherwise we would just have a Cmaj7 with the 7th as the bass note. That's why it's confusing and that's why there's a different notation to it, so we know when it is a "chord over a bass note" and "a chord over a chord". Maybe you already saw this other way of writing, with a horizontal line istead, it is something like this:

B
--
C

Which is way clear to know what the composer/arranger meant.

Quote:
Mark Levine explains B/C pretty well on page 142 of The Jazz Piano Book.


I was reading it and I still don't get it. Levine says that this chord is derived from the B Whole/Half step diminished scale, but you just use the scale for creating the chord. The scale for improvisation would be the C Whole/Half instead, which has no E natural nor G natural.

Quote:
The only scale I can think over F#/A is is the half step/whole step scale


Yeap, I was doing my research here and you're right, it's based on that scale, which is also called "symmetric dominant". But, still, this is a F# triad with the A note on the bass.

From the "Chord Scale Theory and Jazz Harmony" book:
Quote:
The chord symbols used in the following are not yet totally universal. A diagonal slash (/) will be used to indicate a complete upper structure (triad or 7th chord) with an independent root or an inverted chord. A horizontal line (-) will be used to indicate a complete upper structure supported by a complete lower structure (either triads or 7th chords).


The first one, a F#/A for exemple, would be writen like this and is called an "hybrid chord". The other one, the
B
--
C
is a triad over another triad and it's called "polychord", which is a structure which has two complete chords.

A lot of fun here!!! =)

--
Lucas

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#1309397 - 11/20/09 06:39 PM Re: slash chords... [Re: -ls]
MiM Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/09/09
Posts: 543
Loc: Pennsylvania
Some of the stuff being discussed here is new for me, so I can't discuss the OP's question.

I just have a comment on the "no rule" issue, also known as the Gyro thesis. The confusion that Gyro has, which seems to be reiterated by pianojazz (if I understood him/her correctly), is that "no rules" means that you just do whatever you like based on some creativity on your part. This is not true, and it isn't something unique to music. Spoken language did not start out with a set of rules handed to us by "god", rather we created those rules. However, this does not mean that should you want to learn a foreign language (for example) that you go on your own, coming up with your own vocabulary and creating your own grammar. That would be bizarre. Yet, it is true to say that in creating a human language, there are no rules, because rules came afterwards. But now that the rules are out there, you have to follow them and learn them.

Esperanto is a language that was created after setting its rules, unlike human language, but it is an academic exercise meant to show how to create a language (plus other social and political reasons. My $0.02.
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#1309593 - 11/21/09 02:27 AM Re: slash chords... [Re: MiM]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
So I guess as far as major triads are concerned the possible slash chords are

Db/C-Inversion of Dbmaj7
D/C-Inversion ofD7
Eb/C-Cmin7 or Ebmaj6 inversion
E/C-Cmaj7#5
F/C-inversion of F triad
Gb/C-C7b9#11
G/C-inversion of Cmaj triad
Ab/C-Inversion of Ab maj triad
A/C-based on diminished scale
Bb/C-Inversion of C7
B/C-?? (based on diminished scale). Can be substituted with D/Eb, F/F#, Ab/A because they share the same half step whole step diminished scale

So most of it can be explained easily except the A/C and B/C..To me A/C and B/C are the ones that sounds "out" or bi-tonal to me.

Jazz+

Yea, I don't have the book, but I think it's the same thing I was talking about when I mentioned playing, C/Db Eb/E F#/G A/Bb over a C7 chord.. you can use the same chords for Eb7 F#7 and A7, because they share the same half step/whole step diminished scale. Herbie uses voicings and patterns based on that quite often.

Music in Me.

I agree.. I really doubt that you can easily 'hear' B/C or A/C, and know which notes would work by ear or not. There is nothing wrong with trying with your ears, but I'd rather do that and figure things out by theory too. Why not do both?

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#1311558 - 11/24/09 02:06 PM Re: slash chords... [Re: etcetra]
wavelength Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 340
Loc: Vermont, USA
F#/A (as asked above) could be a few things. In addition to the half/whole diminished scale suggested above, it could also be the 5th mode of the Harmonic Major.... yes, I meant to say harmonic major smile


It really depends on the context, on the musical style, on the composer, and on the transcriber. Remember, the people who transcribe pop songs for publishers like Hal Leonard are just suckers like you and me trying to make a living-- they are not musical geniuses.

A slash chord in a Beatles song means a different thing than a slash chord in a Herbie Hancock tune.

In a pop song (like Beatles), it usually is looking for specific bass movement, like Dm Dm/C# Dm7/C G/B Gm/Bb-- a chromatically descending bass line.

In a modern jazz song, it's usually looking for some specific chord/mode. G7/E or G13/E is probably looking for a "phrygian chord", by convention.


fiebru, both of the chords in your original post are near-universally known to call for Sus chords. Often the only way to know what they mean is... to know what they mean wink

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