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We have a terrific guide on slash notation, a notational practice in which, for example, Gm/D means a G-minor triad with a D in the bass (i.e., in second inversion). A polychord, though, is indicated by a horizontal slash (as opposed to the vertical slash of slash notation) to show a G-minor triad above a D-major triad.

But this distinction is tricky to typeset clearly, and sometimes it's downright unclear if the slash is vertical or horizontal.

Are there alternative methods for indicating polychords, especially in typed environments where the horizontal slash can be tricky to input?

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    "THIS IS A POLYCHORD!" in all caps?
    – Aaron
    Jul 28 at 22:03
  • Unfortunately I’m not aware of an alternate which is too bad because like you say typesetting a fraction is tricky at best. The shame is that a regular slash would work for all polychords with the exception of those that have a major triad on the bottom: A/C7 Cmaj7/Dm Bb/Gm are all understandable but G/C is just a bass note below instead of a triad. Maybe an alternate way to name a triad is the solution, C(tr) or Cmaj or C35. Any other ideas? Jul 28 at 23:16
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    @JohnBelzaguy The Cmaj or CM idea does seem most straightforward, since those are already in use for triads.
    – Aaron
    Jul 29 at 2:57
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    Using John's idea, but a backwards rather than forwards slash would nail it. But it wouldn't be known world-wide. Although it would be pretty well self-explanatory - as in this isn't a bog-standard slash chord. A\C7, C\Dm for examples. Gotta start somewhere!
    – Tim
    Jul 29 at 8:02
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    I've only ever seen polychords notated with a perfectly horizontal line between the chords. I don't find it hard or ambiguous to separate between that and slash notation musictheory.pugetsound.edu/mt21c/images/unit12/…
    – modenv
    Jul 31 at 21:04

2 Answers 2

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You could try to encapsulate the chord with brakets. [G/B] . I personally use standard notation sheet music instead of slash notation. I've never ran into a situation where the player was still learning how to strum. Mostly because an arpeggio sounds better than a strum. And strums are indistinguishable to the audience unless it's supported by the drums.

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  • With "[G/B]" written, I'd play an inversion, not polychord. Unusual notations have to be explicitly described, something like "[G/B] means a polychord with G and B". Sep 17 at 13:23
  • O.I.C. so Maybe something like GpB. Or G chord / B chord. No easy standard that I know of exists. Thank God for written music. Sep 19 at 12:24
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Some of the notation programs do offer options for slash/bass notation that are confusingly close to the polychord 'fraction'. It behoves the engraver to choose styles that AREN'T ambiguous. Sibelius, for one, makes a distinction that is perfectly clear, and easy to achieve.

You could concoct your own notation for scores where slash chords are mixed with polychords, perhaps put a box around the polychords? As I've done (unnecessarily) in the example below.

But this WOULD be your own private system, and would require explanation. As far as I know there's no generally understood convention other than slash or fraction.

enter image description here

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  • The whole polychord concept is so rarely used, it requires explanation, regardless of how it's notated, IMO. :) Sep 17 at 14:58

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