It seems like you were to play an A5, except the 5th note in the scale you actually played a major chord on top of it, instead of just the consonant note.

Is this common? It seems like it could be a very useful chord.. What other chords are consider in the family of D/A? Would you ever play a D/Am? How would you construct a chromatic scale in this format?

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Search for finger pattern = {x 0 0 2 3 2}: 3 results found.

A6sus4 A 6th Suspended 4th D/A D/A Major F#m#5/A F#/A Minor Sharp 5th

  • Welcome to the SE this is the most effective way to get your answers for you queries in music practice and theory.
    – Nachmen
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 7:40
  • That last name for the chord - F#/Aminorsharp5? A weird way to name it!
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 22:12
  • The second inversion of a D major triad is the D/A chord.
    – user53472
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 2:45

4 Answers 4


Adding to Wheat's excellent answer, the note after the slash is indeed the bass note, put there to create an inversion of the prevailing chord, but mainly to make a bass line under the song. As such, if there is only a guitar (or maybe piano) playing, it makes sense for that instrument to play the inversion of the chord indicated. However, once the bassist is playing, he takes over and plays the slash notes (in preference to the more common 1 or 5), leaving the gtr/pno to play any inversion of the chord the player prefers.

  • I'm glad you made this point about instrumentation. I think many of these chord symbols mislead a guitarist to think they must play complex or inverted chords. Often the guitar should play a simple triad and the inversions and added 11ths, 9ths, etc. result from what the bass or singer is doing. Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 16:54

The notation D/A refers to a D major chord with the note A in the bass. This is an example of a major chord in second inversion. The letter after the slash indicates a specific note, not the name of a chord, so your idea of "D/Am" would make no sense.

Any triadic chord can be played with the root in the bass, the third in the bass, or the fifth in the bass. For instance, the notes in the D major chord are D (the root), F# (the third) and A (the fifth). So you can have three different arrangements of the notes in the chord: root position (D); first inversion (D/F#) and second inversion (D/A).

Similarly, a 7th chord is a 4-note chord, so there are four possibilities: root position, first inversion, second inversion, and third inversion.

The purpose of playing chords in inversion is to create a bass line to go along with the simple root-position chords. The use of the "slash" chords is another way of notating a simple bass line and the chord progression at the same time.

Welcome to chord inversions. There are many more ways to play a given chord than you previously knew about.


Well- all the answers to date contain factual information. But none tell the whole story and might over complicate the matter.

The least you need to know is that the chord used as the basis for your question (D/A) is known in guitar chord notation parlance as a "slash chord". In simple terms, when a slash chord is used in guitar "notation" the author is telling you to play the chord before the slash - with the addition of the note after the slash as the bass note of the chord.

In the case of a D/A slash chord, this chord also happens to be an inversion of a D chord. In fact in most cases a slash chord will translate into an inversion of the chord preceding the slash.

But a "slash chord" does not always indicate an inversion of the chord appearing before the slash. It is likely to be an inversion of some sort. But not necessarily a simple inversion of the root chord.

But none of that technical stuff is important if all you want to know is how to play the indicated chord. See below from Wikipedia article on Slash Chords:

For example, a C major chord (C) in second inversion is written C/G, which reads "C slash G", or "C over G". If B were the bass it would be written C/B (making a major seventh chord in third inversion), which is read "C slash B"

So if you are learning a song and the chord notation notes a C/B - it is not necessary to know that the indicated chord could be more accurately described as a "major seventh chord in third inversion". There is really no need to know all that technical music theory stuff to play the chord.

All you really need to know is to play a C chord with a B as the bass note.

And another quote from the Wikipedia article on inversions:

For example, the C chord above, in first inversion (i.e., with E in the bass) may be notated as C/E. This notation works even when a note not present in a triad is the bass; for example, F/G is a way of notating a particular approach to voicing an F9 chord (G–F–A–C).

In the example quoted above - you don't need to know that a F/G is actually a particular voicing of an F9 chord (or an Fadd9 if you prefer) - all you need to know is to play an F chord and add a G to the bass.

If you do want to want to get your head around the concept of chord inversions, it is important to note that inversions on guitar are often more complex than inversions on piano. Often an inversion on guitar is more easily viewed as adding a bass note to the original chord. Again this makes it an inversion in the technical sense of the word, but the underlying chord may still be fully present in it's original configuration - except that now one other note has been added as the first note played.

For example in almost every case - the chord used in your question (D/A) - you play the D major chord just like you always would but you start on the A string instead of the D string.

On piano, with only 5 fingers (vs 6 strings) and the limitations on how far you can stretch those fingers, it is more common to play an inversion by shifting the position of the notes to start with one of the notes other than the root note of the chord (true with guitar as well). Except that with piano, an inversion is more likely to be a shift in the order of the notes whereas on guitar - it is often an addition of a different note in the bass but still maintaining the full root chord underneath.

But again, because a particular slash chord may or may not be an inversion of the basic root chord that appears before the slash, it is probably easiest for beginning guitarist (who aren't necessarily well versed in music and chord theory)- to just know to play the chord preceding the slash but adding the note after the slash as the first note played in the chord (bass note).

As others have noted, if you encounter a slash chord that is difficult to play with the fingering that might be required to add the note after the slash, you could simply substitute the chord before the slash.

But there is a reason the author of the chord notation indicated a slash chord. It is often part of a bass line incorporated into the guitar arrangement as others have stated. Or adding the indicated bass note might create an alternate sounding "voicing" that harmonizes better with the melody than simply playing the root chord.

Have fun adding more songs to your repertoire now that you know how to play slash chords ;-).

  • Couple of things. Wikipedia is inaccurate calling G F A C an F9 chord. It's Fadd9 more because F9 needs to have a 7th of some sort - in this case, to call it F9 it needs Eb as well.
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 21:49
  • @Tim You are right, but I see it wrong all the time in published music. There are many who do not make that distinction correctly.
    – amalgamate
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 21:54
  • Also, para.14 confuses me.'Only 5 fingers'? What's on the other hand?! Often, on gtr., it's not possible to just put the slash note under a chord and sound good. And what's wrong with guitarists knowing some theory? At tonight's gig a guitarist was talking to me of that very thing - bemoaning the fact that he didn't actually understand what he was doing, and couldn't communicate properly with musos because of lack of real theory.
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 22:00
  • @Tim First the technical distinction between an F9 & Fadd9 used as an example & the fact that it is occasionally misunderstood (even by folks who write wiki articles) only adds to my point that the translation/definition is not as important as knowing how to play the chord (no matter what you choose to call it). 5 fingers - you know that most chords on piano are played with one hand. But yes it's physically possible to play a chord using all ten fingers on piano - it's just uncommon to use both hands on one chord. Nothing "wrong" with knowing theory - just not needed to know how to play D/A Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 22:08
  • @Tim I edited my answer to account for the fact that sometimes when folks write F9 they mean Fadd9 as you suggested. But I still say the most important thing for a beginning guitarist to know before they begin to study and try to comprehend chord theory - is how to play the darn chord ;-) Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 22:11

Directly addressing the exact chord: There are some, myself included that always play D/A when they see the D chord. Technically, a true root position D chord has D as the lowest note. Guitarists are limited somewhat in their voicings, and often play a non-root note in the bass for a chord that might not have the bass note indicated. A root position D chord would leave out/ not play the A string. The A is in the D chord, so it is not a problem to include it as a substitution for a root position D chord in most cases. In this particular case it is a small but none the less audible difference between D and D/A.

Wheat and Tim are both correct. I would add that sometimes the bass voicings indicated by a slash are really an essential part of the way the guitar should sound on the song. So in those cases, you would want to play the voicing regardless of any other instruments covering the bass. It can be an indication of a bass line in the guitar part for example (As Wheat points out), like many folk guitar parts do. It could also just make the chord sound more exotic than it is usually played.

The point I want to make is that sometimes, you have a judgment to make as to playing the bass note indicated. Sometimes you might find it to be essential to the sound that the song should have, sometimes it indicates a more sophisticated arrangement that is cool and other times it is overkill.

The same point I want to make, sorry I got distracted, is that usually the basic chord (Playing C when you see C/G) will be good enough, and the bass note to the right is an enhancement. In other words, when you see a C/G you could choose to just play a C chord. Also when you see C/G, actually playing a C chord with a G in the bass will make the song sound cooler. Occasionally, playing the full chord indication C/G will actually help the flow of the song and make it easier to play. Often it will make the transition slightly harder.

There are a few things amiss in your OP:

  • I have trouble relating to what you are talking about with the chromatic scale. Look up what that is, I think you have the definition wrong.

  • The search result A6sus4 and F#mi#5/A might workout on a computer query of the notes, but no musician will ever interpret the chord that way.

  • The notation to the right of F#mi#5/A does not restate the same chord. It should be F sharp minor Augmented (or sharp 5) /A. Usually a voicing of this chord would usually have a 7th in it but that is not what was intended by the search engine because it would disqualify it from the search.

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