I usually notice the patterns of making chord progressions with defining its root notes. These root notes actually the main notes that I will sing in and from there I can decide to use which chords can be used to accompany my singing. Sometimes it is not a difficult thing because I can find the chords I need by simply using barre chords, but most other times it is not that simple. There are times when I am stuck with no exact chord because I can't find it in major/minor and left me clueless when it comes to slash chords or diminished and all sort of things.

So which is the best way to determine the chords I have to use? Especially with slash chords or 7th and other formations beside major and minor.

  • 1
    Can you give a specific example? Like an actual song? By slash chords, do you mean slash notation? Normally the chord name is above the staff when slash notation is used, so you would play the named chord with the rhythm denoted by the slashes. Sep 15, 2016 at 4:04
  • @ToddWilcox This could be the example. In this song the songwriter uses slash chords (A/G#; A/G) and 7th chords. My question is how did he know when to use these kinds of chords?
    – Daniel
    Sep 15, 2016 at 5:52
  • @ToddWilcox - slash chords are such as C7/G where one plays a second inversion, as in C7, with a G bass note. Yes, slash notation is the rhythm to be played written in slashes, as in //// for 4 in the bar.
    – Tim
    Sep 15, 2016 at 8:22

3 Answers 3


Slash chords are often denoting the inversion to be played, as in Am/E, where on guitar, for example, the player would use the open E as well, it being the slash part of the chord. Othe slash chords might use a walking bass line approach, as in C, C/B, C/Bb for an effect to get to the IV chord of F.So, the slash part actually defines a chord more learly - C/E will be 1st inversion of C; C/B the 4th inversion of Cmaj7. Occasionally the 'slash note' will be foreign to the chord, but often as not, it'll be part of a bass line.

Sounds like you need to learn some more chords! Dims and augs are often the 'missing chord'!

As a basic starting point, you need to be aware, and able to play, all inversions of major and minor triads- as in C-E-G, E-G-C, G-C-E. There's no clue in the question as to whether it's piano or guitar you prefer, but guitar will inevitably cloud the issue, as the inversions are not as clear cut as they are on piano.

Assuming piano, then get your head round the 4 (in)versions of the dom 7, maj 7 and min 7 chords, only using one of each of the 4 notes involved. Be aware that the VOICINGS can be open or closed, which again muddies the water... Dims and augs need sorting too.

As a basic premise, look to the 'main' notes in a bar - often on 1st and 3rd beats. These will give a good idea which chord may fit that bar. Generally, the chord will contain those notes - otherwise the melody or the chord is wrong! Also be aware of the progression - the chords either side of the elusive one. Look to the oft-used pattern of ii-V-I for a route through.

As a little example, let's say there's a C and an E in a bar.(No, it's not the beginning of a joke...) Chords which may fit are : Cmaj.,Cmaj7, Amin.,Am7, D9, Dm9,Fmaj7, Fm maj7, Ab+,F#m7b5, to name but a few. Faced with C and E in a bar, then, depending on key, and preceding and following bars, one or more of these may well do the job!

Bottom line is - try loads, and the ones that sound good will be good!

  • All that, and I haven't a clue about you! I often feel that if the profile contains pertinent information, it would aid me, and others, in answering the question at a more appropriate level.
    – Tim
    Sep 15, 2016 at 8:54

There is no chord you have to use.

When you define the melody before you define the chords, you have a lot of freedom in what chords you choose.

Figure out the key and play around with different chords and inversions of chords.

An example would be your melody quarter note 4/4 is G - A - B - A.

Assuming C Maj you could go with: C - F / A - G - A.

Also, your melody be a chord tone, or it could provide the seventh of a chord.

Just keep your ears open for what sounds good to you. (it is your song).


Get hold of the written music (or at least the chord sheets) for LOTS of songs. Particularly songs outside your usual style. As you become accustomed to a wider range of chords you'll begin to recognize where they could fit into YOUR music.

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