I'm trying to work out whether it is technically correct to have a "slash" chord where the bass note is not one of the notes in the chord.

I thought the main reason for slash chords is to show which inversion of a chord to play.

However, someone has given me the chord progression B – B/A♯ - G♯m7 – B/F♯ which shows a slash chord with an outside note in the base.

You will note that A♯ is not in the B chord.

But isn't it more correct to call that chord Bmaj7 rather than B/A♯ ?

Is there any valid case of having a "slash" chord where the slash note is not in the actual chord?

  • I'm agreed with NReilingh, the slash serves only to denote the particular base note to be played and has nothing to do with the key or rest of the chord.
    – user28
    Commented Feb 15, 2012 at 23:14
  • I'm guessing Gm7 should be G♯m7 (so the bass descends diatonically in B major).
    – Mirlan
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 14:45

7 Answers 7


To answer your last question: Yes -- because it sounds cool.

A common gospel piano thing is a IV chord with dominant function because it's over the dominant in the bass, i.e. F/G (in the key of C).

Inversions were historically notated using a figured bass style. Slash chords are a relatively recent invention, and they can be used both for inversions and for other chords that don't fit "traditional" harmony.

In many cases it is not practical to extend your notation up through the chord members until you come to the "weird" note -- you'll end up with a weird 13th chord or something (which is just not accurate) and, in the case of the 13th being the bass note, inversion notation just doesn't go that high. It makes much more sense to just say C/G#.

  • 1
    Thanks. When I see F/G I think that it could be written as Fadd9 or Fadd9/G, and C/G♯ could be written as G#maj7♯5. But you're saying that if a G♯maj7♯5 is functioning as a C chord in a progression, then it can be better to write it as C/G♯ ?
    – asgeo1
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 0:08
  • 1
    Absolutely -- and it's easier to read that way, too.
    – NReilingh
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 4:07
  • Though I'd say that C/A♭ is likely more accurate than /G♯. Commented Feb 19, 2012 at 13:06
  • My real book does notate D-7/G (similar to your F/G), which I also think rather should be a Gsus9.
    – Gauthier
    Commented Feb 26, 2012 at 10:16
  • D-7/G, F/G, Gsus9, and G9(11) are (not exactly the same but) pretty much different flavors of the same idea. Context and/or preference will determine what to write. In some modernish jazz writing it is quite common to use slash chords where the bass note is rather unrelated to the chord. As stated "it sounds cool". :-) Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 20:54

The note behind the slash is often meant as the note played by the bass guitar, and if you are playing this in a band where you do have a bass guitar, it can even be ignored on the guitar.

In this particular example you see that the bass is actually a movement going down one note at a time (B A# G F#), where the movement itself is more important than if it fits perfectly within each chord. It is more like a simple bass melody than part of the chord. It is relative to the chords in much the same way the main melody relates to the chords.

The last note in the movement usually ends up on the ground note in the chord at the first beat in the following measure. Based on this, I would guess that the next chord in your example (which is the first in the following measure) would be an E.

  • to the extent that none of the guitarist's notes would be 'wrong' this is true, but do we really want Steely Dan songs to sound like Billy Ray Cyrus? Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 20:44

I play bass and everything I've ever been taught says slash chords are used to designate the bass note. This can either be an inversion or outside the chord, essentially making it a different chord. This does mean that if the bass player is playing the note you don't necessarily have to but often times in rock and pop music it can be helpful to play it anyway to fatten the chord a little.

I would like to add that slash chords can also be easy ways to accomplish some cool jazz voicings and is an entire topic taught by lots of jazz teachers. Check out Mark Levine's jazz theory books, there is a whole chapter dedicated to slash chords. One such example is C/D would spell out a Dsus chord in a jazzy way. To start with that concept the chord should be a 4 note voicing, the 3 from the C triad and the D bass note. It probably won't sound as awesome with just the bass player playing the D against a big C barre chord, maybe even sound wrong.

I play bass in a Rock group and often try to incorporate jazzy chords but my band mates don't speak the lingo so I use slash chords to relate. In one song I put an F under a C9, which would be a sort of Fmaj7 sus4 but they would never understand that.


I agree with the above, but sometimes the composer wants a basic chord eg. Cmaj, but with a bass note which is not contained in that chord ( C/G#) However this is a poor example as the G from the chord clashes with G#. In the example in the question, the bass line is moving down,so A# bass is good, and works against a Bmaj chord, which doesn't need to be played (or written) as Bmaj 7. Tim


Slash basses are a short form of writing a desired bass movement, essentially separating the chord into two distinct parts. The bass note does not necessarily need to belong in the chord however the most common slash bass voicings will use chord tones, such as D/F# descending to Em for instance. The chromatic movement you have indicated with the Gm7 is more like a Bb maj with a G bass.


I agree that jazz charts often do show slashes to denote added notes, when they are NOT bass notes. Certainly for the purpose of clarity, and ESPECIALLY because a bassist may be reading my chart, I try to only use slashes for bass notes, i.e. chord inversions. If you want a choice (choices are good!) you have the option of using the word "add", or using parenthesis. I write a C7 chord with an F on top C7add11 or C7(11). I write a D chord with an added B (6) and an added E (9) Dadd6,9 or D(6,9)


It can be physically any note as anything can have a meaning if played logically, but you should include the bass note on the spelling of the chord. There should not be things such as C/F, but Cadd11/F. But this is traditional convention. Nowadays, specially guitarists, are redefining rules. Slash has been traditionally used to indicate inversions, more than "added notes".

  • 2
    A C/F, Cadd4, and a Cadd11 all contain at least one F, but in the former it should be below the lowest root; for the second, it should be somewhere above the root, and for the third it should be more than an octave above the root. One would generally only write Cadd11/F if there should be (at least) two F's, two octaves apart.
    – supercat
    Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 22:37
  • Last conventions are that chords describe notes not voicings. Aside from that, AFAIK, a bass note should be contemplated in the chord itself when spelled properly as bass note should only identify inversion not the chord
    – Whimusical
    Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 13:34
  • The notation "C/F" represents a "C" chord in some arbitrary inversion (i.e. some arbitrary combination of C's, E's, and G's), with an "F" played in the bass line below it. Such notation is often use to establish a stepwise or chromatic moving bass line which creates and resolves tension with the chords above.
    – supercat
    Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 14:06
  • Do you have any refence on why it's preferrably to call it a C/F instead of Csus4/f (chord=Csus4, inversion=F as the bass)?
    – Whimusical
    Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 17:20
  • 1
    A C/F chord would be expected to have an F in the bass, but have only C's, E's, and G's elsewhere. By contrast, a Csus4/F would be expected to replace all the E's with F's (rather than just having a single F in the bass).
    – supercat
    Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 17:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.