How to play Slash Chords on the piano

In today’s video blog post, I will be covering some common music theory and teaching you about playing slash chords on the piano. Slash chords are a pretty easy concept and take no time at all to learn!

First, I go over how you would typically see a slash chord on piano music sheets. Even though they look complicated, they aren’t that tough! However, before I dig any deeper, I’ll need to cover what the “root” of a chord is.

The root is the lowest note of the chord. For example, if you are playing a C chord, the lowest note you would play is a C. If you are playing with your left hand, your pinky would land on the C. However, what a slash chord does is override that default root and give you a new root to play.

When you see a slash chord, here is how to interpret it – whatever is to the left of the slash, that is the chord you are supposed to play. But whatever is to the right of the slash, that is the single note that needs to be the new root of that chord; you will need to hear that note on the bottom.

Let’s look at a G / A slash chord. Your right hand plays the G chord (his thumb is playing the G, the lowest note) while your left hand plays the single note A as the bass. A great way to simplify slash chords is to think of them as fractions – for example, instead of reading the next example as a B flat major 7 / C, think of it as a fraction and think of it as a B flat over C; that can mentally help you think of it as the chord over a different base note.

A great question students ask is “what do you do if you are having to play the whole chord with your left hand?” In this situation, it does get a little tougher. In the case with the B flat major 7 / C, reach down and play a C with your left hand, hold the pedal, and then come back up and play the chord with your left hand as well.

The last example I use is an F / A. You play an F chord, but the A has to be the lowest note you hear. However, in this chord, the A note is already in the chord you play, so instead of playing it like a traditional slash chord, you could feasibly make it an inversion and play the F on top.

So, why do they use slash chords in playing the piano? There are some chord theory reasons, but in practical terms, it is a way that a composer can tell you to play a particular bass, especially when a bass is a very critical component to the song.

To summarize how to easily understand and play slash chords on the piano, whatever is to the left of the slash is the chord you play, and whatever is to the right is the single note you play as the bass.

Happy playing!
Scott Houston

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