Welcome to The Slash Chords

slashSlash chords actually have nothing to do with the ex Guns n Roses/Velvet Revolver lead guitarist! In this guitar lesson we will look at slash chords which are chords where the bass note is different to the chords root note. Of course though there are some Guns n Roses songs that use these chords. For example the end of the song Patience for example has a D/F# chord in it.

The D/F# Chord
One of the most commonly played examples is D/F#. This is a D major chord with F# in the bass. It can be played 2 ways, one is with the thumb placed over the top of the guitar neck to play the F# bass note while playing the regular D chord triangle and the other uses fingers 1 2 3 and 4 which uses different fingers to play the D triangle than the ones normally used.

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Using The D/F# Chord
D/F# is often used as a passing chord between G major and E minor. Songs that do this include:

  • All You Need Is Love by The Beatles
  • Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen/Jeff Buckley (capo 5)
  • Mr President by Pink
  • Wonderwall by Oasis (capo2 under the lyrics “like to say to you”)

These songs could just play the chords G D and E minor however the additional bass note F# creates a bass line stepping down with the notes G F# and E. Check out how the D?F# chord is used in the intro for All You Need Is Love by The Beatles.

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Another common slash chord on guitar is G/B. Which is G major with B in the bass.

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An Alternate to this chord is the complicated to name but easy to play G6sus4/B which is a G major chord with C and E notes and B in the bass. This chord only requires 2 fingers to play.

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G6sus4/B is often placed as a passing chord between C major and A minor. Just like the G D/F# Em progression the C G6sus4/B (or G/B) Am progression creates a linear bass line. Here the bass notes are C B and A. Songs that use this progression include:

  • Redemption song by Bob Marley
  • From St Kilda to Kings Cross by Paul Kelly,
  • Opportunity by Pete Murray
  • Grand Optimist by City & Colour (capo 2)
  • Landslide by Fleetwood Mac (capo 3)

A well known song that does this is Landslide by Fleetwood Mac. The song could just play the chords C G and Am however if you add the bass note B to the G chord it creates a bass line that steps down with the notes C B and A. It is easier to play G6sus4/B on guitar verses G/B as you can keep finger in place on fret 1 of 2nd string.

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pete_murrayA song that uses both these slash chords and progressions together is Opportunity by Australian singer/song writer Pete Murray. In the verses it plays the G D/F# Em  chord progression twice followed by C G6sus4/B Am chords which are also played twice.

Here Pete Murray emphasises the bass notes of the chords by only playing strings 3 4 5 for the C G6sus4/B Am chords and strings 4 5 6 for G D/F# Em. Played this way you can get away with playing the G6sus4/B and D/F# chords with just one finger.

opportunity_petemurray

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Try the slash chords learnt in this guitar lesson in songs that you play to create a baseline and a connection between C to Am and G to Em chords.

Cool 9th Chords

9th chords are 7th chords with an extra note added on top. These chords can help to create a sophisticated and cool sound to your guitar playing and are great chords for blues, funk and jazz.

Dominant 9th Chord
The most common 9th chord is the dominant 9th chord normally just called a 9th chord. The 9th chord and is based on the dominant 7th chord with the 9th scale note added. For example the C9 chord consists of the notes C E G Bb and D. The D note is the 9th note away from the root C note in the chord.

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If the chord doesn’t contain the flattened 7th (Bb) note it isn’t a 9th chord but an “add 9″ chord (e.g. C E G D) which sounds quite different.

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The 5 string 9th chord shape can be played using 4 or 5 strings with the 3rd (see above) or 4th finger being used to play strings 1 and 2. Sometimes the bass note is removed with only the first 4 strings used.

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The Funk Chord
The 9th chord is used in jazz and blues as a substitute for the dominant 7th chord. It is also known as the funk chord as it is used in many James Brown songs and in other funk music from bands including Prince and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Here’s a typical James Brown funk groove using the 9th chord. Just watch for the muted dead strums between the strummed chords. Dead strums are played here by simply releasing the pressure on the fret board slightly so the strings don’t ring out. For the rhythm get the strumming hand to move up and down continually for the 16th note rhythm while applying pressure on the “1″ of this count “123 123 123 12 12″.

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The other common fret board shape for the 9th chord is the one where the root note would be on the 6th string. Often in this chord the root note is omitted but it can be added as a high note onto the 1st string if wanted.

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Major 9th Chord
The major 9th chord is an extension of the major 7th chord. For example the notes of C major 9 would be C E G B and D with the D again being the 9th note. This chord is more commonly used in jazz music as a substitute for a major or major 7 chord. The major 9th chord can be written with a triangle or capital M. For example C^9 or CM9. The 5 string shape for the major 9 chord is like a diamond with all 4 fingers required.

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The 6 string major 9 chord shape is a bit fiddly so watch the finger placement to ensure that all the strings ring out clearly.

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Minor 9th Chord
The minor 9th chord is based on the minor 7th chord. So for C minor 9 the notes would be C Eb G Bb and D. Again this chord is more often used in jazz music as a substitute for minor and minor 7 chords. The minor 9 chord is written as Cm9 or C-9. The 5 string shape is easy to play as it only requires you to move finger 1 down one fret from the dominant 9 shape.

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A 6 string shape for the minor 9 chord uses the minor 7 shape and adds the 9th note with the 4th finger on the 1st string.

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9th Chords in Jazz
To finish off here is a musical example in a jazz style using 9th chords in a typical jazz progression. It may take a few times before it can be played smoothly as it takes some time to get used to the new chord shapes.

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You can even use 9th chords in pop/rock music. Experiment and see how you can make these chords can work in the songs and chord progressions that you play.

Discovering Dorian Mode

If you feel stuck just playing pentatonic scales and want to get into playing modes, Dorian mode is a great mode to discover. Modes are simply scales starting at a different note other than the “root” note (e.g. C for C major scale). Generally when people talk about modes they mean the “modes of the major scale” which are Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian. For more info and examples of the modes of the major scale check out this previous post.

Dorian is a minor mode which means that it works in a minor key. The exercises here will use the A Dorian mode which uses the notes of the G major scale starting on A (A B C D E F# G) and played in the key of A minor. Some songs that use the Dorian mode include:

  • Another Brick in The Wall Part 2 (Solo) – Pink Floyd
  • Get Lucky – Daft Punk
  • Light My Fire (solos) – The Doors
  • Oye Come Va – Santana
  • Riders On The Storm – The Doors
  • Surfing With The Alien – Joe Satriani
  • So What – Miles Davis

The main pattern used for A Dorian is easy to learn as its very similar to the main pattern used for the A minor pentatonic scale. I like to view it as the A minor pentatonic scale pattern with a couple of extra notes added.

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santanaThe following A Dorian exercise will help you to learn to the main fretboard pattern that the mode uses and can also be used for ideas in guitar solos based on the mode. All of these exercises work well over an A minor (or Am7) and D major (or D7) chords which are the 2 chords used in Oye Come Va recorded by Carlos Santana. You can use the backing track to practice the exercises over and even to improvise solos using the Dorian mode or even the A minor pentatonic scale.

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Skipping 3rds
The first exercise plays through the mode pattern skipping one note at a time which also happens to play scale steps in 3rds. A good example of this is the keyboard run down at the start of The Doors song Riders On The Storm.

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Skipping 4ths
This exercise is similar to the skipping 3rds exercise except it skips in 4ths scale steps for a more angular sound. Here work on rolling the fingers where there are 2 notes on the same frets over two strings. For example roll finger 1 across the two 5th fret notes at the start of the exercise then finger 3 over the two 7th fret notes and so on.

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3 Scale Steps
The next exercise is a bit different as it plays 3 scale steps in a row then up one note and another 3 scale steps.

mode_a_dorian_3steps

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4 Scale Steps
The final exercise is similar to the last except it plays 4 scale steps in a row.

mode_a_dorian_4steps

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You can also challenge yourself further by skipping 5ths of 6ths or 5 or 6 scale steps. One other variation of these exercises to vary the rhythms used try playing them in triplets (3 notes over 2 beats).

There are many ways you can play the Dorian mode so have fun discovering what you can do with it.

Legato Lead Guitar Techniques

How do guitarists such as Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani and Steve Vai play super fast and smooth? The answer is that they’re using legato (smooth) techniques called Hammer-ons and Pull-offs. The exercises in this guitar lesson will help you develop your legato technique.

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Hammer-ons
A hammer-on is where the 1st note is plucked then the 2nd is sounded by hammering a finger onto the guitar fretboard. This creates smooth legato connection between the notes and also allows you to play these notes faster as you don’t have to coordinate the guitar pick to pluck the 2nd note.

Depending on the gauge (thickness) of your guitar strings you may have to hammer quite hard onto the fretboard to ensure that the 2nd note rings out. If you’re playing on an electric guitar using a bit of overdrive or distortion can make it easier to play as it gives the notes more sustain. However ultimately you should be able to play hammer-ons using a clean tone or even on an acoustic guitar.

Hammer-on Exercise #1
The exercise below is great to practice as it uses all 4 fingers and will develop the strength required to play hammer-ons with all 4 fingers. Ensure that you practice this exercise on all 6 strings.

Try this exercise with a metronome starting at 80BPM and then speed it up as you get comfortable with the exercise. Use a metronome when practicing all the other exercises in is guitar lesson too.

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Hammer-on Exercise #2
The next hammer-on exercise to practice uses all 4 fingers together. Here you only pluck the 1st note and Hammer-on each note one after another. Joe Satriani uses this technique in many of his songs including Always With Me, Always With You.

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Pull-offs
A pull-off is the reverse of a hammer-on. A pull-off is played by picking the 1st note then the 2nd note is sounded by flicking the string as you pull your finger off the fret board. Check out the guitar lesson video below demonstrating the hammer-on and pull-off technique.

Pull-off Exercise #1
This exercise uses all 4 fingers and will help build the strength required to play pull-offs with all fingers. Again ensure that you practice this exercise on all 6 strings.

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Pull-off Exercise #2
The next pull-off exercise uses all 4 fingers together. Like hammer-on exercise #2 you only pluck the 1st note but now the following 3 notes are played as pull-offs.

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Hammer-ons and Pull-offs in Scales
Another way to practice your hammer-ons and pull-offs is to use them in scales. An easy one to start with is the E minor pentatonic scale as it uses all the open strings.

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Next try A minor pentatonic as with this scale pattern you get to practice your hammer-on and pull-off technique using fingers 1, 3 and 4.

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Finally try using hammer-ons and pull-offs in the G major scale. Here you will need to play 2 hammer-ons and pull-offs on certain strings.

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By the time you’ve mastered these legato exercises you will be well on your way to incorporating hammer-ons and pull-offs into your guitar playing.

Perfecting Your Picking

This guitar lesson will help you to develop and perfect your picking technique helping you to play guitar riffs, melodies and solos more smoothly and fluently.

Alternate Picking
The first aspect that needs to be looked at is your Alternate Picking technique. This is the most commonly used and useful picking technique. Alternate Picking is simply a fancy name for picking up and down. The majority of single note playing is done using this technique. The logic is that if you’re going to pick down for one note why not pick up on the next one?

A simple effective exercise to practice your Alternate Picking is to use a metronome to time yourself. Play eighth notes picking UP and DOWN for each metronome click. Just use open strings and focus on your picking technique making the DOWN picks sound the same as your UP picks. A good speed to start this exercise at is 80bpm (beats per minute). Once you’re comfortable with this sped ramp it up to 100bpm and quicken it further once you’ve mastered each faster tempo.

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Using 4 Fingers On The Fretboard
The next step is to get your fretting hand to work with your picking hand. Many guitarists have a weak and uncoordinated 4th (little) finger on the fretboard. To develop the 4th finger while practicing your Alternate Picking try this exercise. On each string play the frets as indicated alternate picking each note. Also practice this exercise with a metronome starting at 80bpm only increasing speed once mastering the slower tempo.

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Bar Chord ThumbAlso note that to have the proper stretch for all 4 fingers in these exercises keep the thumb behind the neck and pointing upwards.

Outside Picking
The next picking/4 finger exercise works on your Outside Picking technique. Outside Picking involves picking between a pair of strings. An example is picking DOWN on the 6th string and UP on the 5th string. The four fingers of the fretting hand can also be developed with your outside picking by following the zig-zag patterns shown below. Play them up and down the guitar neck on all adjacent pairs of strings.

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For more advanced players try skipping a string in the middle of the pattern (e.g. picking between the 1st and 3rd strings). Again for these exercises use a metronome to check your timing and ensure that every note sounds consistent and clear.

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Inside Picking
Inside Picking is the opposite of Outside Picking where you’re picking inside a pair of strings. For example UP on the 6th string and DOWN on the 5th string. To practice your Inside Picking use exactly the same exercises as used for the Outside Picking. Generally most people find it easier to outside pick but inside picking is a handy technique to master for certain riffs, melodies and solos.

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Other Guitar Picking Techniques
Other picking techniques include Double Down, Double Up and for more advanced players Sweep Picking. Sweep Picking uses multiple down or up picks played quickly with the fretting hand ensuring that only one note is heard at a time. We will look at these picking techniques in another article.

Practice these guitar picking exercises daily as shown in the lesson. Use them as a warm up before playing songs and you will find that your picking and fingering coordination will improve immensely over just a few short weeks.