Slash chords

While I’ve played guitar & mandolin for decades, I am an utter newb when it comes to bass (like 8 weeks). I understand the function of a slash chord; these are usually a chord invertions to smooth out the bass line. I am slowly working my way out of playing roots and playing chord tones (arpeggios?). So if I’m playing a measure of C/E, I know the chord tones I want are C-E-G with E as the preferred bass note. Since I’m playing the whole chord, do I: 1) lead with a low E then play the chord tones, 2) ignore the /E note and just play a C arpeggio, 3) Play whatever the hell I want, cause no one listens to the Bass player, if I hits the groove?

Thank you in advance.


Yes, for C/E (“C over E”) you would play E as the root note and then C and G, or even E C E G if you like.


You shouldn’t play a C at all. You should be playing as if you were playing an E chord (E G B) or in the key of E until you choose to resolve or are no longer in a slash chord. The other instruments will be playing in the key of C, which is how it implies a C over E. You’re the only one playing in E, so typically you’ll either really accentuate the E by pedaling on it or simplifying your bassline
Edit: unless you’re playing by yourself then yeah you can just do an inverted C

on what instrument? On piano and guitar you totally play it with a C (often ECEG on piano, guitar is similar).

(E G C is the actual inversion but you can play it several ways and ECEG is one)

Great question.

Always start from the note indicated by the slash - it’s one of the rare times that pop music makes specific bass line choices, so we have to oblige the composer.

For the arpeggio, in practice and in theory, I always start with the note given by the slash (in this case, the E) then play the arpeggio in order from the note I’ve begun on.
Again, in this example, E(the third) then G(the fifth) then C(the root).

In an actual music-making scenario, the way this would be realized is completely dependent on the song/groove/situation. Knowing the note you need for the bass line is first most important, knowing the other notes of the arpeggio is next most important, and then you play the part that you think would sound best that takes those first two things into account.

Basically, I think your approach is solid.
Though - I think in a real life music playing scenario, I can only abide by one rule - start with the note given to you in the slash chord, and then the musical situation will dictate how the line proceeds from there.
The information you’re bringing to the table and the practice you’re doing with arpeggios seems to be spot on for getting a handle on this.


I would heartily disagree with this.
The E is the bass note, but I would play an E-G-C bass line 99 times before I’d play an E-G-B bass line.
The harmony is created by the slash chord and choosing the notes to ornament the bass line should be drawn from the harmony of the chord over the bass line.
If the chord was a C major 7, then the B would be more relevant but the C would still have more weight and consonance.

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If you’re accenting the C then there is no point in the slash chord, or will end up being a 6 in Em or flattened 6 in E. I think an arpeggio of either choice is not going to make the song better
Edit: I could very well be wrong. I don’t even know what genre of music this is

Fully agree!

The E has to be the foundation for the bass line.
But when you’re exploring other notes to add to the bass line in the context of C/E, the other notes to add are the ones that support the harmonic chord happening over the E bass note.
You don’t want to accent the C necessarily, but it’s a huge part of the harmony you’re trying to support with the bass line.

The idea with slash chords is not to set two different harmonies - one from the bass and one from the chord/melody instruments.
The idea is to have one unifying harmony (the first letter in the slash chord, which defines the harmony for everyone) - but to have the bass play a non-root note in that harmony to create a specific harmonic color or a specific bass movement in the song.

Because of that, all things in the bass line - after you obey the demands of the bass note dictated by the slash chord - should next take into account the chord harmony that everyone else is playing to.

And then, after all the technical mumbo jumbo, you play the bass line that you think would sound best in the scenario, so, another agree with this:


Yes humans just love to overly complicate things don’t they?
Thank You for my daily smile :+1: :+1: :+1:

Thanks for all the interesting answers. Certainly a lot to think about.

I’m playing liturgical music: some light pop and gospel (besides hymns)


First and second inversion shapes are also very useful for learning the fretboard.

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