Using Alternate Bass in Guitar Chords - Open Slash Chords
Chords are mostly played with the root in the bass, the lowest sounding
note in the chord. For example, C
major will typically be played with C
in the bass. A
minor with A
in the bass.
But what if we were to change the voicing of the chord so a note other
than the root was in the bass?
Simply changing the bass note of a chord can completely change its
sound and even its implied function within a chord progression.
In this lesson, we'll explore how to use alternate bass, also known as slash chords, to
create progressions using those simple open position chords we learn as
beginners. Start by watching the presentation below...
Open Position Slash Chords
As shown in the video, there are different bass notes you can swap for
the chord root to change its sound. They're called slash chords because
they are written using a... /
For example, Cmaj/G
tells us to play C major with G in the bass. Am/G tells us to
play A minor with G in the bass. Simple!
In the diagrams below, the suggested fingering is marked (usual 1 =
index to 4 = pinky) but lookout for those X's
(do not play that string). With open slash chords we often have to
block out more strings.
C Major Slash Chords
A Major Slash Chords
G Major Slash Chords
E Major Slash Chords
D Major Slash Chords
A Minor Slash Chords
D Minor Slash Chords
How Alternate Bass Changes Chord Function
alternate bass clearly changes the individual sound of a chord, but it
can also change its anticipated function within a chord progression.
the video I gave you one example - using the 5th of the chord in the
bass - of how alternate bass can create a "pull" to a proceeding
The 5th Bass - Dominant Relationship
This is where we use an alternate bass on the 5th of the chord and that bass becomes the root of the proceeding dominant (V)
chord. Difficult to explain in words, so take a look at (and play along
to) these examples. In each pairing, the first chord is the tonic (I) with a 5th alternate bass, the second chord is the dominant.
= root bass blue
= alternate bass
The 5th Bass - Subdominant Relationship
This time we move from the tonic to the IV chord, but keep the tonic chord's root as the bass of that IV chord. Take a look...
course, you're not limited to these functions, so please don't feel
these are "rules" you must follow. There are no rules! The examples
above are just a way of demonstrating how using alternate bass can
change the role of chords in a progression.
experimenting with different chord pairings. Use the normal root bass
in one chord and an alternate bass in the other. This is a great way of
discovering movements that work.
Progression Ideas Using Alternate Bass Chords
The emphasis of my lessons is always on independent exploration and
experimentation. But here are a couple of progressions to get you
Note that, in these examples, I've perhaps used alternate bass a little
more than I would when writing a progression, but it's just to
demonstrate what can be acheived.
The more you play around with different chord/bass combinations, the
more ideas you'll generate and the more intuitively you'll begin to use
alternate bass. It's as simple as that.
You can of course either strum or pick these chords, or a combination.