Slash Chords


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Slash Chords

The Stradella bass accordion can play a lot of chord types in just about any order. Just when you start to figure things out you see something new (to you) in a book. In this article we will discuss so-called “slash notation” which is fun and easy to deal with. These notations appear in the form which look like C/E, Dm/C or Am/C. These chords are called “slash chords”.

Unfortunately, the notation used by arrangers and composers who create fake books and lead sheets is not nearly as standardized as one might like. And, when it comes to slash chords, the standard is far from firm. So, what to do in when playing your Stradella bass accordion?

Let's look at the different ways that slash chords are used, but first lets revisit the method used by Stradella. A Major chord will include the 3 notes from a Major scale; the same holds true for a Minor chord; but the seventh and diminished chords skip over the fifth of the scale. And, you only have 1 octave.

So, on to the slash chords ... and what you can and can't do with them.

A common usage is to indicate a simple inversion. In this case the slash note will be a note in the chord. Examples include Am/C, A/C# and C/E. But, here's the problem with your bass: you only have one octave and you can't specify any order. Even if you play the chord by pressing the individual single note bass buttons, you are still limited in using that single octave (this is a reason for Free Bass systems, but we're not going there today.) Still, you can often take a hint from the notation: The arranger thinks the C in Am/C needs to be emphasized (maybe), so try using a C bass button instead of A (in this case it's a great workout for your pinkie!).

When the single pitch following the slash is a note in the chord, it usually indicates an inversion. So, considering a C chord we could have a pattern of C, C/E and C/G. A nice simple, repeatable pattern with the bass note becoming a C, E and G.

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Sometimes the slash note is one which is not in the chord, but is in the scale. Examples of this include C/B and Am/F. A C Major chord does not have a B note in it (although a B Major 7th chord does), and the scale associated with the C Major chord (C, D, E, F, G, A, B) does. In this case you can, again, focus on adding the slash note to the bass. In the case of the C/B you can just mentally change this to a CM7 and refer to our prior article on Major Seventh Chords. In the case of the Am/F example the F is questionable since it could be an augmented fifth (unusual since the chord already has an F) or a diminished sixth (also, unlikely). My guess in this case would be that what is meant is an E# which is our old friend an Augmented Chord.

Yet another slash notation is to have the slash note as neither a scale or chord note. For example, one might want a C chord with the dominant 7th played ONLY in the bass. The notation for this would be C/Bb. If you encounter this, just change the chord to C7 and you'll probably be as close as you're going to get. We've played with different methods of handling this and haven't come up with anything satisfactory. Oh, and you might want to include some Bb bass notes just to make the point (whatever that point might be). Similarly, a C/Eb might be someones idea of how to notate a Cm ... honestly, I have no idea what is going on.

Finally, I hope, is a non-standard notation I've only seen a few times ... but it actually makes sense. A simple slash followed by a single note. Like “/Bb” or “/C”. In this case the engraver is indicating that you should play a single bass note in row 1 or 2 in your accordion's bass. Quite elegant when you think about it.

In some charts (not so much new ones, but you never know) you'll see things like Cm/9 or even Cm/dim. One can only guess at the meanings ... just have fun with them and tell yourself that whoever wrote that is an idiot!

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