Music Theory For Bass Guitar – Slash Chords & Inversions

2017-10-26T15:44:56+00:00January 11th, 2014|Categories: Music Theory For Bass Guitar|13 Comments

This bass lesson covers slash chords and inversions. These are important chords for bass players to recognise and understand since they are a direct influence on the bassline.


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  1. Steve February 7, 2014 at 5:35 am - Reply

    Hi Mark,

    Can you elaborate when you say “chord progressions having a jagged root movement due to the Circle of 4ths”. I’ve recently learned the Circle of 5ths, and I’m digesting how the 4ths are related, but I’m not clear on the connection to the progression. Thanks!

    • admin February 7, 2014 at 11:06 am - Reply

      Hi Steve. If you follow my intervals lessons I cover (in part 3 I think) interval inversion. This is where the top note of an interval is dropped an octave and so is ‘inverted’. Perfect 5ths and 4ths are related by this inversion. If you take C to G you have a perfect 5th. Drop the G an octave and you have a G to C which is a perfect 4th. Another, more relevant way of looking at this is that a G is a perfect 5th above C but is also a perfect 4th below C.
      Take C to B as another example, C up to the B is major 7th . If we go down to a B from C we only have to move semitone or major 2nd. So a Major 7th is a major 2nd when inverted and vice versa. Phew. Now I can move onto the Cycle of 4ths.

      The cycle of 5ths moves up in perfect 5th intervals as you already know: C,G,D,A,E,B,F#/Gb,Db,Ab,Eb,Bb,F,C etc.
      The cycle of 5ths is useful when it comes to looking at key signatures and other 5th based things but chord movement is often dominated by the dominant-tonic resolution which is a movement by fourth. In the key of C you can hear this by hearing a chord progression end in G major to C major. That is chord 5 to chord 1. It’s even stronger when we us G7 to Cmajor. Because of this strong pull from the dominant chord (5) to the tonic chord (1) it provides a basis for chord progressions. So in the key of C major, if we create a progression expanding on this G7 to C we could use the chord a perfect 5th from G which is D. This chord is chord 2 in C major and so is a Dminor (See my chords in a major key lesson). Then we do the same thing from D and we get A. This is chord 6 in C major so we use an Aminor. So now we have a chord progression of Aminor – Dminor- G7 – C major. Each chord has moved a perfect 4th but within the key of C major. I’ll cover all this stuff in an upcoming lesson on chord progressions but for now just remember that chord progressions often move by perfect fourth intervals. It provides a sense of movement and ‘progression’.

      This leads me back to the cycle of 4ths. This cycle can be memorised and practiced by simply reversing the cycle of 5ths. So we have C-F-Bb-Eb-Ab-Db-Gb-B-E-A-D-G-C etc. This sequence of notes is useful in learning the order of Flat keys. C = no flats, F = 1 flat, Bb = 2 flats etc.

      Because fourths are so common in progressions, we often use the cycle of 4ths as a basis for practicing when learning stuff. It helps internalise the note order so you can spot it more easily and become accustomed to the movement. I also helps with allowing us to cover every key without getting too familiar with one like C major. So you might practice a major scale through the cycle of 4ths: C major, F major, Bb major, Eb major etc.

      One easy way for you to visualise the cycle of 4ths is to take one of the circle diagrams I show on the video lesson (just do a google search for cycle of 5ths and you’ll see hundreds of them) and work counter-clockwise around the circle. The cycle of 5ths is clockwise.

      Sorry to be so in depth. Just let me know if you need any more info.


      • Steve February 7, 2014 at 6:07 pm - Reply

        Wow, thank you for such detailed clarification, it was definitely helpful. I look forward to your future chord progressions lesson.


  2. […] Lesson 13 – Chord Construction: Slash Chords & Inversions […]

  3. Bjorn July 29, 2014 at 10:51 am - Reply

    You should get a medal for this, Mark! What an amazing job you have done, putting this site and all the material together – and for FREE! This must be the best music theory course on earth – on ANY medium, including face-to-face!

    • Mark July 30, 2014 at 8:07 am - Reply

      Thanks a lot. I might be turning the music theory series into a book and possibly an app in the near future.

  4. mike December 21, 2014 at 12:37 pm - Reply

    Definitely the best series of online bass lessons I’ve come across. Highly recommended.

  5. Aswile August 18, 2015 at 8:59 am - Reply

    The material is so interesting,please how can i get hard copy for learng to play bass guitor

  6. Joe Couto August 20, 2015 at 12:26 am - Reply


    I have to be honest…I am lost with slash cords. Just not getting it. I am okay with everything on your Bassic fundamentals course and most of these videos but when it comes to this slash chords the instructions are as clear as mud. The videos just go by a little too fast for my skill level and the language get me confused. When you say for, example, that as base players when we see a Gm/B chord we need to play the B well, I do that and it sounds awful and not at all what your track sounds like. BTW, I am sure that many, if not most folks get the instructions above. I, on the other hand got a head ache trying to understand it.

    Thanks for the excellent work you do, you motivated me to want to learn bass guitar @ almost 60. I am sure the light will go on at some point, just frustrated right now. If there is a S L O W E R video on topic that you put out, let me know.

    • MarkJSmith August 23, 2015 at 3:06 pm - Reply

      Gm/B would sound awful because B is not in the chord. That would have to be a Bb.

      Inversions sound different to normal root position chords. Don’t necessarily expect a familiar sound. They can sound odd while they last and then make more sense as they resolve on the next chord. Try playing the note in a higher register. For example, if the chord is a C/E. Play the E at the 2nd fret of the D string instead of the open E string. I find it can sometimes give a little less mud to proceedings and can help in getting used to the inversion sound.

  7. Roque Rocha December 14, 2015 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    Hi Mark,i recently started playing the bass and ive been following your lessons and i love them!!
    Do you have any pdf document for this lesson?
    Thanks and keep up the amazing work

  8. chris March 6, 2016 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    no pdf’s for this lesson, it could help to understand.

  9. Duncan Macconnell January 28, 2018 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    Hi Mark, please can we have a PDF for this lesson?

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