View Full Version : chord help

05-10-2009, 02:03 PM
Em/D and Am/C and Em/B

I've come across this a few times. What does it mean and how are these chords played?

Buddy McCue
05-10-2009, 02:17 PM
These are usually called "slash chords."

Em/B means that there's an Em chord being played with a B in the bass. When you see something like "Em/B Em/A Em/G" written, it means that the B, A, G motion in the bass was important enough to the overall sound that the arranger felt it necessary to point it out.

In practical terms for the ukulele player, it means that you should ask your guitar or bass player play those notes. If you are playing solo, then you can choose chord voicings that have these notes on the bottom, or leave them out altogether. Your ear should be able to tell you how important they are.

05-10-2009, 11:02 PM
Yup, what Buddy said.

Certainly it's perfectly safe to ignore the bit after the slash if you find it confusing, or if it suggests a voicing that is difficult to achieve on uke.

For Em/D, Am/C etc straight Em and Am will be fine.

The effect of the suggested bass notes is not always easily achieved on ukulele, and the slash chords are very often notated with guitar in mind.

If I'm playing an unfamiliar song from a chord sheet in a jam I always take the coward's way out and ignore the slash and bass note! :o

That said, if you have the time to work through and experiment with different chord voicings it may be possible to find a way to approximate the bass movement implied - especially if you tune low G. Taking the time to do that can add a nice dimension of detail to the tune.

05-10-2009, 11:35 PM
Thanks guys. That's been a big help. It's great to have access to your knowledge and experience.:)

05-10-2009, 11:50 PM
thanks for that info buddy and buddhu.
i wasn't aware also

Ukulele JJ
05-11-2009, 02:33 AM
For Em/D, Am/C etc straight Em and Am will be fine.

Well, you're right that, just because the note is on the "bottom" of the slash, that doesn't necessarily mean it has to be on the lowest note of the chord voicing you play on the ukulele. The uke just doesn't have the range to make that practical in many cases.

But ideally, the note should be played somewhere.

You don't have to worry about the C in the Am/C because an Am chord already has a C note in it. (And if you play it as 2000, it actually is the lowest note!)

Same goes for Em/B. The B note is already in an Em chord. If you play it as 0432, it's not the lowest note, but it's still there (on your first string).

Ah, but the Em/D is different. A D note is not normally in a Em chord. You'd have to convert it to an Em7 (0202, for examle) to get that D note in there.

So, to recap: If the note on the bottom of the slash is already in the chord on top, you can ignore it. If not, you should try to figure out how to add it in, but it can go anywhere.


P.S. Half the battle with these chords is simply figuring out what they're called. Once you know they're "slash chords", you can search UU and Google for tons of info.

05-11-2009, 03:00 AM
Agreed, JJ. If the note is an additional one then you'll definitely miss a certain nuance if you leave it out.

I don't quite agree that the additional note should "go in anywhere".

To just randomly insert the note wherever in the chord you can find a place to fret it won't always have the effect that the arranger had in mind - and for some chords there will be no convenient way to get it in the bass. You may have to stick it in an octave up. If the intended effect is to have movement in the bass then that won't be faithfully conveyed unless that extra notes are low notes in all the slash chords in that sequence.

There is a reason for notating a slash chord rather than just using the proper name for the chord which contains all the notes, and that reason is that the arranger thinks the note should be in the bass - otherwise he or she would have written Em7 rather than Em/D.

These considerations are not always easy/practical for a beginner to cope with on-the-fly if, for example, they're playing along with other people. My point is that using the basic chord and ignoring the slash and bass note will do no harm. You may miss a fraction of the overall effect of the notated piece, but you won't clash or sound discordant or "off" with the other instruments. It'll fit in.

Just MHO. And what JJ says is certainly right: if circumstances allow, you'll gain by trying to figure out how to get the extra note in (especially if you can get it in the bass somehow! :D ).

Buddy McCue
05-11-2009, 03:19 AM
Thanks JJ, for pointing out that the bass notes of a slash chord can sometimes be shifted up an octave. That is effective in certain songs, and I do that sometimes myself.

But like Buddhu pointed out, they can't just go anywhere. Usually when you see them, there is some kind of stepwise movement that is to happen in the song. That's the most common reason to have slash chords.

Here's a real world example: Dear Prudence by The Beatles.

D D/C Gm7/B Gm7/Bb D D/C Gm7/B Gm7/Bb
Dear Prudence won't you come out to play
D D/C Gm7/B Gm7/Bb D D/C Gm7/B Gm7/Bb
Dear Prudence greet the brand new day
D D/C Gm7/B Gm7/Bb
The sun is up, the sky is blue it's beautiful, and so are you
D D/C C G D D/C Gm7/B Gm7/Bb
Dear Prudence won't you come out to play?

That "stepping down" in the bass is very important to the sound of this piece. If I were to arrange this for the ukulele, I would try to make sure that D - C - B - Bb happened... maybe not necessarily in the bass voice, but with the stepwise sequence preserved.

In fact, now that I think of it, this song would sound pretty good on the ukulele. Wish I were a better singer than I am!

05-11-2009, 03:26 AM
Philistine that I am, I prefer the Siouxsie And The Banshees version... :o

I'll get me coat...