Chords with non-chord tone bass notes

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by Bryan T, Jul 17, 2019.

  1. Bryan T

    Bryan T guitar owner Silver Supporting Member

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    One of the things I've struggled with is identifying chords with non-chord tone bass notes. G/A or C/F, for example.

    What are some tricks you've learned to identify these?
     
  2. Tomo El Gato

    Tomo El Gato Member

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    They are identified exactly this way - they are triads over bass notes.
    Some can be interpreted as a voicing of a four note chord - with your examples, G/A can be an A11, and C/F can be an Fmaj9. But it's usually coincidental.
    Frequently in a chart a series of slash chords will denote the motion of the bass line.
     
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  3. Bryan T

    Bryan T guitar owner Silver Supporting Member

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    Any tips from an ear-training perspective? Songs that feature a major chord over the second or whatever?
     
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  4. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    In the case of this clip, I figured out the C/Bb by noting that the Bb was kept as a pedal tone while top 3 voices moved up.

    I found the F/Eb by noting that the preceding voice-leading of C-> D#dim -> Dmin. The bass note was continuing up to F, while most pf the rest of the voices stayed where they are, except the middle voice dropping down a 2nd to change the Dmin sound to an Fmaj one.

    It did help that the music was just one guitar - no other instrumentation other than the player humming the melody very softly.

     
  5. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

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    I'm not sure what's 'non-chord' about either of those examples?
     
  6. Bryan T

    Bryan T guitar owner Silver Supporting Member

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    I can easily identify C/C, C/E, and C/G, but with tones outside of the triad I am still in the world of "that's not in the triad."

    I can probably do C/Bb and maybe C/D, as well as some of the idiomatic ones. But I can't hear C/F and know what I'm hearing.

    Any clearer?
     
  7. Bb7

    Bb7 Member

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    Think of the / as “add”

    So C/F can have C,E,G, or F in the bass. Treat them like any other 4-note voicing - work out inversions and move them around diatonically or through a tune.

    Some familiar shapes/sounds emerge - G13sus etc.

    Check out Dolphin Dance:


     
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  8. JonR

    JonR Member

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    Not sure I see the problem. When I hear G/A I hear the "A9sus4" sound, and that's how I "identify" them. A full A9sus4 has an E in it too, but that's not significant. Em7/A sounds close enough to G/A to make little difference.
    The chord has a "V in D major sound", which is the main thing. Or "A mixolydian" sound, of course, if we think modes.

    IOW, "G/A" is just a handy shorthand for "A9sus4", it's not any kind of a "G" chord, in the way G/B or G/D are. (Even G/D could be understood as a kind of "Dsus" sound in function, as what the classical dudes call a "cadential 6/4".)
     
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  9. JonR

    JonR Member

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    No it can't. That's the whole point of the slash, to indicate the bass note. "C/F" can have the C E or G in any order on top, but F is always in the bass. If it isn't it needs a different symbol: Cadd4, Cadd4/E, Cadd4/G. That's where the "add" comes in.

    In terms of identifying the sound (with F in the bass), it has a kind of "Fmaj9" sound. If F is not the bass note, then the identity is admittedly ambiguous, because the C-G 5th/4th starts to compete with the F-C 5th/4th for root status.
     
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  10. sws1

    sws1 Member

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    I love the sound of G/A...of whatever you call it. To my ear, it's a chord that isn't sure if it wants to be a G or an A, and almost works in place of either.
     
  11. Bb7

    Bb7 Member

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    Sure it can. This is a major point in Mick’s almanacs and the Advancing Guitarist.

    If the composer/arranger wants a specific pitch in the bass that’s one thing, but if you’re working out voicings it doesn’t matter.
     
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  12. JonR

    JonR Member

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    Yes, but my point is a slash chord symbol always indicates a bass note. If you're playing with a bassist, they can take that note and you can voice the chord any way you like - probably omitting the bass note altogether. I guess that's the context you (and Mick) are referring to.
     
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  13. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    I've understood slash chords to generally have the bass note to the right of the slash. I did vaguely remember that there are also polychords but wasn't sure if the notation was the same as for slash chords.

    I don't trust guitar theory sites so I looked around and found two sites that do not use the same notation for both slash chords and polychords. No slash for polychord, basically.

    http://www.thejazzpianosite.com/jazz-piano-lessons/jazz-chords/slash-chords/

    https://musictheoryonline.com/polychords-what-are-they/
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2019
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  14. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    On Keyboard Corner, Kevin Anker (authored/co-authored a couple of books on using Logic Pro) used to argue that chords don't really exist.

    I used to think "maybe this user kanker is just full of $hite or taking the pi$$". Then I realized he has a point: A "chord" is really just a snapshot of harmony. Harmony is what you get when you've got two or more voices playing at the same time.

    So when now when I try to identify chords, I'm listening for what the voices are and where they are moving, bass being one of those voices.
     
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  15. Bryan T

    Bryan T guitar owner Silver Supporting Member

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    Polychords often have a |, not a /.
     
  16. amstrtatnut

    amstrtatnut Member

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    I have trouble identifying them too. I usually try to learn a tune by ear and use youtube or some chord chart for those pesky slash chords.
     
  17. Tootone

    Tootone Member

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    Don't overthink it.

    Just think which is easiest to remember... G/A? or A9sus4? A11add9? Asus? A7sus?

    Its good to know how to... but not try to.
     
  18. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    Yeah until I saw those articles, I had forgotten that. The 2nd one is better in that it also shows examples of polychords without the divisor line.

    But yeah, voice-leading. I recall that's what KRosser said a while back too. The trick is in the voice-leading.
     
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  19. StevenA

    StevenA Member

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    Don’t have any tricks but it’s all over this:
     
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  20. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

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    There is almost zero consistent 'science' to chord symbol usage, in the real world. They are like stick figure drawings of chords.
     
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