Semantic slash chords

So I understand this is a big ask in part because there really isn’t a standard way to present these chords in roman numeral notation, but semantic slash chords would be super useful to describe things like lament bass and line cliches more accurately in the lead sheet notation part.

For example, consider the sequence Am - Am/G - Am/F - Am/E. In hookpad we cannot enter the third chord as Am/F, we must incorrectly label it Fmaj7. Or take the sequence Am - Bm/A - C/A - D/A which must be entered as Am - Bm/A - Am7 - D/A. In both these examples, the option to use a semantic slash chord would increase clarity significantly. But it might require some nonstandard roman numeral analysis.

In addition, there are slash chords which don’t have true enharmonic equivalents! Consider the “soul dominant” chord ie F/G in the key of C as one of the most common examples. Essentially an inverted F(add9). By entering V11 we get something that presents as F/G in lead sheet notation, but the playback and guide has a B and D in it that we may not want as well. (Really it’s more of an F major over G major polychord here rather than a true slash chord, when played as a full V11, so I would actually argue the current label is actually wrong.)

Even if it had to be done through the “search” feature exclusively, being able to put any arbitrary bass note under any chord without having to work out an enharmonic equivalent that has less semantic meaning would be a very powerful upgrade to hookpad, for both composers and transcribers.


@pipko, thanks for the comments, you’re correct that some progressions make more sense spelled in a different way. In the old-school Hookpad, we supported something we called “pedal harmony” which allowed you to specify a scale degree to put under a chord. In the end we did away with this, because it was confusing for users to have multiple systems, and in most cases, I believe that progressions are better understood from their functional perspective. For example, Fmaj7 is rarely ever spelled as Am/F in lead sheets, even when F is used as a pedal bass, and for most people, thinking of it as an F chord I think has its advantages. And F/G I think you would agree functions much more like a V chord than a IV chord.

Obviously there are exceptions, I think probably the most egregious is something like G/A in C major being spelled as V11/ii which makes no sense in something like am - G/A - F/A. Or: C - G/C - F/C - G/C, where hookpad spells the G/C as Cmaj9. But there are plenty of other ways in which Hookpad doesn’t properly capture the spirit of a progression, especially in non-functional progressions, like the verse here: Chrono Trigger - Main Theme by Yasunori Mitsuda Chords, Melody, and Music Theory Analysis - Hooktheory.

In terms of the playback, most instruments use 3-note RH voicing, so V11 in C as F/G is played as G F A C, and switching to “full voicing” instruments allows you to use all of the tones of the 11th chord. There is no way right now to adjust the “guides” to match the harmony voicing, but that’s something we could consider.

I would like to add to the conversation. From my limited understanding of functional harmony, it seems that the issue lies with the limitations of functional vocabulary itself, and not with Hookpad. My suggestion would be to find a new way to notate slash chords in the functional context, in a way that works well inside the hookpad workflow.

At times, you really just want to have a note outside of the chord to be in the bass. It wouldn’t change the function of the chord per se, but it does give it a certain texture and feel.

As an example, I recently added a song to TheoryTab that uses a simple IV-I-V progression in the verse, but in the actual recording the bass doesn’t change going from the IV to the I Chord. The actual chords are Ab - Eb/Ab - Bb. The dissonance of the Ab in the bass of the I chord resolving to Bb is a subtle difference, but it is missed when just using the roots of the chords. Here’s the song I’m talking about :