Chord inversions technique corresponds to make the most bass note of the chord does not be the first degree. When a chord’s bass note is its root, the chord is in its root position or in normal form. When the root is not the lowest pitch played in a chord, it is said to be inverted.
Kinds of chord inversions
Well, you should have seen that the first note or the first degree of the chord (the bass note) is the one which gives the name to the chord. For example, C major is made by C, E and G, where C is the first degree. Inverting the chord is doing that the bass note does not be the first degree, but any other degree that makes the chord. Therefore, we have three possible inversions (related to the notes that make the tetrad): we can put the third, the fifth or the seventh in bass note.
The first inversion is to do the third be the lower note from the chord (the bass).
In C major, the third note is E. So the first inversion is the chord C with the bass in E.
The most common notation to represent inversions is a slash. For Example: C/E (C with bass in E).
See below some examples of this chord. The bass note is in red.
In the second inversion, the lower note is the fifth.
In the C chord, the fifth is G. Therefore, the chord C in inversion is C/G. Check below some drawings to this chord:
In the third inversion, the lower note is the seventh degree. This inversion needs a special care when the seventh is major (maj7), because it is located half tone below the tonic (1st degree). This can generates a sound discomfort due to this “chromaticism”, because the short distance can gives the idea that we are making a mistake in the bass note playing the tonic a semitone above of which it was supposed to be played. When the seventh is minor, this problem does not exist.
See below an example of 3rd inversion to Cmaj7 and C7 (where major 7th is B and minor 7th is Bb):
Observation: There are innumerous different shapes to create inverted chords in the guitar; we showed just some of them to introduce this concept. Try to find other shapes to these chords that we showed and you can also try the inversions to the other chords! Soon we will upload more drawings here. For now, you have as homework to work with this.
Tips to memorize chord inversions
Nice. You should have seen that the inverted chord has a sound lightly different from the original chord, because the bass note is striking. This represents a great opportunity for you to vary the songs’ sonority. Try to play a song that you know doing all the chords in the first inversion. Besides being a great exercise, this is the best way of memorizing the drawings of these chords. Practice this with lots of songs and quickly the inverted chords will be part of your musical vocabulary.
To create (compose) songs, try the inverted chords too, instead of traditional ones only, because some sequences and progressions can be more beautiful and interesting. This acquired knowledge will increase your ideas!
In keyboard/piano, working with inverted chords is really common (students learn in the first classes how to do this). In guitar, as it is harder “to search” the inversions and as there are many options of shapes and structures, most of the teachers don’t teach this, as it would not be an important subject.
Since very few people explore this concept given here, musicians that do inverted chords in the guitar call attention. It seems that they are playing “crazy chords”, “incremented” ones, because the shape of the inverted chords is different, less usual, and its sonority is enchanting.
If you want, then, feel the eyes of you audience playing just triads and tetrads, here it is a simple resource.
In the future topics, the advanced ones, we will use chord inversions to work with melodic lines with the bass. For now, try to be used to them, using them always when it is possible.
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