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Music Theory for Guitar - First Inversion

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Previous page: Music Theory for Guitar - Minor chord inversions Next page: Music Theory for Guitar - Second Inversion

First inversion

In the harmonized scale lesson, we saw that chords are built by stacking thirds on top of each other, and that a triad (three note chord) consists of the notes 1 - 3 - 5. But we can move the root up one octave, which gives us a chord with the notes 3 -5 -1. By doing that, we are inverting the chord. A chord with the notes 3 - 5 - 1 is a chord in first inversion.

The intervallic relations between the notes has changed, but it is still a major chord. In a major chord in first inversion, we have a minor third from the lowest note to the next, and the a fourth to the highest note. The interval from the lowest to the highest note is a minor sixth.

If you compare the sound of a major chord in root position and in first inversion, you will notice that the first inversion is a bit more minor sounding, due to the minor third in the bottom. It is also less stable compared to the chord in root position. But with the root note on top, it can still be used as a concluding chord. John Duarte used this little arrangement of «Three blind mice» to illustrate the effect of different inversions in his xxx column in Guitar Player Magazine.

xxxx

To help you remember the sound of the notes in a major chord in first inversion, listen to Eric Clapton: My Father's Eyeson his Pilgrim album. The opening notes are a three note arpeggio of a major chord in first inversion (an E-major chord). Listen to the intro. You will often hear the same note as an ending - the final interval from 5 up to 1 gives the final dominant to tonic move.

A minor chord in first inversion starts with a major third, and then a fourth, and the interval from lowest to highest is a major sixth. And our restless friend, the diminished chord in first inversion is a minor third and a tritone. A tritone is an interval of three whole steps. The distance, and then of course the sound is the same as a diminished fifth. But the diminished fifth have two whole steps and two half steps, while the tritone has three whole steps. But both give the sum of six half steps.

Key of E, first inversion.

Play the harmonized scale with triads in first inversion. Start on the bottom three strings, in the key of E-major:

Harmonic scale, E, first inversion

Again you should take a look at the musical notation. Still no accidental. But now there is a little space between the middle and the top note of the chord. This tells us that the chord is in its first inversion.

Here are the three movable, closed chord shapes needed for this harmonized scale:

(Picture)
(Picture)
(Picture)
Major
1. inv.
Minor
1. inv
Diminished
1. inv

Listen to a recording of this harmonized scale (MP3).
It is recorded in two versions. The first is with block chords as written. The second is a combination of arpeggios and chords, which makes it easier to hear the individual notes.

Then A-major on the next three strings:

Harmonic scale, A, first inversion

And the chord fingering:

 

(Picture)
(Picture)
(Picture)
Major
1. inv.
Minor
1. inv
Diminished
1. inv

Listen to a recording of this harmonized scale (MP3).
It is recorded in two versions. The first is with block chords as written. The second is a combination of arpeggios and chords, which makes it easier to hear the individual notes.

And D-major:

Harmonic scale, D, 1. inv

With chord-shapes. Again we have to compensate in our fingering for the smaller interval between 3rd and 2nd string.

 

(Picture)
(Picture)
(Picture)
Major
1. inv.
Minor
1. inv
Diminished
1. inv

Listen to a recording of this harmonized scale (MP3).
It is recorded in two versions. The first is with block chords as written. The second is a combination of arpeggios and chords, which makes it easier to hear the individual notes.

And finally F-major on the top three strings.

Harmonic scale, F, first inversion

With chords, with the other fingering-compensation for the smaller interval.

 

(Picture)
(Picture)
(Picture)
Major
1. inv.
Minor
1. inv
Diminished
1. inv

Listen to a recording of this harmonized scale (MP3).
It is recorded in two versions. The first is with block chords as written. The second is a combination of arpeggios and chords, which makes it easier to hear the individual notes.

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Previous page: Music Theory for Guitar - Minor chord inversions Next page: Music Theory for Guitar - Second Inversion