Bing Hodneland logo

Bestsellers

Books

List Bestselling Books

DVDs

List Bestselling DVDs

Google

Sheet Music Plus Featured Sale
In Association with Amazon.co.uk

All the information on this site is free. But if it is of value to you, I appreciate a tip.


Previous page:

Music Theory for Guitar - Chord inversions

Next page:
Previous page: Music Theory for Guitar - Sus4 and sus2 chords Next page: Music Theory for Guitar - Diminished and augmented triads

Chord inversions

Chords can be inverted, just as intervals. But an inverted chord is still the same chord. When inverting a Perfect Fifth, we get at Perfect Fourth, and it usually does not make sense to call the Perfect Fourth a "Perfect Fifth in First Inversion". But a chord with the notes C-E-G is a C-major, no matter how we change the sequence of the notes.

So far, we have dealt with chords in root position. This mean that we build the chords up from the root note and the root is the bottom note of the chord. A chord in root position has a 1-3-5 voicing. When starting from the root position, we can move the root up one octave. We the get at chord with the third in the bottom, fifth in the middle and root on top. This is called the first inversion. The first inversion has a 3-5-1 voicing.

Notice the intervals in the chord. The first interval, from E to G in a C-major chord, is a minor third. I find the sound of the first inversion of the major chord slightly more "minorish" compared to the chord in root position, because of this minor third interval at the bottom. The second interval, from G to C is a perfect fourth. You hear some kind of a resolution when going from the fifth up to the root. This gives the chord in first inversion some concluding quality, but not as strong as the same chord in root position. The outer interval, from bottom to top in the chord, or from E to C is a minor sixth.

Notice that there is no fifth interval in the chord, even though the fifth note is present. The fourth from G to C is an inverted fifth, but it is not as strong and stable as a perfect fifth. As said in lesson xx, the fifth gives the chord stability. The lack of a proper fifth makes the first inversion less stable compared to the chord in it's root position.

I said that I find the sound of the major chord in first inversion a bit "minorish". But at the same time the third in the bottom emphasize the major character. The top note in a voicing will always be a prominent note in he overall sound. As the top note is the root, it still has a quite clear identity.

Do as we did with the triad in root position, and find the first inversion of the C-major triad in all position on your guitar.

We can do the same kind of movement once more, and now move the bottom note of the first inversion one octave up. Now we have a chord with a 5-1-3 voicing, which is the second inversion of the chord. But if we do one more of the same kind of movement, with end up in root position again, one octave higher from where we started.

You can of course go the other way: Move the top note of the root position down an octave, which gives the second inversion, and if you move the top note of the second inversion down one octave, you get the first inversion.

First you should notice that the chord in second inversion has the root as the middle note, which is the least prominent note in a three note chord. This will give the chord a weaker identity compared to root position and first inversion. As we will see xx, the chord does not have a concluding quality.

The chord starts with a perfect fourth from G to C. Even though the interval in itself has a concluding quality, it does not come through in the second inversion. It sounds more as a pick up note, and you will find many songs with a melody starting with the notes of a major chord in second inversion. The second interval is a major third from C to E. With the characterizing note of the chord in the prominent top position, it gives the chord a clear major character. I think this is another reason why so many songs start with the chord in second inversion: It gives a clear statement of the major tonality at the very beginning of the song.

The outer interval, from G to E is a major sixth. Again there is no perfect fifth in the chord, and as the inverted fifth is in the bottom leading up to the middle note, the second inversion is the least stable of the three voicings of the major triad. You expect more when you hear the chord. It works very good as an opening, but is not really able to conclude a song.

Again, play second inversion of a C-major chord in all positions on the guitar.

From Alan W Pollack's Notes on "I'm Looking Through You":

The opening I-V chord progression has the I chord in the so-called second, or '6/4' inversion. This particular usage, the textbooks teach us, cause the listener to parse the first chord not so much as a "I" chord per se, but more so as dual-appoggiatura embellishment of the V chord to which it is adjoined. In slightly plainer terms, this means you tend to hear this opening less as a full-fledged I-to-V root progression, and more so as a V chord with simultaneous 6->5 and 4->3 suspensions placed upon it.

There are many reasons for choosing various inversions of a chord. One obvious reason is that it makes smooth chord changes easier. But this usually also mean smoother voice leading, which again mean smoother and more subtle harmonic changes.

Another reason is melody. The melody will often (but not always) be on the top string in the chord. To keep the melody going, we have to choose a voicing that has the melody note on the top string. One very simple example is this example based on a few bars from Three Blind Mice (it is just the beginning and the end put together), where we in the first example only concentrate on keeping the melody on top of triad voicings. We play D2, AR and D1, then A1, G1 and D2, before the first three chords are repeated (the subscript number/letter indicate the inversion).

Some times you want to keep the chord while the melody is changing. You can find one example in the arrangement of Come Back Baby, that is included in my Blues Guitar Lessons. It has an A7 played with the Moveable D7 shape in 8th and 9th fret, with the melody on 1st. string, 9th fret. Then it changes to A7 in the Long-A position, while the melody goes 5th and then 3rd fret on 1st string.

You may also want to have changing harmony under a melody that is not moving. One example is John Mayers' Cavatina. And then you might have two lines with a counter point movement, and a changing harmony. The opening of Led Zeppelin's Stairway To Heaven is one good example.

Listen to the quality or the sound color of the different inversion. The strongest note is the bottom note. This mean that a chord is more stable when played in root position. Then there is the top. And since the root is on the top in first inversion, it still has some stability. The second inversion, with the 5th in the bottom and the third on top, and the root somewhat hidden in the middle, is the least stable of the three. The 5th in the bottom have some of the effect of the turnaround chord in a typical blues progression.

Play the following three versions of the ending of Three Blind Mice, and listen carefully at the ending chord. The first ends on first inversion of the D-chord. It works, and you can end on this chord. But it is not a very firm and solid ending. The next is second inversion (but with a doubled D, to keep the melody right). You feel that you are not at home, and cannot end there. The final chord is in root position, and you really feel that you have returned home when you end on this chord.

Previous page: Previous page: Music Theory for Guitar - Sus4 and sus2 chordsNext page: Music Theory for Guitar - Diminished and augmented triads Next page:

Some harmony/chords Theory - books

Top Seller


More >>
Scale Chord Relationships
A Guide to Knowing What Notes to Play - and Why! Scale Chord Relationships teaches players how to determine which scales to play with which chords, so guitarists will never have to fear chord changes again!
RefNr: HL695563
Order From:
SheetmusicPlus
MusicRoom
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Other Books


More >>
George Van Eps Harmonic Mechanisms for Guitar, Volume 2
RefNr: MB93715
Order From:
SheetmusicPlus
Amazon UK
Amazon US

More >>
Quartal Harmony & Voicings for Guitar
This book contains a study and breakdown of "harmony in 4ths". The introduction of quartal harmony in modern jazz began in the 1960's. Compositions by Miles Davis and John Coltrane such as "Impressions" and "So What" showcased chord voicings derived from quartal harmony.
RefNr: MB99971BCD
Order From:
SheetmusicPlus
Amazon UK
Amazon US

More >>
George Van Eps Harmonic Mechanisms for Guitar, Volume 1
The most in-depth, revolutionary presentation of the harmonic framework of music is applied to the guitar fingerboard ever presented.
RefNr: MB93667
Order From:
SheetmusicPlus
Amazon UK
Amazon US

More >>
Scales and Arpeggios for Guitar, Grades 1-5
Sets out scales by grade in two separate volumes-full fingering fret and string indications given in volume I while volume II gives fingering for Grade 6 and a table of universal fingerings. Both volumes contain notes on the requirements and recommended minimum speeds. Essential publication for examination candidates and their teachers.
RefNr: ABRSM9349
Order From:
SheetmusicPlus

Go here for full list of harmony/chords Theory books

harmony/chords Theory - videos


More >>
Introduction To Chord Theory And Chord Voicing For The Guitarist
In this 2-DVD set master guitarist and instructor John Miller walks you through the fundamentals of chord theory, providing you with the conceptual tools needed to understand chord structure, and then shows you how to apply that knowledge to the neck of guitar, making practical sense of the information so that you will be equipped to voice chords up and down the neck in any key.
RefNr: GW9945
Order From:
SheetmusicPlus
MusicRoom
Amazon UK
Amazon US

More >>
Ultimate Guitar Techniques - Chords And The Scales That Fit Them
Join Stuart Bull for a clear and methodical series of lessons in Chords And The Scales That Fit Them.
RefNr: RDR0131
Order From:
SheetmusicPlus
MusicRoom

Go here for full list of harmony/chords Theory videos

Previous page: Next page:
Previous page: Music Theory for Guitar - Sus4 and sus2 chords Next page: Music Theory for Guitar - Diminished and augmented triads