• How to play smoothly using the power of inversions Part 2

    in Playing songs

    As you know from other articles of mine:

    “The number of notes in a chord determines how many inversions exists for that chord”

    Example 1: If there are three notes in a chord (as in a “TRIAD”), then there are three inversions for that same chord.

    Example 2: If there are seven notes in a chord (like in a “THIRTEENTH” chord), then there are seven ways to play it.

    With this being known, the amount of voicings, inversions, and ways to play chords are virtually endless.


    # of notes Type of chord
    Three Triad
    Four Seventh
    Five Ninth
    Six Elevenths
    Seven Thirteenths

    If you have the 300pg course, you’ll find more information about this on page 50.

    Review:

    Here’s a break down of the inversions that exist in larger chords:

    Seventh chords (4-notes):

    Root position, first inversion, second inversion, third inversion [More info]

    Ninth chords (5-notes):

    Root position, first inversion, second inversion, third inversion, fourth inversion [More info]

    Eleventh chords (6-notes):

    Root position, first inversion, second inversion, third inversion, fourth inversion, fifth inversion [More info]

    Thirteenth chords (7-notes):

    Root position, first inversion, second inversion, third inversion, fourth inversion, fifth inversion, sixth inversion [More info]


    Moving on…

    Now that you understand that the bigger the chord, the more ways to play it, we can look at this concept as it relates to more extended chord progressions.

    We will cover “2-5-1” progressions in this lesson. If you don’t know what “2-5-1” progressions are, feel free to refer to past newsletters or my 300pg home study course for more information.

    C major:

    Scale: C D E F G A B C

    The “2” of C major is D.

    The “5” of C major is G.

    The “1” of C major is C.

    These keynotes (“D,” “G,” and “C”) make up a 2-5-1 progression in C major.

    Here are some variations.

    Dmin7

    G7 (aka Gdom7)

    Cmaj7

    Dmin7 (D F A C)

    G7 (G B D F)

    Cmaj7 (C E G B)

    Now… notice that these chords are spread out and hardly close to each other. Using the power of inversions and my “common note” trick from the last newsletter, you can invert some of these chords to make them smoother.

    Since the Dmin7 is our first chord, let’s keep that one the same.

    Dmin7 (D F A C)

    We can, however, invert the G7 to be closer to the Dmin7 chord.

    First start by finding common notes between the Dmin7 and the G7 chord.

    Common notes:


    _____________________

    _____________________

    Notice that the Dmin7 and G7 chords both share the notes: “D” and “F.” These notes happen to be the first 2 notes of the Dmin7 chord.

    Therefore, keeping the “D” and “F” in place, change the other notes to complete the G7 chord.

    G7 (inverted): D F G B

    Ask yourself this question: “Are these the same notes of the G7 chord?”

    Your answer should be: “Yes, these are the same notes just played in a different order!”

    So now your chord progression looks like this:

    Dmin7 (D F A C)

    G7 (D F G B) — which is the 2nd inversion of the G7 chord

    Cmaj7 (C E G B)

    Note: I really didn’t have to do anything with the Cmaj7 chord because it already shared the same ending as G7. Notice that the “G” and “B” from the end of the G7 chord already match the “G” and “B” from the Cmaj7 chord.

    So which progression do you prefer better?

    The old way:

    Dmin7 (D F A C)

    G7 (G B D F)

    Cmaj7 (C E G B)

    Or the new way:

    Dmin7 (D F A C)

    G7 (D F G B)

    Cmaj7 (C E G B)

    I think the new way is much smoother, if you ask me!

    One reminder:

    Sometimes the melody permits you to play various voicings of a chord. However, if you are not following the melody, then inverting will allow you a much more smoother accompaniment.

    Let’s take it a step further:

    Dmin9

    G9

    Cmaj9

    Dmin9 D (left hand) / F A C E (right hand)

    G9 G / B D F A

    Cmaj9 C / E G B D

    Step one: Determine if you want to keep the first chord the same or convert it to match up with the second or third chord. In this case, we’ll just keep the Dmin9 the same (in root position) and base the 2nd and 3rd chords on it!

    Step two: Find the common notes between G9 and Dmin9 in your right hand (keeping the left hand stable).

    Answer: They both have the notes: F A

    Step three: Keep the common notes in place. All other notes that are not common will move either up or down to their respective places.

    The new G9 chord is:

    G (left) / F A B D

    (Remember, we didn’t move the D F from the first part of the previous chord. We just changed the “C” and “E” to “B” and “D,” thus making the new chord a G7.

    So our new progression is:

    Dmin9 (D / F A C E)

    G9 (G / F A B D)

    Cmaj9 (C / E G B D) — no need to move this chord

    Notice how easier it is to transition between these chords when the middle chord is inverted.

    Let’s take it another step further:

    Dmin11

    G11

    Cmaj11

    Dmin11 (D / F A C E G)

    G11 (G / B D F A C)

    Cmaj11 (C / E G B D F)

    How would you invert these chords (there are many different answers depending on which chord you choose to keep the same and which chord you choose to invert). Feel free to let me know on my message board at http://www.hearandplay.com/board

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    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

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    { 9 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 MS

    JG, I think it would be smoother if G11 is left as is, and invert Dmin11, and Cmaj11.

    Reply

    2 Jermaine

    @MS: You know what, that probably would be better (but I’m in a hotel room, not at a piano to really hear how it sounds). But I love the G11 as is.

    Reply

    3 AW

    It says a G7 chord is made of G B D and F, but shouldn’t it be F# instead of F?

    Reply

    4 Shalzone

    —————–
    # AW says:
    February 1st, 2009

    It says a G7 chord is made of G B D and F, but shouldn’t it be F# instead of F?
    —————–

    No A G7 is an F instead of a F#. If it was a F# Then it would be a G-Major7.
    A Dominant 7 is 2 half step from the octave.
    A Major 7 is 1 half from the octave (or just the 7 note of the major scale).

    Am I right?

    Reply

    5 Gerald

    Hi Jermaine,

    I appreciate all the tips and pointers you give, but I have to mention that on a technical note, there are two ways of explaining inversions.

    1. Root position is not considered an inversion. An inversion comes by inverting the root position chord. For example, a triad has a root position, 1st inversion, and a second inversion. There are 3 notes, but there are only 2 inversions. A seventh chord has a root position, and 3 inversions. A ninth chord has a root position, and 4 inversions. A eleventh has a root position, and 5 inversions. A thirteenth has a root position, and 6 inversions.

    2. Another way is to use the term positions instead of inversions. For example, a triad has a 1st (Root)Position, 2nd position, and 3rd position. Three notes, and 3 positions. A seventh chord has 4 notes, so it has 4 positions. A ninth has 5 notes, so it has 5 positions. A eleventh has 6 notes, so it has 6 positions. A 13th chord has seven notes, so it has 7 positions.

    Reply

    6 Danny (p-rex)

    Gerald, I read a treatise on harmony that said ninth chords and above don’t really have inversions. What would you say to this? After all, if you keep inverting a ninth chord you can’t get back to root position.

    Reply

    7 sheetmetal stamping process

    Very great information can be found on this blog.

    Reply

    8 Tigermonkey Creative

    I pondered leaving this trackback excellent gadget

    Reply

    9 Cecille

    I learned about the 1-4-5 chord progression, what difference does it makes from the
    2-5-1 chord progression that I have now learnt.

    Reply

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