When it comes to chord voicings and inversions, you have many options to explore.
And as your chords gets bigger, the possibilities only expand!
Remember my simple definition of an inversion…
It’s simply a different way to order the notes in a chord. More specifically, every note gets its turn on the bottom.
If you remember that, you’ll never go wrong.
When the root note is on the bottom, we call that root position.
For example: C major
“C” is the root note so if it’s on the bottom, the chord is said to be in root position.
In the same chord, “E” is the third (if you don’t understand intervals, click here). When the third is on the bottom, we call that FIRST INVERSION.
“G” is the fifth of the chord and when it’s on the bottom, we call this SECOND INVERSION.
If you know your numbers and understand your major chords as “1 + 3 + 5,” then determining inversions will be simple.
If the 1 is on bottom, root position. If the 3 is on bottom, first inversion. If the 5 is on bottom, second inversion. BAM!
As your chords get bigger, though, we introduce more inversions.
So for a C major 7, the first three still apply but we add another:
C on bottom = root position
E on bottom = first inversion
G on bottom = second inversion
If B is on bottom, the chord is in “THIRD INVERSION.”
And this is my favorite inversion! I love the sound of the seventh on bottom.
Granted, you’ll want to take the C from the right hand and put it in your bass. It sounds much better.
C major 7
I also prefer this inversion for major 9 chords. Even though we’ve added another note (which introduces the term, “4th inversion” — if the 9th were the lowest note), I still prefer the 7th on bottom of right-hand chord:
C major 9
I love this inversion for minor 7 and minor 9 chords as well:
C minor 7:
C minor 9:
Note: The clustered sound between “D” and “Eb” in this minor 9 chord gives it the sound you want whereas in major 7 chords, we got rid of the sound created by the “B” and “C” in our first example above by putting C in our left hand bass. You’ll develop these preferences all the time. You may do things in minor chords that you don’t do in major chords, vise versa. As I always say, your ear is the final judge.
Just for fun, to make any of these chords 4th inversion, what would you do?
Answer, put the 9th degree on the bottom. In the example above, the 9th degree is D.
(C is 1, D is 2, E is 3, F is 4, G is 5, A is 6, B is 7, C is 8, D is 9… SHORTCUT: Same letter as the second tone of scale).
C minor 9 (right hand in 4th inversion):
There’s a lot to think about here.
Enjoy and see ya next time -
- Chord Inversions… The Basics!
- Who else wants to learn what 6-4 chords are?
- Minor 7th Chord With A Twist
- Here’s a way to multiply your chordal vocabulary… OVERNIGHT!
- Yet another way to spice up your chords without knowing anything new
- How to use 6-4 chords in real chord progressions
- 11 Ways to Enhance Your Chords and Playing (Part 1)