• The Relationship Between Inversion And Voicing

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Piano,Theory

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    You arrived this page because you want to understand the relationship between inversion and voicing. If you’ve been around musicians, you probably must have come across these two terms; which are often times used interchangeably.

    In this lesson, we’re going to be exploring the concept of inversion and voicing in terms of the relationship between them. So, we’ll be basically considering the similarities and differences between the concept of inversion, and the concept of voicing.

    But before we go ahead, let’s take a quick review on a chord.

    “What Is A Chord?”

    There are so many ways to define a chord and this varies from the simple definition to very advanced definitions. But in this lesson, we’re going by the definition below.

    A chord is a collection of three or more related notes (agreeable or not) that are played or heard together. From this definition of a chord, there are certain keywords that we can highlight to give us a proper understanding of the concept of chord.

    The very first keyword is three or more.

    Three or more gives you an idea on the note aggregate of a chord which can vary from three to six or seven notes and more. So, basically it takes at least three notes to form a chord.

    The next keyword is related.

    In as much as three or more notes can form a chord, it’s not just every three or more notes that can be considered as a chord. Until there is a relationship between three or more notes played or heard together, it cannot be considered as a chord.

    There are basically two ways that chord tones can be related.

    #1 They can be related by scale

    #2 They can be related by a class of harmony

    The relationship between the notes of a chord by scale can be seen in the C major triad:

    …which consists of C, E, and G.

    C-E-G:

    …are related by the C natural major scale:

    A closer look will show you that C-E-G:

    …are the first, third, and fifth tones of the C major scale. That’s the scale relationship between the tones of the C major triad.

    The second relationship between the notes of a triad is intervallic relationship.

    A closer look at the tones of the C major triad:

    …shows relationship in intervals of thirds.

    This explains why from C to E:

    …is a third, and from E to G:

    …is also another third.

    The next keyword in the definition of a chord that is important is agreeable or not.

    A chord can sound pleasant or not, sound agreeable or disagreeable, sound consonant or dissonant, and this depends on the intervals it consists of. So, a chord that is made up of dissonant intervals, have a tendency to sound dissonant or unpleasant, while a chord that consist of consonant intervals have a tendency to sound consonant or pleasant.

    Classification Of Chords

    There are so many ways to classify a chord according to quality, and according to know aggregate and more. But we’re basically going to look at the classification of chord according to width.

    There are basically three classes of chords in this category:

    • Triads
    • Seventh chords
    • Extended chords

    A triad consist of the first, third, and fifth tone, while a seventh chord consists of a first, third, fifth, and seventh tone, and encompasses seven degrees of the scale.

    Extended chords basically extend beyond the compass of an octave. So, think about extended chords as chords like ninths, elevenths, and thirteenths chords, that extends beyond the compass of an octave.

    In a nutshell, a chord is basically a collection of three or more notes. However, it is important to note the relationship between these notes just like we’ve done in this segment.

    So, let’s proceed to the next segment where we’ll take a look at the concept of inversion.

    A Lesson On The Concept Of Inversion

    When a chord is played the regular way it’s formed in the keyboard style, it is said to be in root position because is also the bass note, meaning that the root is the lowest note.

    For example, in the C major triad:

    …which consists of C, E, and G,

    …C (the root):

    …is the lowest note, and that’s the root position of the C major triad.

    It’s also possible to re-arrange the note of a chord, and this rearrangement leads to inversion of a chord which is basically playing in the chord tones in a different order.

    So, instead of start from the first tone which is C:

    …you can actually start from the third tone which is E:

    …and then add other chord tones successively.

    So, to E:

    …we’ll add G:

    …and to G:

    …we’ll add C:

    Altogether is the C major triad:

    …but in its first inversion because the lowest note which is C:

    …in the root position chord, is played an octave higher:

    In the first inversion chord, the third tone is the lowest tone. So, that’s how the inversion of chords works, with playing chord tones in a different order. This produces the inversion of chords.

    There are basically one way to invert a chord, and that’s by the octave transposition of the lowest note. So, the lowest transposition of the lowest note in a chord, produces the inversion of the chord.

    Conversely, a chord can be inverted by the octave transposition of the highest note in the chord.

    For example, in the C major triad:

    …the G tone (which is the fifth tone):

    …when played an octave lower than given:

    …produces the second inversion of the C major triad:

    So, a chord can have up to three inversions if it is a seventh chord, or two inversions if it is a triad. Hence, the terms: first inversion, second inversion, third inversion, in addition to the root position.

    So, in a seventh chord like the C major seventh:

    …we can have its first inversion:

    …where E:

    …is the lowest note (aka – “the bass note”).

    We can have the second inversion:

    …where G:

    …is the lowest note (aka – “the bass note”),

    …and we can also have the third inversion:

    …where B:

    …is the lowest note (aka – “the bass note”).

    Now that I have given you an idea of the concepts of inversion, let’s take a look at the concept of voicing before we put everything together.

    Quick Insights On The Concept Of Voicing

    “What is voicing?”

    Voicing is the consideration of the notes of a chord as voices. If you’ve been in church, or a church choir, you probably must have come across these terms: soprano, alto, tenor, and bass; these are regular voice parts.

    Now the consideration of a chord as voices is voicing. This consideration leads to the re-arrangement of the notes of a chord, not necessarily playing them in different order but total re-arrangement using certain techniques known as voicing techniques.

    There are several voicing techniques that have evolved over time, and that are useful in the re-arrangement of chords. These techniques are called voicing techniques.

    You may need to check out a few of them ranging from part-over-root voicing technique, the upper structure voicing technique, the rootless voicing technique, the polychord voicing technique, to the A and B voicing technique, and a variety of other voicing techniques that we may not outline in this lesson because of time constraint.

    We may not really do justice to this voicing concept because our goal in this lesson is to understand the relationship between voicing and inversion. So, let’s talk about that before we whine up for today.

    The Relationship Between Inversion And Voicing

    In as much as the concept of inversion and voicing are related, they still have differences. So, we’ll be focusing on the similarities and the obvious differences between the concept of inversion and the concept of voicing.

    The Similarity

    The similarity between the concept of inversion and voicing is that both of them are associated with the rearrangement of the notes of a chord.

    The Difference

    The difference between the concept of inversion and that of voicing is in the goal of the concepts respectively.

    The goal of the concept of inversion is to have another bass note apart from the root note, while the goal of the concept of voicing is to rearrange the notes of a chord, considering them as voices.

    Final Words

    Congratulations! Getting to this segment lets me know that you’re serious about learning the relationship between inversion and voicing. In subsequent lessons, we’ll throw more lights on how you can revolutionize a chord using the concept of inversion, and also the concept of voicing.

    I’ll see you in the next lesson.

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

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    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Trevoir Williams

    I love the articles and postings. Loving the content!

    Reply

    2 Nico

    This was a very hepful article and provided a solid explanation and clarity on a somewhat complex theory, at least for this beginner.

    Reply

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