• 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.


    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.


    G7 (aka Gdom7)


    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 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 (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 https://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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