• How To Tell Whether A Chord Is Inverted Or Not

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    In this lesson, I’ll be showing you how to determine whether a chord is inverted or not.

    “Check Out The Following Chords…”

    Example #1:

    Example #2:

    Example #3:

    All these chords have one thing in common – and that’s the bottom note (which is C in this case):

    This lesson is designed to help beginners who just got started with chords and find it confusing to differentiate between root position chords and inverted chords.

    But before we go any further, I’ll want us to review the definition of a chord and the concept of inversion.

    A Short Note On Chords And The Concept Of Inversion

    Although there are so many ways to define a chord, according to Jermaine Griggs, “…a chord is a collection of three or more related notes (agreeable or not) which may be played or heard together”

    Throwing more light on the following keywords:

    1. Collection of three or more
    2. Related Notes
    3. Together

    …would give us a clearer understanding of what a chord is.

    Attention: The term chord henceforth would be used in reference to triads — which are three note chords.

    How To Tell Whether A Chord Is Inverted Or Not

    One of the key things that would help you determine whether a chord is inverted or not is understanding the basic structure of a chord.

    Quick Insights On The Structure Of A Chord

    A chord consists of a root, third, and fifth tones. For example, the C major chord:

    …consists of C (which is the root):

    …E (which is the third):

    …G (which is the fifth):

    In this basic structure of the C major triad:

    …the interval from the lowest note (which is C):

    …to the highest note (which is G):

    …is a fifth interval — consisting of five notes (C, D, E, F, and G):

    “Let’s Check Out The Structure Of Inverted Chords…”

    In the inversions of the C major chord, the structure is quite different. For example, in the first inversion of the C major chord:

    …the interval from the lowest note (which is E):

    …to the highest note (which is C):

    …is a sixth interval — consisting of six notes (E, F, G, A, B, and C):

    Also, in the second inversion of the C major chord:

    …the interval from the lowest note (which is G):

    …to the highest note (which is E):

    …is a sixth interval — consisting of six notes (G, A, B, C, D, and E):

    “In A Nutshell…”

    The root position chord encompasses a fifth interval while the first and inversion chords encompass a sixth interval. This is true for all chord types — major, minor,  diminished, and augmented.

    “Can You Tell When A Chord Is Inverted Or Not?”

    Given the three examples you saw at the beginning of the lesson:

    Example #1:

    Example #2:

    Example #3:

    Example #1 encompasses C to G:

    …a fifth. Therefore, the chord in example #1 is not an inverted chord.

    Example #2 encompasses C to A:

    …a sixth. Therefore, the chord in example #2 is an inverted chord.

    Example #3 encompasses C to A:

    …a sixth. Therefore, the chord in example #3 is an inverted chord.

    Final Words

    So, depending on the interval between the lowest and highest chord tone, we can be able to tell whether a chord is inverted or not.

    See you in the next lesson.

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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku (aka - "Dr. Pokey") is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.




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