• My Favorite Chord Inversion Revealed

    in Chords & Progressions,Theory

    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

    New one…

    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 –

    The following two tabs change content below.
    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!

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



    { 34 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 JazQ

    Thanks so much for the tidbits of info that I can quickly incorporate into my playing! May God continue to bless you for sharing your gift and knowledge so generously.


    2 Miriam Tierno

    Rev. Jermaine,

    You always give your students so much useful information. You dedicate so much of your time and knowledge. Thank you.
    Miriam Tierno


    3 Father Michael Burke, O.P.

    Keep it up! I am a classical pianist, but drawn to jazz and I must learn all these chords you are presenting. I play chords, but don’t know what they are! How do I figure out what is the key to some fantastic chord I’m playing? OK. I’ll keep at it.
    fr. Michael


    4 Lowin

    Thanks very much man for this. It is proving to be VERY helpful. I am growing because of these hints you keeping dropping. I play for church (pianist or keyboardist). I love Jazz and blues as well. You have been a great inspiration to me. May God continue to bless your ministry and your family.


    5 frank

    thank you


    6 val

    Thanks again for more helpful tips. You are a blessing.


    7 Obinna

    Wow Jermaine,
    This is just Awesome! thanks


    8 Hector

    Hey Jermain, love ur info, is it posible that you can make these lesson downloadible as PDF files, to keep as reference please.


    9 Obinna

    This is just what i can’t afford to stop looking at here… is simply great Jermaine!
    Thanks a million for all you are doing here…


    10 Reginald Davis

    Hey Jermaine, I just finished a short and sweet course on inversion from the root chord. Man I have to commend you on this excellent topic covered in the blog. This one’s got to be ahead of the pack . Your favorite inversions are now mine too. Fantatic material my brother and thanks a million.


    11 Obert

    wow! you always make things very much easy …keep it up and stay blessed


    12 Peter de Wit

    Nice, Jermaine.

    Best wishes


    13 Andre'

    Thats Wudup, I need a chord chart that explains the name of all chords !

    This is rather helpful



    14 Jerry

    Chord Inversions: Appreciate Jermaine’s Music Articles
    Maybe now finally I can understand some of the “close position chord” inversions
    when hearing Jill Scott or Kem arrangements.


    15 beverley

    Very helpful , A wealth of useful knowledge .Understanding much more now .
    Thank you Jermaine


    16 Aaron Nkosi

    Thanks Jermaine.


    17 Kelvis Gordon

    Hi Jermaine may God continue to bless you.I am now playing the piano quite well, thanks to you and a couple of your dvds i bought.You’re very kind and i will try my best to adopt your principles of sharing and not hiding piano techniques.There is one thing that puzzle me though,WHICH KEY IS HIGHER ON THE KEYBOARD C OR A or are they relative to the scale been played.Hope you get a chance to read this.I’m really excited about playing for God.PEACE..Kelvis Gordon


    18 mike

    wow jermaine, this is awesome. thanks. gonna use this, count on it. u r a blessing to us folks.


    19 Olympia (malta)

    Dear jermaine,

    Although I am graduated in music and understand quickly in what you will be explaining in the article, still I find your examples very well explained, to the point and very easy to understand.
    ‘you are marvelous’, the only thing I would like to tell you is thatI am not able to read all of your articles. Sometimes i open the article and after a few seconds it will close again and it will ask me to sign again. But the particular article would not reappear again.

    Olympia Music teacher primary


    20 strippers glasgow

    salutations from over the world. Great blog I shall return for more.


    21 mobile pc repair chesterfield

    salutations from over the ocean. informative post I will return for more.


    22 Felicia Rogan

    Hi Jermaine,
    I want to thank you for this article, and for showing us the C major 9 chord, that chord is Phat! I’m loving it!
    Thank you again for all that you do for us, you are the best!
    Keep doing what you do, God is forever honoring your seeds that you plant in all of our lives.
    Felicia Rogan


    23 oriokot

    hi Jermaine, this is real magic to me. coz man I already feel how fancy they sound.thanks


    24 Thao Kamrath

    Hey, you used to write magnificent, but the last several posts have been kinda boring


    25 Collins Barrah

    Sir, you’ve been of immense assistance to me. I’m a newbie into keyboard playing and with the lines I’m being fed with here, my hopes of becoming a professional is high.

    Thanks so much for your generosity.


    26 Richard

    I have always been able to read music.This past year, I have been working on all my chords, scales, inversions. I have found the inversions to be more interesting each day, I practice. Lately, I have been playing from a Gospel Fake book, and I am having a wonderful time. I found, the inversions not only interesting, but very handy. Currently, I have been taking a break from these studies, by playing Rag time music. St.Louis Tickle. I have trouble, with the rhythm. I believe, I am rushing the tempo,Each day, I run my scales, and inversions. I am getting used to your number system.I am still slow, but will continue with you jermaine. You are number one in my book. Respectfully, Richard Blocher,


    27 Sandi


    Another short cut question. I’m 75, know some piano, play in a country band,
    Use only the root cadence harmonic inversion, do not play lead, actually don’t know how. I do take lessons and as I’ve told you before were on inversions. We don’t use augmented chords, nor dim. So could I get by just learning 5 tone numbering system?
    Country is usually 4 chord songs. Will I be messing up the assembly line and leaving out the wiring for the radio?


    28 nsengimana

    thank you too Jermaine to your good courses.


    29 nsengimana

    thank you too Jermaine to your good courses…


    30 Jean

    Hi Jermaine

    may be your wondering whether or not I’m really learning or grasping anything you are teaching I know there must be a lot of people that are doing well or even grasping a lot it’s not that I’m not it just that some people learn more faster than some unfortunately I am one of those people but I want you to no that I have not given up I am still hanging in there I may not have a story to tell now but I’m hoping and praying that I will I really want to do well in my music because it is something that I love I am catching on to some things but still have along road head anyway pray for me
    And you continue to what you your a great teacher stay bless


    31 Andre Springer

    Great voicing example on inversion. Thanks


    32 Edwin

    So wonderful for that lesson.wound you mind explaining the 9th voicings please…


    33 Carolyn

    Thanks for sharing Jermaine. I have been practicing inversions from your blog and it has been very enlighten.
    May God continue to bless you.


    34 kagiso

    Hallelujah! Thank you! God bless yew!


    Leave a Comment

    Previous post:

    Next post: