Last lesson, I covered interval inversions. You can re-read that now, if you want, though it's not a big deal if you don't. To summarize, inverting an interval just means measuring the distance between two notes starting on the second note instead of the first note, for example, instead of counting the distance from C to G (perfect fifth), you can start at G and count up to the C an octave above, giving you a perfect fourth.
A chord inversion is similar. It just means starting the chord on a note other than the tonic note.
I'll start with an example. Take a C major chord. (You can review major chords, if you want). It contains the following notes:
The intervals involved are the major third (from C to E) and perfect fifth (from C to G).
If we take the same notes, but start the chord on the E instead of the C, we get:
This is called the first inversion of the C major chord. This new chord, using the exact same notes, now has the intervals of minor third (from E to G) and minor sixth (from E to C). How did this happen?
Well, we can see that the first interval there, from the E to the G, was there all along in the C major. It just wasn't considered that important since we were taking our measurements starting from the C instead of the G. Now that the E is on the bottom, it becomes a more important interval.
Next, the minor sixth interval, from E to C. Well, this is just the inversion of the interval from C to E. You can see why it's called an inverted chord.
This new chord is written as C/E and is read as "C over E." That means it's a C chord with E in the bass.
If we were playing piano or composing an orchestral score, we could line up all the other notes in just-so order. On guitar, we worry mostly about the bass note and let the other notes fall where ever they are easiest to play. So to play the C/E, we can just play a regular C chord but add an E in the bass. This is very convenient for us, since the guitar's sixth and lowest string is tuned to an E. We can just play it open, like so:
Because the lowest interval is now minor instead of major, it gives the chord a different sound. It sounds more "minor" than a normal C major chord, even though it contains the same notes.
If we do the same thing, but put the G on the bottom instead of the E, we get the second inversion. The notes are:
The intervals starting from the G are the perfect fourth (from G to C) and the major sixth (from G to E). Since neither of these is a major or minor third, the chord has a similar feel to a suspended chord, with a somewhat ambiguous sound. This kind of sound is great for a rock and roll kind of feel, so you'll often see the C/G shape referred to as the "power C."
Here's one way to play a C/G:
I've shown a couple of examples starting with a C major chord, but the same thing can be done with any chord. Here are some examples. Click on any chord name to see how to play it at the Chorderator.
|chord||first inversion||second inversion||third inversion|
I could keep going, but I think you get the idea. In addition, the Chorderator provides a list of all possible inversions for any chord you type in.
Enjoy! See you next time.
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