21. Chord inversions

So it took you a whole week to find someone capable of explaining this stuff to you?

1. Topics of discussion

In this tutorial, we will be taking a look at the concept of chord inversions, by inverting them triads and seeing what that leaves us with. So, let’s have some fun.

2. Chord inversions explained

Chord inversions occur when we take a triad, say a major one, and play either only the root note an octave higher, or both the root and middle notes an octave higher.

What is known as the first inversion of a chord is obtained by taking the root note and playing it an octave higher. For a major triad, say C-E-G, this translates to E-G-C. On a musical sheet, this looks something like this:


As I’ve said, we can move both the first and second notes of the triad an octave higher, which gives as a G-C-E triad. This inversion is known as the second inversion and on a sheet looks like this:


As you can see, these are called inversions because we are playing the same notes from the major triad, only in a different order.

When it comes to guitar this is notated by using a slash chord. Slash chords are not named after the famous Guns’N’Roses, Velvet Revolver and Slash feat. Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators guitarist named…Slash. Rather, they represent an inversion.

If we were to take the two inversions of the C chord, these would be C/E and C/G. These are read as C over E and C over G respectively, where the E and G notes represent the notes on which you start the triad. As you can see, in the first inversion, the triad starts on E, while in the second inversion, the triad start on G.

The most basic way in which you can play the first inversion (C/E) is this:


As you can see, it’s basically a C chord, but rather than starting on the A string, we start on the D string, 2nd fret. And if we omit the D string as well, we get the most basic form of the C/G inversion:


You can play around on your fretboard in order to find variations for these inversions. They come in very handy when you want to spice things up in your progressions by adding that small twist to basic chords.

That about covers it for this tutorial. Next time, we are going to take a look at suspended chords. See you then.

Chord charts generated using this chord generator

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