1 Music Theory – 1F Chord Inversions

In this lesson we will learn:

To understand and form inversions for triads and four note chords

Inversions are just another “form” or “shape” of playing the same chord. In practice it means moving the lowest note of a chord up an octave while keeping the other two in the same place. Likewise you can move the highest note of a chord down an octave while keeping the other two in place. You can repeat the process as many times as needed until you reach the chord position you started with. Triads have 3 positions (1 root and 2 inversions) and four note chords have 4 positions (1 root and 3 inversions). The examples below have the “universal numeric pattern”. It means that for example the 1-3-5 pattern covers all 1-3-5 patterns (1-3-5/ 1-b3-5 / 1-b3-b5 / 1-3-#5 etc.). The same is true for the 1-3-5-7 patterns as well. The examples are all in the key of C. Knowing your inversions is important since you can then play a wider variety of melody notes that fit the harmony. 


Inv. Triads

Root position (1-3-5)

1st inversion (3-5-1)

2nd inversion (5-1-3)

Note: If you do another inversion thus going into the “third inversion” you actually get to the root position of the chord again, just an octave higher. You can also go the other way. Starting on root you can go down to 2nd inversion and down again to 1st inversion before going back to root position. Note that you don’t have to start on root position. The chord is still the same regardless of the inversion. 

Four note chords

Inv. Four Note Chords
Inv. Four Note Chords

Root position (1-3-5-7)

1st inversion (3-5-7-1)

2nd inversion (5-7-1-3)

3rd inversion (7-1-3-5)

Additional information available!

Additional information available regarding the subject. The information covers inversions more deeply. It gives a brief look into interval inversions, mathematics behind inversions, chord application and “wide” (over five note chord) inversions. Click on the button below to go to the “Additional Information” page.

(c) Sibil Yanev 2019