How Chord Inversions Work - Music Theory

Music Matters
29 Nov 202113:10
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TLDRThe video explains chord inversions - reordering the notes of a chord so that the root, third, or fifth is the lowest note. It covers constructing inversions, labeling them using Roman numerals with 'b' for first inversion and 'c' for second, recognizing inversions by identifying the chord and lowest note, and using inversions for harmonic variety. The purpose is to empower musicians to employ inversions when composing or analyzing music to make it more interesting. Resources for further study of chords and training musical skills are also mentioned.

  • πŸ˜€ The video explains chord inversions - how to construct, recognize and use them
  • πŸ‘ Chord inversions add variety and interest to harmony
  • πŸ’‘ To find the chord, look at the notes and match to a triad
  • πŸ” To find the inversion, see which chord tone is the lowest note
  • 🎹 Doubling a chord tone turns 3 notes into 4 part harmony
  • 😊 Root position chords sound most stable on their own
  • πŸ€” First inversion chords also sound quite stable
  • πŸ˜• Second inversion chords sound unresolved
  • ✏️ Chord inversions are labeled with Roman numerals and b/6 for 1st inversion, c/6,4 for 2nd
  • πŸ’– Inversions allow smooth voice leading between chords
Q & A
  • What is the purpose of using chord inversions?

    -Using chord inversions adds variety and interest to the music. It allows the composer to smoothly connect chords together. Second inversion chords also tend to 'want to resolve' to another chord, adding harmonic momentum.

  • How do you identify which chord an inverted chord is based on?

    -Look at the notes in the chord to see which triad they match - this tells you which chord the inverted chord is based on. For example, the notes E, C, G match chord V.

  • What are the differences between UK and US chord notation?

    -The UK uses 'b' to indicate a first inversion (e.g. Ib) and 'c' to indicate a second inversion (Ic). The US uses figured bass numerals, with '6' for first inversion (I6) and '6,4' for second inversion (I6,4).

  • What does it mean if a chord has no indicator after the roman numeral?

    -If there is no indicator after the roman numeral chord name, like just a plain 'I', it means the chord is in root position.

  • Which chord inversions are most and least commonly used?

    -Root position chords are the most commonly used, with a fair number of first inversions. Second inversion chords are used the least frequently.

  • What happens if you double different notes when creating a four-part chord?

    -Doubling different notes in the four-part harmony just changes which note is heard in multiple octaves. There are rules about preferable notes to double on each chord.

  • Why introduce chord inversions instead of only using root position chords?

    -Using only root position chords can sound boring and repetitive. Adding inversions makes the chord progression more interesting and varied.

  • How can you tell if a chord wants to resolve to another chord?

    -If a chord is in second inversion, it tends to sound unresolved on its own and 'want' to move to another chord to complete the musical thought.

  • What resources on the website can you use to improve chord and harmony skills?

    -The advanced theory course covers chords more deeply. The keyboard harmony course helps apply the theory. The aural dictation course trains your ear to recognize chords.

  • What is the Maestros group on the website?

    -The Maestros group provides a monthly livestream for musicians to share music they are playing/composing, learn together, and connect as a community.

πŸ˜€ Introducing Chord Inversions

Gareth introduces the video on chord inversions. He shows how to construct basic chords using the notes of the F major scale and label them with Roman numerals. He then demonstrates how to turn the 3 note chords into 4 part harmony by doubling one of the notes. Finally, he defines root position when the root of the chord is the lowest sounding note.

πŸ˜ƒ Explaining First and Second Inversions

Gareth explains first inversion by putting chord I with the third (A) as the lowest sounding note. This would be called Ib in the UK tradition or I6 in the US. He then demonstrates second inversion by putting chord I with the fifth (C) as the lowest note. This would be called Ic or I6,4. He notes second inversions sound incomplete on their own and want to resolve, unlike root positions and first inversions.

😊 Discussing Purposes and Recognizing Inversions

Gareth discusses why inversions are useful, adding variety so not all chords are in root position. He shows how to recognize inversions by figuring out the chord from its notes, then seeing if the lowest note is the root, third or fifth. He demonstrates identifying a Vb or V6 chord. Finally, he lets viewers know there are more music theory courses on his website to build on this.

Chords are created by playing multiple notes simultaneously. The script discusses building chords in the key of F major using the first 7 notes of the F major scale as a starting point. Chords help provide harmony and accompany melodies in music.
A triad is a 3-note chord built by stacking notes in thirds from a scale. The script shows triads being built on each note of the F major scale to identify the 7 diatonic chords.
Inversions refer to changing which note of a chord is the lowest sounding (in the bass). Root position has the root note in the bass. 1st inversion has the 3rd in the bass. 2nd inversion has the 5th in the bass. Inversions create harmonic variety.
πŸ’‘Four-part harmony
Four-part harmony involves dividing chords between 4 vocal parts: bass, tenor, alto, and soprano. The script shows converting triads to four parts by doubling one of the chord tones.
Doubling refers to repeating one of the notes of a triad chord in four-part writing. This turns the 3-note triad into a 4-note chord. Rules govern what notes should/should not be doubled.
πŸ’‘Roman numerals
Roman numerals are used to label chords based on their scale degree. Chord I uses the 1st note, Chord ii uses the 2nd note etc. This allows the chords to be easily identified.
Resolution refers to the sense of finality when a chord progression concludes. The video states second inversion chords sound unresolved and want to continue onward to create resolution.
Using different chord inversions creates greater harmonic variety and interest. The video encourages using inversions to make chord progressions less monotonous.
Composing refers to creating original music. The creator of the video recommends composers use chord inversions to make their compositions more interesting.
πŸ’‘Aural dictation
Aural dictation involves hearing music and notating what you hear. It trains ear skills to identify chords/inversions by their sound. This links to analyzing music through careful listening.

Chords are constructed by stacking thirds and fifths on top of the notes in a scale.

Chord inversions rearrange the order of notes in a chord, while keeping the same essential harmony.

Doubling a chord tone turns a triad into a four-note chord.

Chord inversions add variety and allow smooth connections between chords.

Root position chords sound stable on their own, first inversions less so, second inversions want resolution.

Second inversion chords are used more occasionally than root position and first inversion.

In the UK, first inversion is marked with "b", second inversion with "c" after the roman numeral.

In the US, first inversion is marked with "6", second inversion with "6,4" after the roman numeral.

To identify a chord inversion, determine which chord fits the notes, then see which chord tone is the bass note.

Assume a roman numeral by itself refers to a root position chord.

Learn more advanced harmony and applying theory on keyboard/ear training at

Share your musical journey with others in the online Maestros community.

Putting all chords in root position becomes tedious - inversions create variety.

Inversions allow smooth voice leading from one chord to the next.

Second inversion chords want to resolve and continue moving somewhere else.

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