Chord Inversions 101: Expanding Your Chordal Knowledge

chord-inversions

One of the the things I wrestled with when I first started learning guitar was chords. If a piece of music had a Gmaj7; for example, I only knew the standard fingering on the 3rd fret.

The notes for Gmaj7 are: G(root) on the 6th string, 3rd fret. F#(7th) on the 4th string, 4th fret. B(3rd) on the 3rd string, 4th fret. D(5th) on the 2nd String, 3rd fret.

In the late 70’s, I studied with 2 brilliant jazz guitarists named Mike Gari and Rodney Jones.

Mike taught me how to invert chords I already knew so that I could discover new voicings.

This expanded my knowledge of the neck and gave me more options for comping and solo guitar playing as well. I applied the inversions I learned to jazz standards I was already familiar with such as: satin doll, all the things you are, autumn leaves, etc. The kind of standards you can find in the Real Book.

Rodney Jones helped increase my chord vocabulary as well. He taught me how to solo over chord changes using various scales and arpeggios.

Rodney was well versed in the style of Wes Montgomery. Wes was a beautiful player who used his thumb in lieu of a pick. He was known for his prodigious chord soloing and his use of octaves. Take a look at how Wes played, in this video:

Rodney had me working on chord soloing over various blues forms and standards.

First you choose a chord. Then you take the root, 3rd, 5th and 7th and figure out different fingerings all over the neck.

These are also known as chords inversions.

You want to target 3 string groupings: 6, 5, 4, 3 and 5, 4, 3, 2 and 4, 3, 2, 1.

Intro to Chord Inversions – Understanding the Basics

What are chord inversions?

Inversions are chords in which the notes have changed order and the tonic (the root of the chord) is no longer the bass note. For example, if you see the chord symbol C/E it simply means that E (which is the 3rd note in the C major scale) becomes the bass note.

How do you use chord inversions?

Chord inversions can be used to make an otherwise boring progression a bit more interesting. It can also be used to animate a static bass line. They allow you more choices as far as voicings are concerned.

How many Chord inversions are there?

It’s hard to say how many chord inversions there are. Using the method you are about learn will enable you to generate at least 16 inversions out of one chord.

1) Let’s start with string grouping 6, 5, 4, 3.

The chord we want to work with is Gmaj7.

The notes in the chord, again, are G (root), B (3rd) F# (7th) and D (5th)

On string #6, at fret number 3 we have G (root)
On string #5, at fret number 5 we have D (5th)
On string #4, at fret number 4 we have (F#)(7th)
On string #3, at fret number 4 we have(B)3rd

The next inversion on the same string set of strings is:

On string #6, at fret number 7, we have B (3)
On string #5, at fret number 9 , we have F# (7th)
On string #4, at fret number 5, we have G (root)
On string #3, at fret number 7, we have D (5th)

The next inversion on the same string set of strings is:

On string #6 , at fret number 10, we have D (5th)
On string #5, at fret number 10, we have G (root)
On string #4, at fret number 9, we have B(3rd)
On String #3, at fret number 11, we have F# (7th)

The last inversion of this group is:

On string #6, at fret #14 we have F#(7th)
On string #5, at fret # 14 we have B(3rd)
On string #4, at fret # 12 we have D(5th)
On string #3, at fret #12 we have G(root)

2) Moving on to the next string grouping 5, 4, 3, 2.

This grouping consists of strings 5(A) 4(D) 3 (G) and 2 (B).

The first inversion is:

On string #5, at fret number 2 (B)-3rd
On string #4, at fret number 4 (F#)-7th
On string #3, open (G)-root
On string #2, at fret number 3 (D)

The second inversion is

On string #5(A) at fret #5 we have D (5th
On string #4(D)at fret #5 we have G (root)
On string #3(G) at fret #4 we have B(3rd)
On string #2(B) at fret #7 we have F#(7th)

The 3rd inversion is on:

String #5(A)At fret #9 we have F#(7th)
String #4(D) At fret #9 we have B(3rd)
String #3(G) At fret #7 we have D(5th)
String #2(B) At fret #8 we have G(root)

The final inversion in this string grouping is on:

String #5(A) At fret #10 we have G(root)
String #4(D) At fret #12 we have D(5th)
String #3(G) At fret #11 we have F#(7th)
String #2(B)At fret #12 we have B(3rd)

3) This is the final set of strings: 4(D) 3(G) 2(B) 1(E)

String #4(D) at fret# 0, D(5th)
String #3(G) at fret #0,G(root)
String #2(B) at fret #0,B(3rd)
String #1(E) at fret #2,F#(7th)

Next inversion is on:

String #4(D) is at fret #4, F#(7th)
String #3(G)is at fret #4,B(3rd)
String #2(B) is at fret #3,D(5th)
String #1(E) is at fret #3,G(root)

The 3rd inversion is :

String #4(D)is at fret #5, G(root)
String #3(G) is at fret #7,D(5th)
String #2(B)is at fret #7, F#(7th)
String #1(E) is at fret #7, B(3rd)

The 4th and final inversion is:

String #4(D)is at fret #9, B(3rd)
String #3(G)is at fret #11, F#(7th)
String #2(B)is at fret #8,G(root)
String #1(E) is at fret #10,D(5th)

I hope these examples are of great help. Whether you play in a solo, duet or group situation, these inversions will give you more options.

God bless y’all! See u next time. 🙂🎸

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