Guitar chord inversions allow you to create different voicings for a given chord. A variety of voicings can add a little extra flavor and variety to your standard chord sound. Inversions can be a bit tricky at first and harder to identify on your guitar fretboard. But having that knowledge – you’ll notice major changes in the usually ever-improving sound of your playing.
- What are Guitar Chord Inversions
- Guitar Chord Inversions Demystified
- Guitar Chord Inversions
- Root position
- 1st chord inversion
- 2nd chord inversion
- 3rd chord inversion
- Major Triad Guitar Chord Inversions
- Root position
- 1st inversion
- 2nd inversion
- Major Chord Inversion Chart
- Minor Triad Guitar Chord Inversions
- Root position
- 1st inversion
- 2nd inversion
- Minor Chord Inversion Chart
- Additional Chord Inversions
- FAQ for Learning Guitar Chord Inversions
- What are the benefits of learning guitar chord inversions?
- How long will it take to learn guitar chord inversions?
- What are the difficulties with learning guitar chord inversions?
- Which guitar chords are the easiest to play inversions of?
- Which guitar chords are the hardest to play inversions of?
- Do I need a guitar to learn chord inversions on?
- What is the best way to practice chord inversions?
What are Guitar Chord Inversions
Although chord inversion seems complicated, it is actually quite simple.
Inversions of guitar chords are exactly what their name suggests…chords that have been inverted. This means that the arrangement of stacked note positions is altered so that the root note is not in the lowest position. Let’s review chord construction before we dive into the inversion details.
Chords are constructed from triads, which is three notes that are stacked in thirds. These triads consist of the root, third, and fifth intervals.
The B is 3rd from G and the D 3rd from B. Although this example shows a major chord the formula is the same for minor chords. Minor chords will have a minor third instead of a main 3rd.
Guitar Chord Inversions Demystified
This series of lessons will teach you how to invert guitar chords.
A chord inversion, in its simplest form, is when the root is and not the lowest (often called “bass note”) in a chord. This is a chord inversion that means another note occupies the bass position.
These altered bass chords are often written as slash or emoji chords (e.g. C/E would signify a C major chord and an E bass note.
We are simply rearranging the notes of a chord to give us multiple voicings. Mastering chord inversions has two benefits:
- There will be more options for vocalizing a particular chord. Inversions allow you to voicing each note more precisely, which allows for better harmony in your chord changes. As you move along, you’ll see what I mean.
- You will be able to play chords at more positions on your fretboard. This allows for more efficient fingering and more options for adding notes, e.g. You can create phrases around chord shapes.
Guitar Chord Inversions
When the root note of a chord’s root note is in the lowest position (or bass), then the chord is considered to be in that position. The root position of the G major chord is the position where the G note is located in the lowest position. The root position for the G major chord is thus: G – B- D.
It doesn’t really matter what order you choose for the other notes. You can arrange it R-3-5, R-5-3 or any other arrangement. It is only the note in the bottom position that matters, as it determines the inversion.
This principle is universal for all chords.
Root position places the root note in the bass or lowest position.
The G major example will show that the chord’s set of notes is as follows: G-B-D.
1st chord inversion
The first thing you’ll probably want to do is find the lowest note in the chords that u are playing. To create a 3-5-1 stack, start by placing the bass (E) in the third spot of your chord, or th bottom. This creates a slightly different sound than having it in its normal place on top.
The first inversion is the C chord with the bass on E. One commonly used notation to represent notations is a slash. The notes for the first inversion of the G major chord will be as follows: B – D – G.
2nd chord inversion
The second inversion places the 5th in the bass position, creating a stack of 5-1-3. This chord is just like the C chord, but with a different sound and fact it has more notes.
The C chord in second inversion consists of the notes C and G. The lowest note involves is the fifth. In second inversion, the stack of notes for this G major chord will be D-G-B.
3rd chord inversion
In the third inversion, you start on the seventh degree of your major scale and then move downward a semitone. If the seventh degree is at the root (1M), then it’s easier than if it is a semitone below (3M). This can produce a sound discomfort due to this “chromaticism”, as this short distance can give the feeling that we are “missing” the bass (sound) by playing the tonic (core note) a semitone above what it should be. When the seventh is minor, there is no such problem.
Major Triad Guitar Chord Inversions
You learned from the first chord theory lesson that a major triad consists of the root, 3rd and 5th.
For example, a G major triad would consist of the notes G, B and D.
The ‘root’ is the lowest note on the chord voicing, which we call a ‘chord tone’. The other notes of the same pitch are stacked under it.
1 – 3 – 5 and 1 – 5 – 3
The root is the bass note in a chord, which occurs most often in C and G major:
- B1(2) – G5(1) – D3(3) – A1(4)
- e1(2) – B2(2) – G3(3) – D1(4) – A5(4) – E1(2)
In the first chord, we see the 3rd is built on the root whereas in the second one, it’s a 5th. The structure of a piece of music is important and can be reflected by looking at how notes are arranged throughout the piece. In landscape scoring, this octave is at the bottom.
The root note acts as the bass in both these scales, so they sound very similar (1 – 3 – 5 chord form is often used to create a lower sounding 3rd). One thing worth mentioning is knowing their use when playing lead guitar.
The root notes in a chord are the notes at the bottom of each line on a staff. Altering a chord means shifting its root note, which sometimes changes how it sounds.
If you take the notes in a chord and switch their order, the bass note will now act as the most important note. This can be caused by transposing this chord, or reversing one of the other musical keys.
With the chord scheme of a major triad, the 3rd becomes the bass and the 5th is stacked over it.
3 – 5 – 1
So, if you wanted a 1st inversion G major chord, find the root note of G on the D string (the 6th fret) and then build one of the corresponding shapes below (now you can memorise these).
- E String Bass: G5(4) – D1(2) – A5(2) – E3(4)
- A String Bass: B3(2) – G1(2) – D5(2) – A3(4)
- D String Bass: B1(3) – G5(2) – D3(4)
Inversions often create difficult intervals to pick out but the 3rd of a second inversion triad is definitely not one of them. The 5th root and 3rd are above it.
5 – 1 – 3
Chord shapes that are similar to each other, but with just a single difference. This is helpful for when you need to bring in new strings for a variety of takes on lines and lyrics.
- E String Bass: G5(1) – D3(3) – A1(4) – E5(4)
- A String Bass: B5(2) – G3(3) – D1(4) – A5(4)
- D String Bass: e5(2) – B3(4) – G1(4) – D5(4)
Major Chord Inversion Chart
The following table may come in handy for referencing specific chords and their inversions.
|Triad||Root Pos. |
(1 3 5)
|1st Inv. |
(3 5 1)
|2nd Inv. |
(5 1 3)
|Cmaj||C E G||E G C||G C E|
|C#maj||C# E# G#||E# G# C#||G# C# E#|
|Dmaj||D F# A||F# A D||A D F#|
|Ebmaj||Eb G Bb||G Eb Bb||Bb Eb G|
|Emaj||E G# B||G# E B||B E G#|
|Fmaj||F A C||A C F||C F A|
|F#maj||F# A# C#||A# C# F#||C# F# A#|
|Gmaj||G B D||B D G||D G B|
|Abmaj||Ab C Eb||C Eb Ab||Eb Ab C|
|Amaj||A C# E||C# E A||E A C#|
|Bbmaj||Bb D F||D F Bb||F Bb D|
|Bmaj||B D# F#||D# F# B||F# B D#|
Minor Triad Guitar Chord Inversions
If you’ve come this far, you should know that a minor triad consists of a root (1), minor 3rd (b3) and 5th (5).
When the root note is the bass note of a chord, we have two versions where the tonic is placed on an A and another where it’s on a B.
1 – b3 – 5 and 1 – 5 – b3
It’s a lot easier to work on the fretboard when you’ve taken the major forms and flattened them into minor 3rds.
- G5(1) – Db3(2) – A1(4)
- e1(2) – B5(2) – Gb3(2) – D1(4) – A5(4) – E1(2)
With a minor triad first inversion, the minor 3rd becomes the bass and the 5th and root are stacked above.
b3 – 5 – 1
What suggestions do you have for using the “3” chord? It can help thicken up your chord progressions.
- E String Bass: Gb3(1) – D1(3) – A5(3) – Eb3(4)
- A String Bass: Bb3(2) – G1(3) – D5(3) – Ab3(4)
- D String Bass: B1(3) – G5(2) – Db3(3)
The 5th becomes the bass with the root and minor 3rd.
5 – 1 – b3
The optional 7th is a nice addition to the minor 3rd but it doesn’t have to be there.
- E String Bass: Db3(2) – A1(4) – E5(4)
- A String Bass: B5(2) – Gb3(2) – D1(4) – A5(4)
- D String Bass: e5(2) – Bb3(3) – G1(4) – D5(4)
Tip: of these inversion forms can be used to replace the barre chord forms that you may already know.
The D string bass, for example, is the A shape minor barre chord that was shown above without the root on A string.
The E shape minor barre chord is used to create the A string bass.
It’s important to know the E, A, E, D, C, and G form chords as they are the basis of most chord shapes. These core shapes include all of the 3/4 note inversions that you will ever need.
Minor Chord Inversion Chart
|Triad||Root Pos. |
(1 b3 5)
|1st Inv. |
(b3 5 1)
|2nd Inv. |
(5 1 b3)
|Cm||C Eb G||Eb G C||G C Eb|
|C#m||C# E G#||E G# C#||G# C# E|
|Dm||D F A||F A D||A D F|
|Ebm||Eb Gb Bb||Gb Eb Bb||Bb Eb Gb|
|Em||E G B||G E B||B E G|
|Fm||F Ab C||Ab C F||C F Ab|
|F#m||F# A C#||A C# F#||C# F# A|
|Gm||G Bb D||Bb D G||D G Bb|
|Abm||Ab Cb Eb||Cb Eb Ab||Eb Ab Cb|
|Am||A C E||C E A||E A C|
|Bbm||Bb Db F||Db F Bb||F Bb Db|
|Bm||B D F#||D F# B||F# B D|
Additional Chord Inversions
The number of chord notes determines how many inversions you can have. There are more inversions possible for a chord if there are more notes.
A major 7th chord (maj7), for example, will have the root position as well as three inversions.
This is true for add9, sus2 chords, etc. It doesn’t matter how the notes are arranged outside of the bass position.
Chord inversions on guitar are simply a way to arrange the notes of a chord so that a note other than the root is in a lower position (bass). You can play different chord inversions, which allow you to add variety and flavor. These chord inversions can be used to enhance your playing by being incorporated into chord progressions that you already know.
Incorporate the following guitar chord inversions in your songwriting and practice. You will find that your ear is more able to recognize these chords and anticipate them in a sequence.
FAQ for Learning Guitar Chord Inversions
What are the benefits of learning guitar chord inversions?
Learning guitar chord inversions can be a daunting task. It can take years to learn the chords and their inversions, but there are benefits to doing so. Guitarists who know the chords and their inversions have an advanced knowledge of music theory and are able to play any song or chord progression that they come across.
How long will it take to learn guitar chord inversions?
It will take a lot of time and practice to learn guitar chord inversions. You need to be patient and work on it everyday for at least 30 minutes. It can take up to a year or two before you can master the skill of playing guitar chord inversions.
What are the difficulties with learning guitar chord inversions?
Learning guitar chord inversions can be a difficult task for beginners. It is important to learn the fingerings and understand the underlying theory behind chord inversions before you start learning them.
Which guitar chords are the easiest to play inversions of?
The easiest guitar chords to play inversions of are the ones that only require you to use one finger on one fret. The easiest guitar chords to play inversions of are the C, G, and D chords.
Which guitar chords are the hardest to play inversions of?
The hardest guitar chords to play inversions of are the ones that have more than one finger on the same fret. This is because you have to move your fingers a lot more for these chords. The hardest guitar chords to play inversions of are the ones that require you to use your pinky finger. These chords include the A, B, C and D chords.
Do I need a guitar to learn chord inversions on?
No, you don’t need a guitar to learn chord inversions. You can use your computer keyboard to play the chords.
The chords are written as “C/E”, this means that you play the C chord with your left hand and the E chord with your right hand.
What is the best way to practice chord inversions?
Inversions are the rearrangement of the notes of a chord. When you invert a chord, you change the order of its notes, so that instead of playing them all on the same string or at the same fret, they are played on different strings or frets.
The best way to practice chord inversions is to use a guitar tuner and play each note on an open string, then move up one fret and play it again. This will help you get used to how different chords sound when they are inverted.