Learning Guitar Chord Inversions

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Guitar chord inversions allow you to create different voicings for a given chord. These voicings can add a little flavor and variety to the typical chord sound. While “chord inversion” may sound complicated, it’s actually quite simple. Let’s take a look.

What are guitar chord inversions?

Chord inversions are what the name implies…chords that are inverted. What this means is that the arrangement of stacked notes is changed so the root note is no longer in the bass (lowest note) position. Before we get into the details of inversions, let’s first do a little review of chord construction.

Triads

Chords are built on triads, or three notes stacked in thirds. These triads are formed of the root, 3rd, and 5th intervals. As an example, let’s look at the G major chord, which consists of the notes G – B – D.

Building Chords - G Major Triad

Inversions

Chords are in the root position when the root note of the chord is in the bass, or lowest, position. In terms of the G major chord above, the root position is when the G note is in the bass position. The order of the other notes doesn’t matter. It can be arranged 1-3-5, 1-5-3 etc. The only thing that matters is the note in the bass position as this is what determines the inversion.

Root Position

The root position places the root note in the bass position.
G triad root position

First Inversion

The first chord inversion places the 3rd in the bass position, creating a 3-5-1 stack.
G triad first inversion

Second Inversion

The second chord inversion puts the 5th in the bass position, creating a 5-1-3 stack.
G triad second inversion

Common chord inversion patterns

Below are common guitar chord inversion patterns for the 4th, 5th, and 6th strings. These patterns can be used for any root note.

4th string guitar chord inversions

5th string guitar chord inversions

6th string guitar chord inversions

Additional Inversions

The number of inversions for a chord is dependent on the number of notes in the chord. For example, a major 7th chord (maj7) will have the root position and three inversions.

maj7 chord inversions

This applies to 9, add9, sus2 chords etc. Again, the ordering of the notes outside of the bass position doesn’t matter.

Wrap Up

Guitar chord inversions are just a rearranging of the notes of a chord such that a note aside from the root is in the bass (lowest) position. Chord inversions allow you to play different voicings and add variety and flavor to your playing. They’re also useful for incorporating into lead playing and rhythm fills.

How do you incorporate them into your playing?

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