Before I show you what guitar chord inversions are I would like give you a brief definition about the guitar triads.
Guitar triads are 3 note chords and it is very important for every guitarist to have a full understanding of these before moving on and learning larger chord extensions.
Chords are derived from scales. For example look at the C major scale below and notice how each note of the major scale is given a roman numeral indicating it’s position. The number is referred to as degree ( for more info about degrees and their importance concerning guitar playing feel free to read this article in which I explain how you can analyze a scale from 3 points of view and which way is the most beneficial on the long run).
In our example D is a second degree, G is a fifth degree and so on, I hope you get the idea
I would also like to mention that in the below diagram :
- 2 stands for whole step or tone (T)
- 1 stands half step or semitone (St)
- The C major scale is made out of C D E F G A B C (which means T T St T T T St)
So now we know what are guitar triads, what are chords derived from, but the question now is how do we construct a triad and how many types of triads there are ?
Triads are built from the root (I), 3rd degree (III) and 5th degree (V). These notes can be altered (more on alterations on page 28 in The Guitar Blueprint to success free gift) in such a way as to give us 4 types of triads :
1. Major – consists on I – III – V degrees. This means C E and G (we are going to use the C triad in our example).
In guitar interval terms it means one major Third followed by a minor third (More on guitar intervals here)
2. Minor – consists on I – III b (flat 3rd degree) – V degrees. This means C Eb and G
In guitar interval terms this means: one minor third followed by a major third
3. Augmented – consists on I – III – V#. This means C E and G#
In guitar interval terms this means 2 major thirds
4. Diminished – consists on I – III b – V b. This means C Eb and Gb
In guitar interval terms this means 2 minor thirds
Finally, Guitar chord inversions explained
Now we know what triads are and how to build them. The questions that remains is what are guitar chord inversions ?
Let’s recap the C major triad.
We know that C major triad consists on degrees I III and V in any major scale.
This means C major triad is C E and G. When the notes are sounded from bottom to up in root, 3rd and 5th order it is referred to as being in root position.
When the notes are sounded in 3rd, 5th and root order, the term first inversion is used.
This means the first guitar inversion of the C major triad is E G C ( III V and I degrees )
In guitar interval terms this means minor 3rd and perfect fourth
The order 5th, 3rd and 1st is the second inversion.
This means that our second inversion of the C major triad is G C E ( V I and III degrees)
In interval terms this means perfect fourth and major 3rd.
So basically we have 3 different guitar chords made out of the same notes.
- We have root position which is C E G
- We have first inversion which is E G C
- We have second inversion which is G C E
Guitar chord inversions conclusion
That’s the story on triads and guitar chord inversions. It really isn’t very complicated once you understand them.
In order to better comprehend them you should try taking a piece of paper and write down the triads and inversions on all possible notes. You can start with C major and write the triads followed by their guitar chord inversions. Do that once a day and you will see some very good results.
In a future article I am going to post diagrams for all the guitar chord inversions so you can see better how they look.
Now take your guitar and have fun with the guitar chord inversions.