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Confused about Inversions and Modes

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by baddarryl, Feb 6, 2013.

  1. baddarryl


    Oct 26, 2008
    Cape Fear!
    I have a book that says "Inversions are ways of playing notes from a parent scale." From C maj, 1st Inversion starting with D and playing through D. 2nd inversion E -E etc. 1st Inversion starts with 2nd degree, 2nd Iversion starts with 3rd degree of the scale.

    "Modes are called functional variations on the seven steps of the major scale." Dorian based on 2nd Degree, Phrygian based on 3rd degree etc.

    What is the difference? Appears to be saying the same thing to me. Thank you.
  2. In that book you're reading, based on what you posted, the author seems to be writing of "scale inversions", which would be the same thing as a modern concept of "modes". IME, most people use the word "inversions" to talk of chords, and the word "modes" to talk of scales.
  3. are you sure it doesn’t say start on E?
  4. +1 ^^^
  5. baddarryl


    Oct 26, 2008
    Cape Fear!
    Yes, my mistake, E-E

    Fixed it. Thanks.
  6. baddarryl


    Oct 26, 2008
    Cape Fear!
    Yes he mentions Scale Inversions. If that is the case, and to me it seems so, what is the chord inversion you reference? In other words I think I understand in chord inversions how the high note of the triad becomes the root of the chord. Correct? How does this apply to bass?
  7. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    How do chord inversion pertain to the bass? I ignore them. Course I live by root on 1. Inversions are easy on the piano, little harder on guitar and IMO have little value on the bass. Of course IMO.

    Chord inversions and modes:
    C chord C-E-G or
    .......... E-G-C or
    .......... G-C-E same notes just in different order and yes they are all C chords, but, they do sound different as the root note has changed.

    Now modes - same principal. Most of us started out with Relative modes. Relative modes the key changes and the notes stay the same. Take another look at the chord inversion above. Same principle. This method is easy to teach, and is probably how you were introduced to modes.
  8. Snarf


    Jan 23, 2005
    New York, NY
    They sure make it easier to play lines, and to help you learn the geography of the fingerboard . . . . . . .
  9. Sni77


    Aug 23, 2012
    Vienna, Austria
    Get yourself a new book. This seems to be overly complicated and is just confusing you. This does not have to be the case at all.
    Modes and chord inversions are relatively easy principles.
  10. ryco


    Apr 24, 2005

    speaking in terms of chordal inversion arrpeggios, also helps one understand you don't always have to play the root of the chord on the first beat.
    But root on 1 is the "money" note :D
  11. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    You need to clear up some misconceptions before you move forward. First of all the root of the chord is always the note on which the chord is named, regadless of where that note falls in how a chord is voiced.

    Secondly, since chords should be built using four notes to best define diatonic harmonic function, it is uncommon for the "top note of the chord" (which would be the natural 7th, the b7th or the bb7th) to become the bass note of the chord. Inversions are built like this (with the 3rd, 5th, and/or 7ths natural or flatted as appropritate to chord function):

    Root poistion: root, 3rd, 5th, 7th
    1st inversion: the 3rd becomes the bass note and the root moves somewhere higher. A common version is 3rd, 5th, 7th, root, although most musicians would consider any voicing with the 3rd in the bass to be 1st inversion.
    2nd inversion is the 5th in the bass, and so forth.
  12. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    ^ Agreed.

    'Inversion', as far as music goes, is used in three ways: inversion of an interval, inversion of a chord (triads here, seventh chords here), or inversion of a melody. (As an aside, the guy in the last link uses "tonal" and "strict" to refer to transformations that occur within the parameters of diatonicism or by specific intervals, respectively. You'll also hear "tonal" and "real", particularly when dealing with situations such as sequences.)

    Inversion of a parent scale? I get what they're saying, but I would caution against the thinking that this book seems to be promoting. "Rotation" is the technique that this book is describing, and I wouldn't even go so far as to waste your time learning that. Modes are given more credit than they deserve. Learn yer chords, learn how to move through a chord progression. That is worth learning.
  13. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    I find them indispensible when playing over static chords, but ymmv. I wouldn't dismiss them completely however, especially if you're into walking bass where they really start to shine.
  14. TDP333


    Jan 10, 2013
    To invert something is to turn it into its exact structural opposite. In music this isn't quite so straight forward as there may be several possible inversions of a particular harmonic structure, as others have mentioned first, second, third and fourth inversions in a 7th chord for example.
    In music theory as I understand it inversions normally apply to harmonic content or vertical structures i.e. chords; retrograde is the term applied to melodic content, reversing a particular phrase for example and the term mode is usually applied when playing what is effectively an inversion of a scale… just to confuse matters.

    However applying inversions to scales and modes can be quite useful, the Lydian Dominant scale for example is a mode or inversion derived from the Melodic Minor Scale, it is often used by Jazz cats playing over b5 substitutions.
    In a slightly simpler context, modes of scales or other modes can be useful in modal music or tunes with a fairly static harmony as a way of shifting emphasis in a solo, passage or phrase while staying within the general confines of the harmony, therefore exploring a different colour or point of focus. Consider it photographing the same object but from slightly different angles, telling the same story but with a unique perspective. They can also be handy for keeping yourself in check when moving around the fingerboard.

    Really though it all comes down to the individual and the application of the idea, each book explains things slightly differently to better or worse effect and everyone will adopt and interpret that information and its possibilities differently. It is also the case that what may be a good way of understanding or explaining a theoretical concept or technique is not always the best way of applying it.
    I have had at times a habit of feeling I have to thoroughly understand everything about a concept, including that concepts relation to every other conceivable concept before I can employ them. While this has helped my understanding I feel it has hampered my development, as the ideas that develop organically are the ones that tend to stick and they are also more personal statements.

    Theory is always a difficult subject, but the best book I have found is Jazzology (an encyclopaedia of Jazz theory), it is great for all musicians not just jazz musicians.

    All the best for your studies!
  15. Gaius46


    Dec 15, 2010
    Same here. And not only for walking. I'd guess I play 2nd inversion almost as often as root. Playing lowered 5th r/5 lines is commonplace.
  16. baddarryl


    Oct 26, 2008
    Cape Fear!
    Discovered that too once I read specifically about inverted Chords. Author is talking about inversions of scales, which really are the same as modes as far as I can tell. True?
  17. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    Seventh chords only have three inversions. Root position, first inversion (3rd in bass), second inversion (5th in bass), and third inversion (7th in bass).

    Retrograde and inversion are two separate entities. Retrograde is a melody played backwards, inversion is a melody played upside-down. So, if the prime form of the melody is C D E C F G D, these are the transformations:

    Retrograde: D G F C E D C
    Inversion: C B A C G F B
    Retrograde inversion: B F G C A B C

    In real music, these terms are often used just to describe a shape. If there is a three-note ascending pattern that ends with four repeated notes at the top, then a three-note descending pattern with four repeated notes at the bottom, the second is said to be an inversion of the first. If the melody is four repeated notes followed by three descending notes, that is the retrograde. Or, if it's four repeated notes followed by three ascending notes, it's retrograde inversion.

    Yes, but it's an awful way of describing them. If you must concern yourself with modes, call them "modes", and none of this 'inversion' crap.
  18. TDP333


    Jan 10, 2013
    I totally agree: only three inversions in seventh chord, and I did muddy the waters by bringing in retrograde while talking about inversions, I should have spent a bit more time thinking and not so much typing! Thanks for picking me up! :)

    I think this actually outlines the difficulty many (and apparently myself) have with inversion quite well. As the function can be perceived to vary depending on the application. In melodic inversion the content (notes) can change and it is the overall intervallic shape that is inverted (often with the inversion then being re-located for counterpoint- I think this is transpositional inversion – correct me if I’m wrong) whereas during inversion of a chord or scale the notes remain and the inversion is the displacement of the order C-E-G, E-G-C etc, and then you have the inversion of a single interval where for example an ascending 2nd becomes a descending 7th visa-versa etc.
    I think the problem is, it is clear where the inversion occurs in any one example, but when looking across examples as the application varies its easy to get confused, especially if it’s a concept your new to.

    To compound the confusion it sounds as if baddarryl's book isn’t making matters any easier!

    Bainbridge, your clearly on top of this stuff, are there any good books out there your aware of? Thanks again!
  19. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Modes are inversions of the C scale....that is how they are constructed, not how they can be used.
    Learning modes is an easy five minute lesson if you know scales, but all you are learning is the association of construction, not use, how you can use them can be a lifetime of learning and work....as Bainbridge has highlighted in just a few options to think on.

    If you take everything you know about music, modes offer you another six ways to look at what you know and add new dimensions to it.
    Goes without saying, limited musical knowledge means limited use of what modes can do for you.
    You also run the risk of being taken into areas you just do not understand and come out the other end confused with more questions than answers because you really need a solid foundations of harmony and melody first.
    So a book on modes will only really work for you of it has good foundations to work on, so some good books that works on understanding the use of harmony and melody will set you up to make modes more relevant if you start to work on them.:)
  20. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    Yeah, inversion of chords means all the note names stay the same. When you start inverting melodies, the note names will often change. It's a lot to keep track of, but so long as there is some depth to the study of harmony and melody (counterpoint, if you want to really know what's up), the delineation becomes clear.

    I don't know if there is a specific book that I would recommend. Kostka and Payne's Tonal Harmony is the harmony book I learned out of. Kent Kennan's Counterpoint is also good, but I learned counterpoint before I took any counterpoint courses. I think the main thing is to get unambiguous definitions and study the procedures one at a time so that they're solid. This means either having an instructor that teaches music theory in a linear, organized method*, or by working out of books by established authors who stand up to academic rigors. I don't mean to debase authors of guitar/bass/piano method books, as those publications certainly have their place for those that only want a cursory view of music theory, but if you're curious and you want to learn the real deal, you're wasting your time if you buy The Guitar Grimoire (I argue that you're wasting your time with that book even if you don't want to learn the real deal, since it is a particularly vapid series). Sadly, this rules out a lot of free internet resources. www.musictheory.net is a pretty decent site, however.

    Every now and then, I go to people that speak well on music to get my own thinking back on track (Hal Galper and Leonard Bernstein are hugely inspirational to me). The best way to learn, though, is to go to the literature. I like composers that have excellent harmony and counterpoint and who are very clear and deliberate in their use of materials (The four B's: Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Bartók). I also spend a lot of time critically analyzing and picking apart the music that speaks to me (at around 3:50 in the Hal Galper video I linked, he validates this process: learn your tastes and pursue them). A lot of my free time is spent inputting scores into Finale, transcribing every note of a tune, giving a tangible presence to recordings that would otherwise never be notated, and making my transcriptions look presentable. The idea is to get inside that music, force yourself to explain what the composer is doing. Do that with a few good 70's prog tunes, and your approach to music will change.

    *For harmony, this is the order I teach in: major & minor scales > harmonization of said scales > harmonic cadences > chord progressions > chord progressions with inversions > Neapolitan chords > secondary functions > modulation > modal interchange (borrowed chords) > augmented sixth chords > enharmonic modulation > chromatic mediant relationships > diatonic modes > synthetic modes > polymodality > polytonality > jazz arranging (soli for 3, 4, and 5 horns, rhythm section, and big band). Notice how late I bring in modes.

    This, 100%. Awesome way of breaking it down.