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Quick Question About Inversions

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by TSkills, Nov 2, 2010.

  1. TSkills


    Jul 1, 2009
    So I read something in another TB post concerning reggae basslines and playing inversions (i.e. root in the bass, 5th in the bass, 3rd in the bass). Could anyone go into more detail on this concept and how it applies in genres other than reggae? I understand basic concepts of theory such as what the third and fifth are for each chord or key, but this inversion concept has slid right over my head. Thanks!
  2. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    A chord is inverted when a chord member other than the root is the lowest sounding pitch. A 'C' major chord has C-E-G sounding at the same time. If the lowest note is moved up an octave this is called the 'first inversion' and the E is the lowest sounding note. If you invert it again it's called the 'second inversion' and the G is the lowest sounding note.

    Each one of these positions has its own unique sound and so chords are inverted for the sound. Also chords are inverted to make a more interesting melodic pattern with the bass notes.

    There are many, many examples but here's a easy one. One measure of C chord, next measure F. Play C in the first measure on beat one, then play E on 3 or 4th beat to lead to the F in the second measure.
  3. TSkills


    Jul 1, 2009
    So...still using the C chord as the example, first inversion would be E-G-C and second inversion would be G-C-E? I think I follow. When would you want to use inversions instead of just using the original chord tones?
  4. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    The chord tones are the same, just a different chord member as the lowest pitch.

    As a bass players we can use any tone in the chord, usually the root, especially on the downbeat. After that, depending on the style other chord tones can be used to make a melodic line or create energy to move to the next chord.
  5. To add another voice, however, IMO inversions have a place for the keyboardist in that you can mix the inversions - root, 2nd and or 3rd - while playing a I IV V progression and stay within the same area of the keyboard. This does have value. http://www.piano-play-it.com/chord-inversions.html The video will go into detail - wait out the advertising the lesson will start..... He will get to what you want to see around 7:10

    I never saw the need when playing rhythm guitar or my 4 string bass -- that is not to say it could/should not be done - like you asked - I just do not feel the need. Long story short - With my rhythm guitar and or my bass I've got other priorities.
  6. Nic.


    Aug 28, 2009
    I find it changes the tone, though. Pretty hard to describe but some sound more "solid" than others.
  7. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    First, "inversion" only distinguishes what's in the bass. The voicings above the lowest note are not changed in any way. Whether the total sound is C E G, C E G G C G C E, or C G G G G G G E, it's all root position. E G C, E C G, E G C G G C is all 1st inversion.

    It's not uncommon in lots of music. First one off the top of my head is "This Old Heart Of Mine" by The Isley Brothers. Jamerson plays an E under the C chord around the third measure. McCartney has said he's quite fond of putting other chord tones under the the chord, and often says he copped the idea from Brian Wilson.

    The intro to "Angel From Montgomery" by Bonnie Raitt (John Prine wrote it)- the second chord is an A with the C# in the bass- so it's first inversion. "I'll Be There", the Jackson 5 song- The first verse is full of non-roots under the chords. The first part of the progression is |D | A/C#| Bm | F#m/A|. The C# under the A chord and the A under the F#min are what gives the line its movement. Also listen to "A Whiter Shade of Pale" to see how the line moves by not playing roots.

  8. Samsound


    Sep 28, 2010
    A very common use of this is putting the maj 3d in the bass when root of the next chord is the 4th of the previous chord, creating an ascending line. For example: moving from an A to a D, you might see |A/C# . . .|D . . .|

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