The Purpose of Chord Inversions?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Matthew_84, Aug 19, 2018.

  1. I know that some composers/arrangers use chord inversions so that some of the jumps between the roots of chords in a progression aren’t as large.

    I also know that different inversions have a different feel, but I have a question about this point...

    The root position of a Major triad is comprised of the Root/Tonic, a Major 3rd, and a Perfect 5th.

    The first inversion of that Major triad is now built with the Major 3rd as the Root, and the original Root/Tonic is now on top of the chord. This first inversion is essentially now comprised of a minor 3rd and a minor 6th. The inverted chord has a familiar sound to the Root position chord (as it has the same notes), but the intervals now suggest a minor tonality, and indeed it does have a bit of a “minor” sound to it to me.

    Do some composers/arrangers use the first inversion of a Major triad to make a Major chord sound more like a minor chord?
    Quantized Harmonic likes this.
  2. I don’t hear inversions shift from major to minor. An inverted major chord, to me still sounds like a major chord, just rearranged a bit.
    retslock, SLO Surfer, bkbirge and 3 others like this.
  3. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol

    A chord inversion doesn't change the root, it's just not the lowest note anymore.
    You can look at it like a part of a complex chord but out of clever arrangement tricks I see no use for this.
  4. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    A first inversion major chord can also serve the function of a Neapolitan chord when modulating from one key to another. In a modulation like that, the inverted major chord will be re-interpreted as the minor subdominant chord of the target key.

    (Interestingly enough, a first inversion major triad always sounds like a Neapolitan to me...)

    Most often, first inversions will just be Used to smoothen out a bass movement. Bach liked to do that a lot.
  5. Funny, to me, 3/5/1 sounds way more 'major' with the root on top instead of 1/3/5.

    Theory is a great and useful thing. I think of it like physics, a way to mathematically describe the world happening around us. But as a favorite teacher once told me, 'don't let the theory get in the way of playing the music'.
  6. The purpose of inversions ---- IMO with piano or the keyboard inversions are used to move from one chord to the next with the least movement, i.e. play in place --- as you have already mentioned.

    With praise music I see a lot of slash chords used and just take for granted the songwriter wanted the slash note to be heard. Why? I leave to the songwriter and just do as he/she wants... I'm also sure the other guys will give better answers than this.

    Good luck.
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  7. Spidey2112


    Aug 3, 2016
    I read in the National Enquirer it cuts down on copyright infringement...
  8. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    "Here are my top 7 reasons why Inversions rock!"

    1. Improved Digestion...:roflmao::laugh:

    7 Reasons Why Inversions Rock
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  9. BassChuck

    BassChuck Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    It's only an inversion if you're thinking vertically. A series of lowest notes can (and should) be a a counter melody to the highest (or most prominent) sound.
  10. Thanks guys. I thought of this major/minor shift before I actually plugged it into my DAW software to hear it for myself. It’s possible I tricked my mind into hearing what I expected to hear. I’ll listen to it again later today. Thanks.
    JRA and Spidey2112 like this.
  11. That’s interesting. Do you know of any songs/pieces where the first inversion major chord is used to modulate a key? I’d like to hear that in action, and analyze it a bit.
  12. LMAO. You got me. I saw you posted a link and got excited that it would be a really good resource, despite not understanding the digestion part of the joke.
    Spidey2112 and Whousedtoplay like this.
  13. Interesting. Thanks for sharing that. That helps.
  14. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    We need to separate chord inversions/voice leading in the right piano hand (from classical harmony) and the bass instrument playing 3rd or 5th while other harmony instruments are playing a chord.
    While the bass plays E, other harmony instruments are playing C major.
    Let’s say if that moment, the keyboard player decides to be “cool”, embellish that C major chord and play it as Emin7 as E - G - B - D (rootless C9), then it will sound minor; otherwise,
    1st inversion is weaker and 2nd is the weakest.
    daniel9.7 and Matthew_84 like this.
  15. Awesome. Thanks!
  16. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    Laugh is a good medicine.
    Chord inversions come from Classical Harmony about voice leading “nuances” in soprano, tenor, alto, bass arrangements - how to “properly” join chords.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  17. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Chord invesions generally signal a chord. The altered root is a passing note - like C/E to an F.
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  18. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    E as a passing note in C major (???)
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  19. joebar


    Jan 10, 2010
    Because the second inversion is the weakest, it can lend itself to some interesting applications.
    I use double stops a lot-
    Let’s look at g-c-e; many times, I will skip the c and use the other two notes-I can play them over a Cmaj,C7,A7.
  20. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    The E is the passing note to the F chord. Passing intervals often are half sets.
    Matthew_84 and Whousedtoplay like this.
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