23.Chord Inversions

Reordering Chord Pitches 

A chord can be reshuffled in any order. It remains the same chord but is no longer in the ‘root position’. It instead becomes a chord inversion.

In the first diagram of this chapter, the C major chord (C, E, G) is in its natural state. We call this ordering of the pitches root position. ‘C’ is called the ‘root’ of the chord, since ‘C’ is the pitch of the scale which the chord is built upon. It is also the pitch from the scale which takes its name. The second diagram shows an inversion of the C major chord. The lowest pitch, ‘C’ has been moved an octave higher so that it is now the highest pitch. We call this ordering of pitches 1st inversion. The C major chord in 1st inversion also has an inversion. 

The first diagram shows the C major chord in 1st inversion. In the second diagram, the lowest pitch, ‘E’, has been moved an octave higher so that it is now the highest pitch. We call this ordering of pitches 2nd inversion.  

Note: no other inversions are possible; moving the ‘G’ in the 2nd inversion an octave higher would results in root position once again. 

Although a major chord was used in all of the preceding examples, any quality of chord may be inverted; major, minor, augmented or diminished.

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