Lesson Of The Day : Guitar Chord Inversions

Applying different inversions for major, minor, Diminished, major 7th, minor 7th, dominant 7th and minor 7th b5 chords.

Guitar Inversion

All examples are in standard tuning (E, A, D, G, B, E). To condense the lesson, I haven't included any theory. This lesson focuses on the fretboard more than the actual notes played in each inversion and chord type. 

Major triad

Let's have a look at A major. The most common shapes in my opinion are the ones illustrated below.

-----5-----|------5------
-----5-----|------5------
-----6-----|------6------
-----7-----|------7------
-----7-----|------7------
-----5-----|-------------

A straight bar-chord really, with the second shape just cutting out the low A (5th fret on the 6th string). These two shapes are the most common to guitarists when playing a major chord (unless you're using open chords).

To add variety it can help to know inversions, which only use the three or four upper strings (in reggae or jazz).

-----5-----|-----0---|----9----|----9---||
-----5-----|-----2---|---10----|---10---||
-----6-----|-----2---|----9----|--------||
-----------|---------|---------|----11--||
-----------|---------|---------|--------||
-----------|---------|---------|--------||

-----5-----|------0--|-----9---|---9----|
-----5-----|------2--|----10---|---10---|
-----6-----|-----2---|-----9---|--------|
-----7-----|-----2---|-----7---|---11---|
-----------|---------|---------|---12---|
-----------|---------|---------|--------|

String skipping (missing out a string) can give space and air to your chord shapes and overall texture. Being able to space out the notes will make your chord sound open while letting the track breathe (acoustic music does this kind of arranging technique).

To achieve any inversion, you just need to know the notes used in any particular chord and chord type. Being able to alternate between root, third and fifth inversions can add movement to static harmony and chord progressions, as it adds another texture (although the chords themselves aren't moving).

Minor

For guitarists, major and minor chord shapes can be seen as being one note/fret different to the shapes they already know. This is why they are commonly found and used by many guitarists, as they are so widely applicable and easy to remember.

-----5-----|------5------
-----5-----|------5------
-----5-----|------5------
-----7-----|------7------
-----7-----|------7------
-----5-----|-------------

Again we can space these shapes and notes out to create more airy (not a musical term – less clustered, more open) textures. For reggae, the higher inversions are always more common to get that specific timbre of the skank guitar part.

-----5-----|-----0---|----8----|----8---||
-----5-----|-----1---|---10----|---10---||
-----5-----|-----2---|----9----|--------||
-----------|---------|---------|----10--||
-----------|---------|---------|--------||
-----------|---------|---------|--------||

-----5-----|-----0---|-----8---|----8---|
-----5-----|-----1---|----10---|---10---|
-----5-----|-----2---|-----9---|--------|
-----7-----|-----2---|-----7---|---10---|
-----------|---------|---------|---12---|
-----------|---------|---------|--------|

Diminished

For guitarists, the diminished shapes are slightly altered due to the awkward structure of the notes. For both the major and minor shapes, we were able to bar straight across the fifth fret and apply the other notes with our other fingers. Due to the diminished fifth along with the minor third, we are unable to bar straight across, as we would produce one wrong note on the B string (E instead of Eb).

This is why the shapes are broken up with strings missing (usually the high E or B strings when playing as a bar chord shape – illustrated below).

-----5-----|-------------
-----------|------4------
-----5-----|------5------
-----7-----|------7------
-----6-----|------6------
-----5-----|-------------

Due to our broken bar chord shape, the inversions below are more spaced out by their natural construction. This creates some interesting string skipping and stretches. Diminished chords are not typically common in popular songs or music but they are used in jazz.

-----5-----|---------|----8----|----11--||
-----4-----|----4----|---10----|---10---||
-----5-----|----5----|----8----|--------||
-----------|---------|---------|----10--||
-----------|----0----|---------|--------||
-----------|---------|---------|--------||

-----5-----|---------|-----8---|----8---|----11-|
-----4-----|-----1---|----10---|---10---|---10--|
-----5-----|-----2---|-----8---|--------|-------|
-----7-----|-----1---|-----7---|---13---|----10-|
-----------|---------|---------|---12---|----12-|
-----------|---------|---------|--------|-------|

Major 7

With seventh chords (any chord type – major, minor, dominant, minor 7 b5, etc...) we have another note added to the basic three note chords earlier in this lesson. This gives us more inversion possibilities due to the four notes present in each type of seventh chord.

The bar chord shapes are still achievable for Major 7th chords as you can see below. They require the use of one more finger but due to the placement on the guitar neck, this doesn't cause any stretching issues.

-----5-----|------5------
-----5-----|------5------
-----6-----|------6------
-----6-----|------6------
-----7-----|------7------
-----5-----|-------------

As you can see in the second bar below, the inversions can be spaced out quite dramatically with wide stretches and gaps. The same three/four upper string shapes are still used with the addition of another note to add variety.

-----0-----|-----5----|----4---|----4----||
-----9-----|-----5----|----5---|----2----||
-----6-----|-----6----|----2---|----1----||
-----7-----|-----6----|----2---|----2----||
-----------|----------|--------|---------||
-----------|----------|--------|---------||

-----4-----|----12----|----9---|----9----|
-----------|-----9----|----5---|----9----|
-----6-----|-----9----|--------|----9----|
-----------|-----11---|-----6--|----7----|
-----0-----|----------|--------|---------|
-----------|----------|-----5--|---------|

Minor, Dominant and Minor 7 b5

The following three chord types can be used in the same way as the major 7th inversions and shapes. The shapes won't feel or look the same on the guitar neck due to their intervallic differences but as long as you have the correct root, third (major or minor), fifth (perfect or diminished) and seventh (major or minor) present in the chord, you can achieve countless inversions.

They can be spaced across the neck with various gaps and string skipping to add different textures or they can be used in the upper three/four strings. For this reason I will just list the bar chord shapes and inversions, as they don't require explanations.

Minor 7

-----5-----|------5------
-----5-----|------5------
-----5-----|------5------
-----5-----|------5------
-----7-----|------7------
-----5-----|-------------
-----0-----|----5----|----3----|----3----||
-----8-----|----5----|----5----|----1----||
-----5-----|----5----|----2----|----0----||
-----7-----|----5----|----2----|----2----||
-----------|---------|---------|---------||
-----------|---------|---------|---------||

-----3-----|----12---|----8----|----8----|
-----------|-----8---|----5----|----8----|
-----5-----|-----9---|---------|----9----|
-----------|-----10--|----5----|----7----|
-----0-----|---------|---------|---------|
-----------|---------|-----5---|---------|

7 – Dominant 7

-----5-----|------5------
-----5-----|------5------
-----6-----|------6------
-----5-----|------5------
-----7-----|------7------
-----5-----|-------------
-----0-----|----5----|----3----|----3----||
-----8-----|----5----|----5----|----2----||
-----6-----|----6----|----2----|----0----||
-----7-----|----5----|----2----|----2----||
-----------|---------|---------|---------||
-----------|---------|---------|---------||

-----3-----|----12---|-----9---|----9----|
-----------|-----8---|-----5---|----8----|
-----6-----|-----9---|---------|----9----|
-----------|-----11--|-----5---|----7----|
-----0-----|---------|---------|---------|
-----------|---------|-----5---|---------|

Minor 7 b5

-----5-----|-------------
-----------|------4------
-----5-----|------5------
-----5-----|------5------
-----6-----|------6------
-----5-----|-------------
-----3-----|----5----|----3----|----3----||
-----4-----|----4----|----4----|----1----||
-----5-----|----5----|----2----|----0----||
-----7-----|----5----|----1----|----1----||
-----------|---------|---------|---------||
-----------|---------|---------|---------||

-----3-----|----11---|----8----|----8----|
-----4-----|-----8---|----4----|----8----|
-----5-----|-----8---|---------|----8----|
-----------|-----10--|----5----|----7----|
-----0-----|---------|---------|---------|
-----------|---------|-----5---|---------|

About the Author:
Steven Swift - International touring musician, Rockschool approved music tutor, Roland/Boss academy demonstrator and manager of Teach Me Music academy ltd. www.stevenswiftmusic.weebly.com.


Ashutosh Pande
Ashutosh Pande

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