Root Position & Chord Inversions

Lesson
Materials

There are a lot of different ways you can play chords. That’s one of the things that makes them so great. Now so far, we’ve been playing chords in the root position, or in the order of the first, third and fifth notes of the scale. The important takeaway from this lesson is that they don’t have to be played in this spot and only this spot.

The notes of a chord can be played in any order. The important thing is that the notes of the chord are played somewhere.

For example, let’s take the C chord. The notes of the C chord are C E G. I can play them in any order. For example, C in the left hand. Then G and E in the right hand. They don’t need to be played together. They can be broken or played one at a time like this. Or they can be solid and played together like we’ve been doing.

In this lesson we’re going to work on muscle memory and start playing the C chord in a few different positions or inversions. Inversions is the word we use for a 3 different positions you can play a major or minor chords in.

Let’s play C major in root position like we’ve been playing. We play this as C E G like we’ve been doing. We’re using fingers 1 3 5. 

Now we’re going to take the C from the bottom and put it on the top. So we’re playing E G C. This is the first inversion. The fingers you use to play this is 1 2 5.

C 1st Inversion

Now this is where you need to be diligent without a teacher there nagging you to get it right. Really watch your fingering for this shape of chord. Start it off well so you don’t get into the bad habit of just using 1 3 5 or whatever fingers you want. It’s a habit that you want to get down.

As you play more, things will be less rigid with fingering but this is foundational. It will make playing different types of chords in different locations go much smoother in the long run.


Now let’s take the E and move it to the top of the chord. Now we’re playing G C E and using fingers 1 3 5 again. This is the second inversion. 

C 2nd Inversion

When we move the G to the top again we’ve got chord in root position again. 
So now when you play through your scale, add the C chord and play through the different inversions. 

Then follow it up by playing these chords or triads as they’re technically called. Play them in each hand going up.

Let’s do the same thing with the left hand. Before we start, there is a fingering difference in the left hand. The root and first inversion both use fingers 5 3 1 but second inversion is 5 2 1. 
Let’s play the C chord solid together. Root position C E G. First inversion – fingers are still 5 3 1 here for the left hand, E G C. Second inversion different fingering, G C E with finger 2 on C. Up to the root again.
Let’s try that one more time with the left hand. Root, first inversion, second inversion, root.
 

What To Practice

Practice doing inversions in both hands (but one at a time) with the C chord.