Get a FREE, Personalized 7-Day Music Making Course |

Piano Chord Inversions

Guide on how to invert chords on a piano

Last Updated: July 2023 | Article Details: 5509 words (27 – 31 minute read)

We may earn commissions from purchases made through our links. Learn More.

The beauty of piano chord inversions is immediately evident once you learn the basics.

You can significantly alter the nuance of the emotion evoked by a particular piano chord simply by inverting the order of the notes being played.

In this full guide, we’ll get into how to invert piano chords, when to invert piano chords and give you some tips on how to practice your inversions so they become second nature to you when playing.

Be sure to also check out our complete buyers guide on the best piano lessons on the internet.

Alright, let’s get into it…


Deviant Noise TOP PICK Recommendation:

Flowkey Ad

What Are Piano Chord Inversions?

If you’re not familiar with how piano chords are put together, make sure you brush up on that before continuing.

Chord inversions on the piano are simply when you take a chord – for example, C Maj (C-E-G) – and you “invert” or change the order of the notes in that chord.

In our example, playing the notes C, E and G (in that order) at the same time will give you a C Major chord in what’s called root position.

It’s called root position because the root note of that chord (i.e. C) is the first note in the chord’s order of notes (i.e. on the “bottom” of the chord).

If we were to re-arrange the order of the notes (and a note other than the root note of the chord ends up on bottom), it would be an “inverted” chord.

Re-arranging these notes in the chord often allows a player to play unique piano chord progressions easier.

Hands Playing a Red Synthesizer Piano

Identifying Chord Inversions Easily

Chords are essentially built from various intervals in music theory. An interval is simply the amount of space between two separate notes.

For example, a C Major chord consists of the root note (C), the major third interval (C to E) and a perfect fifth interval (C to G). However you could also say a C Major chord is a major third stacked with a minor third (E to G) on top of it.

Intervals are determined by counting the number of “half-steps” or semitones that are between two notes. A half-step is when you start on one note (ex/ C) and move directly to the note next to it (C#/Db).

Two Hands Playing a Brown Piano

So, you can start to identify chord inversions by looking at 3 different things:

  1. The intervals used in the inversion
  2. The number of half-steps between the notes in the chord
  3. The quality of the intervals – perfect consonance, imperfect consonance and dissonance
    • perfect = pleasing to the ear, imperfect = neither pleasing not harsh/jarring, dissonance = harsh/jarring sound

Really internalizing those 3 things can help make identifying chord inversions pretty quick and easy. But it takes a long time working with intervals, chords and inversions to really get good at that.

How Many Are There?

Depending on how many notes are in a chord, there can be a different number of inversions available to you.

For triad chords (chords with 3 notes), you can have 3 possibilities:

  • Root Position
  • First Inversion
  • Second Inversion

But if you’re using a 7th chord (a chord with 4 notes), there are 4 possibilities:

  • Root Position
  • First Inversion
  • Second Inversion
  • Third Inversion

As you’ve probably guessed by now, if you’ve got a 9th chord (a chord with 5 notes in it), there are 5 possibilities – adding a “Fourth Inversion” to the list. If we move up to 11th chords, we have an additional inversion possibility and so on.

How to Invert Chords on a Piano

This is a fairly basic process and can be picked up pretty quickly.

You simple take the notes of the root chord and change up the order.


Sweetwater Ad

Inverting Triads

As we mentioned above, with triads you have 3 possibilities in how you play (or “voice”) the chord. We’ll use C Major as our example.

A C Major chord has the notes C, E and G in it. The original/basic formation of the chord is always known as “root position.”

Thus, root position of a C Major chord is C-E-G (the C is the “bottom note,” E is the “middle note” and G is the “top note”).

We just take those notes and slide them over one at a time.

First Inversion for a Triad Chord

To get the first inversion, we simply take the root/bottom note (C), and slide it to the other side of the chord “equation.”

Visualization of C Major Chord in First Inversion

So what we end up with is a chord that is now voiced as E-G-C, rather than C-E-G.

That’s still a C Major chord, but now it’s in first inversion. The bottom note is now the E, while the top note became the C. BUT, that doesn’t mean E is now the “root note” of the C Major chord. The root note of a chord is always taken from the name of the chord itself – i.e. C will always be referred to as the root note of any C chord.

The only difference is how we order the notes of the C chord.

Second Inversion for a Triad Chord

To get the second inversion of our C Major triad, we just keep on sliding notes to the other side.

In this case, we start with the chord in first inversion (E-G-C) and then slide the bottom note (i.e. the E) to the right, just like we did last time.

Visualization of C Major Chord in Second Inversion

So now, what we end up with is the same C Major chord, voiced as G-C-E, instead of it’s other possible voicings.

That’s still a C Major chord, but now it’s in second inversion. The bottom note is now a G and the top note is the C.

You can do that to ANY triad chord to get it’s different inversions. Each chord inversion will slightly alter the sound/emotion of the chord but it remains the same chord (and maintains it’s overall quality/sound).

Inverting Extended Chords

The same principle for forming your chord inversions applies to 7th chords, 9th chords and beyond. You simply start in root position of the chord and slide the bottom note over to the other side to get your various inverted forms.

Let’s use the CMaj7 chord (C Major 7) as an example. A CMaj7 in root position consists of the notes C-E-G-B.

So using the same technique of sliding notes over we described above, we can form our seventh chord inversions.

Third Inversion for 7th Chords

You should already know how to come up with the first and second inversions for a seventh chord – simply slide the bottom (left) note over to the right side:

  • First Inversion: C-E-G-B becomes E-G-B-C
  • Second Inversion: E-G-B-C becomes G-B-C-E

Since we have 4 notes in seventh chords, we have an additional inversion we can create. Simply start with the second inversion, and move the bottom note over to the right, just like you do for creating first and second inversions.

  • Third Inversion: G-B-C-E becomes B-C-E-G

9th Chord Inversions

You probably already know where this is going, but we’ll go over one more example of inverting an extended chord.

The C Major 9 chord (CMaj9) has 5 different notes in it – they are C-E-G-B-D. Since we have 5 notes, we have 4 options to invert this chord.

The thing about 9th chords is that if you invert them normally, the root note of the chord become difficult to play. That’s because the next octave of the note is so far away from the rest of the chord notes.

That’s why a lot of times, it’s easier to keep the 9th tone (D) in the same place while moving the rest of the other side.

For example:

  • First Inversion becomes E-G-B-C-D instead of E-G-B-D-C
  • Second Inversion becomes G-B-C-D-E
  • Third Inversion becomes B-C-D-E-G

There’s another issue when we get to the fourth inversion of the chord. If we move the B in third inversion over to the other side, we end up with the chord’s root note (C) on the bottom again – C-D-E-G-B.

Technically that isn’t what we’re after – that’s more like a “closed” or “tight” 9th chord in root position rather than an inversion.

Our fourth inversion would have the D (9th tone) on the bottom of the chord:

  • Fourth Inversion, thus, becomes D-E-G-B-C instead
    • we move two of the bottom notes from third inversion to the other side, instead of just one.

Other Extended Chord Inversions

The same principles apply when you’re trying to invert other extended chords like 11ths and 13ths.

Because of the large number of notes in these chords, inversions can become a bit complicated or difficult to play. What some players will do is drop some of the middle notes from the chord to make it easier to play, while maintaining the quality/sound of the extension (ex/ the 11th).

Try playing around with 11th and 13th chords while using the principles above to see the different options available to you when voicing these types of extended chords.

Intervals and Inverted Chords

The great thing about knowing your piano intervals is that it makes forming chords (and inversions) much easier. You’re literally able to choose a starting note, count the intervals and instantly form a chord.

Your basic major triad, as mentioned above, consists of a major third interval (4 half-steps) stacked with a minor third (3 half-steps) on top.

If you’re looking at a piano and you count the number of half steps required to travel a major third away from any note, you’ll notice that there are 3 piano keys between the two notes.

Two Hands and a Grand Piano

For example, if you start on C and count 4 half steps to the right you end up on the E note. You’ll notice that there are 3 piano keys between a C and an E.

The same is true for the minor third – start on E and count out 3 half steps. You end up on the G note, and there are 2 piano keys between the E and G.

Using Intervals to Form Chords

You can use those short cuts to easily form any triad. Try it out yourself. Start on any key on the piano, skip 3 keys and play that next note. Then skip another 2 keys and play that final note.

You just created a Major chord for whatever note you started on.

That’s the power of knowing your intervals. If you know the intervals involved in chords, you can quickly form any chord you want without too much thinking or fussing around.

Just remember that a major third skips 3 keys (4 half steps) and a minor third skips 2 keys (3 half steps).

Here’s the intervals involved in basic root position chords:

Root Position Interval Formula
Major TriadRoot + Major Third + Minor Third
Minor TriadRoot + Minor Third + Major Third
Major SeventhRoot + Major Third + Minor Third + Major Third
Minor SeventhRoot + Minor Third + Major Third + Minor Third
Major NinthRoot + Maj 3rd + Min 3rd + Maj 3rd + Min 3rd
Minor NinthRoot + Min 3rd + Maj 3rd + Min 3rd + Maj 3rd

You’ll notice that the minor chords are exact opposites of the major chords (Maj-Min-Maj vs. Min-Maj-Min). This makes it easy to remember how to form both major and minor chords.


Advertisement:

Learn piano in a way that lets you improvise beautiful music on the spot!

HearAndPlay Ad

Using Intervals to Find Inverted Triad Chords

To find an inverted chord you can use similar formulas of intervals/skipped keys.

The only difference here to the above method, is that when you start on a key that key will NOT be the root note (or the name) of the chord you’re forming.

Just remember that in first inversion, the root note (and the name of the chord) will always be on top. In second inversion, the root note will be in the middle.

If you remember that, you can still form chords quickly by using intervals.

Here are the intervals you’ll find in inverted chords:

  • First Inversion: Minor 3rd + Perfect 4th
    • Minor 3rd = 3 half-steps / skip 2 piano keys
    • Perfect 4th = 5 half-steps / skip 4 piano keys
  • Second Inversion: Perfect 4th + Major 3rd
    • Perfect 4th = 5 half-steps / skip 4 piano keys
    • Major 3rd = 4 half-steps / skip 3 piano keys

The easiest way to form chords using this method is to still start on your chord’s root note.

So if you wanted to quickly form a C Major chord in first inversion, you’d start on a C and work your way backwards (since we know the root note of our chord is always on TOP in first inversion.

For example:

  • Start on a C
  • Skip 4 piano keys (5 half steps) to the left and get to the G note
  • Skip another 2 piano keys (3 half steps) to the left to get to the E

The chord you end up with is E-G-C – or a C Major in first inversion.

The same applies for second inversion, but this time our root note is in the middle of the chord.

So for C Major in second inversion, we’d start at C and stack the intervals both ways (left and right) of that note.

For example:

  • Start on a C
  • Skip 3 piano keys (4 half steps) to the right and get to the E note
  • Skip 4 piano keys (5 half steps) to the left and get to the G note

The chord you end up with is G-C-E – or a C Major in second inversion.

It’s a great little hack to quickly find any triad chord in any inversion. All you need to do is memorize a few intervals.


Advertisement:

Sweetwater Keyboards

What About Intervals for Extended Chord Inversions?

Using this trick for extended chords is also possible, but can start to get complicated and confusing since there are more notes (and thus intervals) and inversion possibilities.

What you could do is use the tricks to form the triad chord and then simply add on a 7th or 9th note to the chord wherever you want. This would require you to know which notes the 7th and 9th are, but that’s not too hard to remember, especially if you know your scales.

But if you’re interested in knowing what intervals are used in some extended chords, here’s a quick rundown:

Seventh Chords:

  • First Inversion: Minor Third + Major Third + Minor Second
    • Minor Second = 1 half-step (don’t skip any keys)
    • Start on root note and work backwards towards the left (maj 3rd, min 2nd, min 3rd)
  • Second Inversion: Minor Third + Major Third + Minor Second
    • Start on root note and add major 3rd on right, then add minor second + minor third working backwards towards left
  • Third Inversion: Major Third + Minor Second + Major Third
    • Start on root note and add min 2nd + maj 3rd + maj 3rd working forwards towards the right

Ninth Chords:

  • First Inversion: Minor 3rd + Major 3rd + Minor 2nd + Major 2nd
    • Major Second = 2 half-steps (skip 1 piano key)
    • Start on root note and add Maj 2nd on right, add Min 2nd + Maj 3rd + Min 3rd working backwards towards left
  • Second Inversion: Maj 3rd + Min 2nd + Maj 2nd + Maj 2nd
    • Start on root note and add Maj 2nd + Maj 2nd on right, add Min 2nd + Maj 3rd working backwards towards left
  • Third Inversion: Min 2nd + Maj 2nd + Maj 2nd + Min 3rd
    • Start on root note and add Maj 2nd + Maj 2nd + Min 3rd on right, add Min 2nd to left
  • Fourth Inversion: Maj 2nd + Min 3rd + Maj 3rd + Min 2nd
    • Start on root note and add Min 2nd + Maj 3rd + Min 3rd + Maj 2nd working backwards towards left

The key to the formations above is to notice the words working backwards towards – for example if you’re creating a C Maj 9 in fourth inversion you would:

  • Start on C
  • Add the Min 2nd below (to the left) of C – to get the B
  • Add the Maj 3rd below (to the left) of that – to get the G
  • Add the Min 3rd below (to the left) of that – to get the E – and then finally,
  • Add the Maj 2nd below (to the left) of that – to get the D.

So the chord would ultimately end up being D-E-G-B-C.


Advertisement:

Sweetwater Deals

Piano Fingering for Chord Inversions

Piano fingering is an important (and poorly named) concept if you want to be able to play in the most efficient way possible. Finger dexterity is a big skill to build as well.

I’ll be honest – I often don’t pay attention to “proper” finger positioning and go with what feels most natural or comfortable to me.

But there are some conventions that you may want to follow when playing chords, especially inverted ones.

Here’s a quick run-down for your basic triad chords:

  • Root position chords:
    • Right Hand: 1-3-5 (thumb-middle-pinky)
      • Alternative: 1-2-4 (thumb-index-ring)
    • Left Hand: 5-3-1 (pinky-middle-thumb)
      • Alternative: 4-2-1 (ring-index-thumb)
  • First inversion:
    • Right Hand: 1-2-5 (thumb-index-pinky)
      • Alternative: 1-3-5 (thumb-middle-pinky)
    • Left Hand: 5-3-1 (pinky-middle-thumb)
      • Alternative: 4-2-1 (ring-index-thumb)
  • Second Inversion:
    • Right Hand: 1-3-5 (thumb-middle-pinky)
      • Alternative: 1-2-4 (thumb-index-ring)
    • Left Hand: 5-2-1 (pinky-index-thumb)
      • Alternative: 5-3-1 (pinky-middle-thumb)

When it comes to extended chords, do whatever feels best for seventh chords. For ninth, eleventh and thirteenth chords you’ll be using two hands to play them most often, so again, do what’s most natural to you.

Here’s a couple of suggested fingerings for 7th chords, though:

  • Right Hand: 1-2-3-4 / 1-2-3-5 / 1-2-4-5
    • Reverse the numbers for left hand

Deviant Noise TOP PICK Recommendation:

Learn the Secrets to Writing and Producing HIT SONGS

HSD Ad

Using Chord Inversions in Your Music

The most obvious reason you would use piano chord inversions is because they provide a bit of a different texture to the sound made by any particular chord.

How you voice a chord (the order in which you play notes, which notes you play, etc.) can alter the emotion both drastically and slightly depending on the chord voicing.

But there’s more to it than that – using inverted chords makes it so much easier to transition between different chords when you’re playing a song or chord progression.

Left Hand Playing a Chord on a Piano

Take this example – a I-vi-IV-V chord progression (1-6-4-5 in C Major would be CMaj->Amin->FMaj->G7) has a lot of hand movement if you’re playing each chord in root position.

But if you use inversions, you can minimize the amount your hand has to move to play each chord. That can make playing faster a lot easier.

For example moving from a C Major in root position (C-E-G) to an A Minor in 1st inversion (C-E-A) only requires you to move one finger. If you played A minor in root position as well, it would require a leap of your entire hand. Those big leaps can make things sound jarring/jerky.

So using these can help smooth out our chord changes and sound more pleasing to the ear. This concept is also known as voice leading.

When it Makes Sense to Use

When you use a particular inversion is really a stylistic/personal choice. Do you want the chord changes to sound “bigger” or more distinct? Then you probably won’t want to use any inversions and just play everything in root position.

On the other hand, if you want the changes to be smooth and more subtle, inverting some of the chords so that the movements between them are small makes the most sense.

Beyond that, because the sound of a chord slightly changes when it’s inverted you may just prefer a certain inversion because of the way it sounds. This, of course, requires some experimentation and familiarity with the way chords sound when they are voiced in certain ways.

Over time, if you memorize different chords and inversions, you can start to put together some very interesting harmonic movements in your playing.

The next time you’re playing around with some chords try these movements out:

  • Root Position -> 2nd Inversion
  • 1st Inversion -> Root Position

Of course, these aren’t the only movements possible but they are common ones you’ll come across.

How to Use Inversions in Your Playing

There aren’t any major “rules” you have to follow, but there are a few guidelines or tips you can keep in mind to help make your playing better.

Remember, these aren’t RULES. And even if they were, in art rules are meant to be broken.

  1. If two chords share common notes, keep those common notes in place when switching chords
  2. For notes that AREN’T common between the two chords, try to move them as little as possible
  3. Try not to make any leaps larger than a Perfect Fourth (5 half steps)
  4. If possible, try moving the outer most notes in the chords in opposite (contrary) direction

Deviant Noise Top Pick Recommendation:

Unlimited Distribution

Practicing

Now that you know why, how and when to play around with piano chord inversions, let’s talk about practicing.

There are a couple of reasons why you should make inversion practice a regular part of your daily practice.

By practicing these, you can actually also help improve your ability to sight read music. When looking at a sheet of music notation, it’s often the case that beginners have to analyze the piece note by note.

But if you’re familiar with this stuff, you can often start to recognize chords within a piece of sheet music simply by looking at it.

That makes it much more efficient to play.

Child Asleep on a Piano

Secondly, with enough practice you start to develop muscle memory. You’ll no longer have to think about how the chord is to be formed. You won’t have to constantly be staring at your hands or at the piano keys to play what you’re trying to play.

You’ll automatically have the “shape” your fingers seared into your brain and be able to quickly produce the desired chord/inversion.

Developing muscle memory when playing music is crucial to being able to play smoothly and accurately like a pro.

For songwriters and music producers, muscle memory is HUGE – when you’re trying to work on a chord progression, having that muscle memory stops you from aimlessly trying to figure out what to do or where to go next.

It’s invaluable. So practice your piano chord inversions.

How to Practice Inversions on the Piano

Practice is obviously the most important thing to do once you’ve learned the theory lessons behind piano. But with so many different chord and inversion possibilities, how you approach practice can be difficult to determine.

Here are a few ways that you can implement chord inversion practice. Spend 5-15 minutes of your practice sessions on any of these exercises.

And try to pay attention to the proper fingering described above when you’re forming the chords + inversions.

Traditional Inversion Practice

This is a relatively simple practice exercise that helps you develop muscle memory of the chord you’re practicing.

  1. Pick any chord you want (ex/ C Major)
  2. Play the chord in root position
  3. Play the same chord in first inversion
  4. Next, play the chord in second inversion
  5. Repeat steps 2-4, moving upwards on the piano for an octave or two
  6. Move back down the piano back to your starting position

Start this exercise using one hand, then try with the opposite hand (moving down the piano and then back up). Finally try using both hands at the same time (Watch out for the fingering! It can be confusing at first).

Diatonic Chord Inversion Practice

This exercise will help you build muscle memory and is a much faster way to internalize the various chord positions of many different chords, instead of just one (like the exercise above).

  1. Pick any key to practice in (ex/ C Major)
    • Make sure you’re familiar with the piano scale of that key
  2. Start on the first tone (i.e. C) and play that chord in root position
  3. Next, you’ll be working your way across the entire scale, playing the chord of each tone in the scale
    • i.e. you’ll be playing the chord for C, D, E, F, G, A, B if you’re using C Major.
    • You need to understand diatonic harmony (knowing which chord to play for each tone – see here)
  4. Follow this pattern when forming chords across the scale – 1->6->4->2->7->5->3
    • i.e. if you’re in C Major the order of chords would be CMaj->Amin->FMaj->Dmin->Bdim->GMaj->Emin

The trick is to start with the first tone in root position (i.e. C Major as C-E-G), and then figuring out which inversion of the next chord is easiest to get to (i.e. Amin in 1st Inversion, then F Maj in 2nd Inversion, etc).

Doing it this way, and in different keys/scales will have you practicing every chord and every inversion possible, much more efficiently.

Chord Progression Inversion Practice

This is a great way to practice because it’s being done in the context of music. You’re not just practicing rudiments or basics, you’re practicing much more musically.

  1. Pick a chord progression – we recommend using a I-V-vi-IV (1-5-6-4) – progression since so many real songs use this progression.
  2. Pick any key to play in (ex/ C Major)
  3. Start with a root position chord for chord I in your right hand
  4. Use chord inversions for the rest of the progression (remember, minimize finger/hand movement)
  5. Play the root/bass note of each chord in your left hand
  6. Repeat until it gets internalized

Do this exercise in lots of different keys/scales and using various chord progressions. Over time, you’ll have internalized so many different chord progressions that you’ll be able to play without even thinking about it.

Sheet Music Chord Inversion Practice

The final exercise you may want to do to practice your piano is by using sheet music. This is a great way to improve your sight reading, and your ability to quickly recognize chords and their inversions when they are notated on sheet music.

Simply take a piece of sheet music, and try to identify the chords throughout by analyzing the notes (and then pay attention to the way the chord formation looks on paper).

You’ll have to start slow and cumbersome, figuring out each note as you go. But eventually you’ll see a pattern of notes on a staff and be able to tell what chord it is and what inversion it’s being played in just by looking.


Advertisement:

Learn Jazz Piano With One of the Biggest Legends in Music

Masterclass Ad

Tips for Improving Your Ability to Play Inverted Piano Chords

So you are basically an expert now on piano chord inversions.

It might not seem like it, but that’s because you just need to put in the work practicing to make it stick in your mind.

Here are some tips you can use to help get you even better.

Use Different Keys

C Major is always the example used when teaching piano because it’s the most recognizable scale on the piano. But it’s important that you practice things in various keys, not just C Major.

C Major is easy. So you want to make sure you’re changing up the scale/key you’re using frequently.

The goal is to become proficient in every major/minor scale on the piano. So practice in different keys. Once you’re familiar and comfortable with inverted chords in C Major, move on to C Minor. Then move onto D Major, for example.

A good way to do this is to use the Circle of Fifths (pictured below). Pick a starting key, then just move along the outside of the wheel, either leftwards or rightwards, to get to the next key you should practice in.

Circle of Fifths Diagram

The circle of fifths is great because most music moves in perfect fourth and perfect fifth intervals. So practicing like that, helps you internalize how music works in the real world.

Pay Attention to Shapes

Knowing what notes make up a chord and where those notes are on the piano is useful.

But what’s even more useful is memorizing and internalizing shapes. Guitar players do this when learning chords, and it’s also helpful for piano players.

So when you’re practicing your inversions, pay special attention to the shape your fingers make for each inversion you play. If you can really internalize the shapes being made, it becomes easier and easier to play chords quickly.

The goal is to improve your muscle memory to the point where you don’t need to think to play something. It just happens naturally. Memorizing shapes, instead of notes, helps make this happen.

Tip for Recognizing Chords on Sheet Music

One of the exercises we went over above involves being able to recognize which chord is notated on a piece of sheet music.

There’s a nice little tip you can use to try and quickly identify the root note of a chord when it’s inverted.

Look at a piece of sheet music that has a chord on it, and then identify the note in that chord formation that has the most amount of empty space below it. It’s ok if there’s another note under that – you’re looking for the most amount of empty space between that note and any other note.

If you can identify what particular note that is (that has the most amount of empty space below it) you’ll know the root note of that chord.

So if you see a chord that has a C note with more empty space underneath it than the other notes in the chord formation, you can safely guess that’s a C chord. Now you just need to play it to determine if it’s a major or minor chord.

Try it out for yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Chord Inversions Necessary?

Honestly, the answer should be YES, but they are not absolutely necessary. You can play piano using root position chords all you want. But, depending on the type of vibe/sound you’re going for, that might not sound that great. Moving from root position chord to root position chord can sound jerky and clunky. But using inversions helps you make smoother chord changes, plus it will add slight variations/changes to the sound of the chords you’re playing (making things more interesting).

What Are Chord Inversions Used For?

Chord inversions can be used to help make transitions between chords (chord changes) much more fluid/smooth, easy to play and more pleasing to the ear. They can make faster playing possible and also can change the mood/emotion of a chord slightly, adding to the nuance of a piece of music.

How Are Chord Inversions Written?

Chord inversions can be notated using words (ex/ C Maj in 2nd Inversion/Position) and they can be notated on sheet music like normal as well. Some people will also notate these using “slash chords.” For example, if you see a chord written as G/D (G over D), it means you’re playing a G chord with a D as the bottom/bass note. Since D is one of the tones in a G chord already (the fifth), we can tell that G/D is asking you to play a G chord in 2nd inversion.

Do Chord Inversions Sound Different?

Yes, inverted chords can sound slightly different to the chord in it’s root position. Our ears naturally tend to place more emphasis on a chord’s top note, so inverting a chord can impact our brains perception of that sound. Inversions add some additional color/texture to the sound any particular chord makes.

What Are Chord Inversions Used For?

Chord inversions are often used to either make playing a chord progression easier/quicker or more efficient, or they’re used to slightly alter the sound of a harmonic progression to make it more pleasing to the ear. This is because there is less jerky movement or large intervallic leaps when using inverted chords.

Get Our Free Piano Course and Cheat Sheets!

Enter your name and email to instantly get access to cheat sheets for Piano Scales, Chords, Rhythm Patterns and more, plus a 7 Day Course to Better Piano Playing!

“Yes! Send me the music making cheat sheets and 7-day course. I’d also like to receive more music making tips, resources and guides from Deviant Noise!”

    We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

    Final Thoughts

    Damn, that was a pretty long guide. Who would’ve thought there would be so much to say about inversions!?

    The truth is, knowing how to form these musical tools is absolutely essential to becoming a better musician.

    The exercises and practice tips in this guide will help you truly master this area of piano, so don’t sleep on it.

    The better you get at recognizing chords and internalizing chord shapes, the easier it becomes to, not only play the piano, but also to create your own music.

    Up next, learn all about putting together chord progressions with the chords you’ve learned.

    If you really want to level up your piano playing, there’s nothing better than learning your favorite songs. So I highly recommend you try out FlowKey – the best online piano song library around.

    I hope you found this complete beginner’s guide to piano chord inversions helpful.

    Thanks for reading!


    Deviant Noise TOP PICK Recommendation:

    Flowkey Ad

    Back to Main Piano Section

    About The Author:

    Photo of author

    Omar Zulfi

    Omar Zulfi is a music producer, rapper, singer, songwriter and digital entrepreneur. He is the founder and head writer at Deviant Noise. Learn more about what he's doing by clicking here.