Triad Inversions

The Basics:

An important aspect of chordal understanding is what is called VOICING. Voicing simply means how the notes of the chord are arranged from low to high. In the Triad lesson, I cover two important voicings, open and close. In this lesson, we are going to look at three other ways that a triad may be voiced. This is called INVERSIONS. A chord is inverted when any note other than the root of the chord is used as the lowest note. That sounds pretty heavy duty, but it is really quite simple.

Most people, when first learning about chords, tend to theink that the lowest note in the chord MUST be the root note of the chord. This is not always the case. Very often, a note other than the root will be used as the lowest note of a chord. There are several reasons for this including but not limited to ease of playing and the particular sound quality that is produced by inverting a chord.

There are three possible inversions of any triad:

Root position: The root of the chord is the lowest note.

1st inversion: The 3rd of the chord is the lowest note.

2nd inversion: The 5th of the chord is the lowest note.


That's all there is to it. I told you it was easy!

The only hard part about inversions is not getting them mixed up on the fingerboard. That just takes a little practice. (as if you didn't already know that was coming.)


The Fingerboard:

Close voiced major chords:

Root Position


1st Inversion


2nd Inversion


Open voiced major chords:


Root Position


1st Inversion


2nd Inversion


The Practice:

Plot out the inversions for close voiced major triads on each set of three strings: E-A-D, A-D-G, D-G-B, G-B-E. Be careful with the third and fourth sets. The B-string changes the shape of everything.

Now, do the same thing for minor, augmented and diminished.

Make learning these inversions a priority in your own practice. They really are the "secret" to great playing.

Once you are thoroughly familiar with close voicing, start working on open voiced inversions. You will find that the better you know the close voiced triads, the easier it is to see the open voiced variety.

Don't just memorize these chords, internalize them. In other words, you have to get to know them. Each inversion has a personality of its own. You need to get to know that personality. One way of doing that is to try using the different inversions in chord progressions. Another way to get familiar with the inversions is to listen for them in songs that your know. You might be surprised to learn that the reason "that one chord in the middle of the chorus" of your favorite song doesn't sound right when you try to play it on your guitar, is because you are not using the correct inversion.