Inversion of piano chords

After you learn how to play chords you will have a tremendous benefit from understand how to use inversions. An inverted chord is the same chord but played with a replaced bass note.

The concept of inverted chords is simple: the tones are shifting places. Let us take a C Major chord as an example:
The standard way to play the chord is with the notes C, E, G:

C Major

C chord diagram

But you could also invert the chord and create two alternative versions of it:

1st inversion of C Major

C/E chord diagram

The order of notes changes to E, G, C and this chord is called C/E.

2nd inversion of C Major

C/G chord diagram

The order of notes changes to G, C, E and this chord is called C/G.

Inverted chords are abbreviated with a slash and the letter of the bass tone after the name of the chord (see the tables of inverted chords below).

Why use inverted chord?

By now, you may think: “Why complicate everything by using different versions of the same chord?” The answer is: by using inverted chord you can minimize the movements of your hand and therefore play faster. A second positive outcome of this is that you also will be able to play more comfortably without looking at the keyboard – the reason is the same: the movements are minimized.

Triads – two inversions are possible

For triads (i.e. chords with three notes) two inversions will be possible. Here is a list of all major and minor chords with inversions.

Major chords with inversions:

1st inversion 2nd inversion
C C/E C/G
C# C#/F C#/G#
D D/F# D/A
D# D/G D/A#
E E/G# E/B
F F/C F/A
F# F#/A# F#/C#
G G/B G/D
G# G#/C G#/D#
A A/C# A/E
A# A#/D A#/F
B B/D# B/F#

Minor chords with inversions:

1st inversion 2nd inversion
Cm Cm/Eb Cm/G
C#m C#m/E C#m/G#
Dm Dm/F Dm/A
D#m Dm/F# Dm/A#
Em Em/G Em/B
Fm Fm/B Fm/A
F#m F#m/A F#m/C#
Gm Gm/A# Gm/D
G#m G#m/B G#m/D#
Am Am/C Am/E
A#m A#m/C# A#m/F
Bm Bm/D Bm/F#

Four note chords – three inversions are possible

For a four note chord three inversions will be possible. Below is a list of dominant seventh chords with inversions.

Dominant 7th chords with inversions:

1st inversion 2nd inversion 3rd inversion
C7 C7/E C7/G C7/Bb
C#7 C#7/F C#7/G# C#7/B
D7 D7/F# D7/A D7/C
D#7 D7/G D7/A# D7/C#
E7 E7/G# E7/B E7/D
F7 F7/C F7/A F7/Eb
F#7 F#7/A# F#7/C# F#7/E
G7 G7/B G7/D G7/F
G#7 G#7/C G#7/D# G#7/A#
A7 A7/C# A7/E A7/G
A#7 A#7/D A#7/F A#7/G#
B7 B7/D# B7/F# B7/A

You can find pictures of all these chords on this site.

See also Notes on keyboard ›