Inversions of piano chords

When 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 straightforward: 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:

Root position of C Major

C chord diagram

But you can 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 (C major with E at the bottom).

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 (C major with G at the bottom).

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 as a result 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 are possible. Here are two lists 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 are 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 ›

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