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Guitar Chord Inversions 

Recall that I stated all diatonic chords in the major key are built upward in thirds. For example, the C chord is constructed with the (root 1st), 3rd and 5th intervals in the major key. Look at the illustration below for the C chord. Notice the (root 1), 3 and 5 notes, these are the (root C), E and G notes that make up the C chord. This is the Major chord. 

guitar chord inversions

Recall that I also stated that minor chords are also constructed upwards in thirds. But, for the minor chord, the 3rd note would be a the flat note. (root 1st), b3 and 5. Look at the illustration below and you will see that the 3rd note is flat. This is how to construct the minor chord.

C minor and the notes

The next illustration shows all of the notes of each chord in the key of C major. In other words, all three notes of each triad are illustrated. Look at the C chord below and notice the (root C), E and G. These are the notes of the C chord. The next chord Dm, has the notes (root D), F and A. These are the notes of the Dm chord. Each chord has been illustrated below in the key of C major. Each chord below can be considered in their root position.

Chords and notes of the key of C major

The illustration below shows the C chord at the root position, at the 1st inversion and then the C note at the 2nd inversion. Notice where the C note is located at the root position. This is shown with the notes, C, E and G. The 1st inversion now shows the E, G and C notes. Notice that the C note is no longer the root note, but the E is. In the 2nd inversion below the G note is now the root note G, C and E. All chords can be played using these different types of construction.

Each chord will give a different feel or power. what do I mean by this? If you played the C chord using the second inversion, it would not produce that powerful tonic sound that it would in the root position. I don't want to make things to confusing here, so it would be better to just play each chord illustrated for now. Later we will go into cadence and progressions in more detail. As you play these chords in each illustration below, it will really begin to open your mind to other possibilities. You will begin to see how all of these chords are related to one another and how they can be played at other locations.

C Chord and inversions

Key of C major (Triads, 3 note Chords) In their root, 1st and 2nd inversion positions. Chords in the key of C major, C Dm Em F G Am B diminished and C. In the first illustration below, I've written out each chord in the root position using the A string. Pick each note one at a time and learn each chord and it's position. 


Guitar chord inversions

The next illustration shows each chord and the 1st inversion. I have written each of these chords using the D string. Once again, play each note one at time.


Key of C major and chords in 1st inversion

The illustration below shows each chord at the 2nd inversion. I've written each of these chords using the G string. 


Key of C major and chords in 2nd inversion

You need to play all of these chords until you have them memorized. Begin to see where each chord is in relation to the scales and modes of the key of C major. To play professional lead guitar, you must know where the chords are and how they fit into each guitar scale.

I shouldn't tell you this but I will. I am often asked how do I know what scales to use for a certain progression. Real quickly, for example, if you wrote a song in C major and used the chords in that key, C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, B dim or any of the major 7 or minor 7's of this key, you could just play lead in the key of C. Diatonic means, the notes within the key. So, if you only played the chords of one key, you could just play the notes of that key.  But the trick is to know how to play over the particular chord you're playing. 

Good Luck

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