Why Are Inversions So Important?
After getting past the beginning stages of guitar (open and barre chords, strumming patterns, learning songs) playing rhythm starts taking a back seat. For many, lead guitar becomes too appealing to ignore. Improvising and learning solos is a no-brainer when compared to repeatedly strumming the same chords over and over.
Did You Know That You Can Improvise with Chords?
This is where inversions come in. They are the key to unlocking the fret-board. The days of playing the same chord loops are gone. The possibilities become quite endless, the only limits will be in your imagination. Chord inversions are not only practical for rhythm guitar but for lead as well.
Being able to visualize chords all over the fret-board is key when it comes to melodic soloing. In other words, to increase the quality of your solos it comes down to hitting the right notes at the right time, not just playing scales. This can be easily done if you can see chord shapes all over the neck. You can use chord inversions to target specific notes over chords.
What Are Inversions?
We are dealing with triads, which is just a fancy way of saying chords. The basic chord qualities are major and minor which contain three notes. A root, a third (major or minor), and a perfect fifth.
Playing a chord normally involves playing the root in the bass (the lowest string). It’s important that we don’t confuse these two terms, the root and bass of a chord.
In a G major chord we have the notes: G B D.
The root of this chord is always G, that doesn’t change.
However, right now the bass is also G, but this is open for change.
That’s what inversions are, putting another note from the chord in the bass.
A first inversion triad is putting the third of the chord in the bass.
B D G
A second inversion triad is putting the fifth in the bass.
D G B
You Already Know Inversion!
This next step becomes easier if you’re familiar with the CAGED system. It’s not a deal-breaker but it helps.
If you want to check out a lesson on this click here
The easiest way to using inversions is taking the big chords that you know, like barre chords, and breaking them down into different sets of strings. 2:54
You can change the fingering in order to make them more accessible. The important step here is to keep track of where the root of the chord is. By doing this you’ll be able to play them anywhere on the neck. You won’t be locked into big clunky chord shapes anymore.
Bonus Benefit: This method is great for learning the notes on the guitar. To use inversions you have to be aware of the notes of each chord. By using them over and over you’ll find that your familiarity with the instrument will increase rapidly
The Next Barre Chord
Break down a fifth string barre chord and unlock more inversions.
Break Down the C Shape
What About Minor Chords?
The bulk of the work comes when learning the major triads. I recommend getting a good handle on that before moving on.
Turning major triads into minor is really easy. Identify where the major third is and lower it by a half step. If you’d like the PDF for these chords, click here.
The Best Part Of Using Inversions
Now that you know how to use inversions all over the fret-board you can start improvising with them. Take any chord progression that you know and use inversions to get creative with your rhythm playing.
Here are a few examples of how you can use chord inversions to create smooth changes and move away from big clunky loops that repeat forever.