The Architecture of Music


1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12

Seeing Inversions as Unique Chords

Chord Inversions

If we look at the maj3 and its inversions side by side and start all the chords from the same bass note we can see inversions are indeed unique chords as each of the chords above contain different notes. In the E maj3/1 the root note is C and in the E maj3/2 the root note is A. Traditional music theory would thus name these inversions by their root note so the E maj3/1 would be C maj3/1, and the E maj3/2 would be A maj3/2. However, on the musical staff, the notes of each chord would still show E as the bass note in each of these chords and then annotate them as inversions using figured bass naming nomenclature, a more complex and less intuitive inversion naming nomenclature than the altered popular slash notation used in this book. Since chord formulas and interval diagrams always begin from the bass note it makes more sense to name inversions by their bass note and not their root note. The interval diagrams clearly indicate the root, 5th, and third notes using geometric identification and the linear circle of fifths diagrams above the interval diagrams indicates the bass note in relation to the other notes. Interval diagrams are in a sense an expanded musical staff notation and work similarly to the musical staff so the chords above are shown as they would look on an expanded staff.

Seeing inversions as unique chords and naming them in relation to the bass note was absolutely necessary to be able to do many things such as creating a chord encyclopedia that included inversions as well as creating chord lists including the inversions for every note in a scale being used as the bass note in a chord. The 3-tone chord matrix that can be found in the Organizing All The Scales portion of this website generates inversions as unique chords and their semitone and interval name formulas show them as unique chords as well. It is also much simpler to learn and play inversions in relation to the bass note than the root note. Though this naming methodology differs from traditional music theory, just remember in traditional theory the root note is used to name inversions. However, I would not have been able to accomplish many of the things I have done in the book such as simple two page chord reference charts for all the root position and root inversions had I used traditional music theory’s inversion naming nomenclature based on the root note. The chord encyclopedia could not exist if the inversions were based off the root note because all the 4th tone add variations would be based off the root note as well and would be different for the root position and 1st and 2nd inversions. And most importantly, all the integration of chords, scales, and modes that can be found in the scale encyclopedia would not be possible if inversions were named based off the root note and not the bass note. This simple, small change to traditional theory makes all of these things possible and the root note can still be identified and used to name the inversions if so desired.