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How Inversions and Slash Chords Create Better Progressions 

This is a topic that's often taught early on in music theory classes, but I don't find it very helpful until you've got a good grasp of writing diatonic chord progressions in major and minor. So if you're not familiar with those Concepts check the video description below where I've linked to two videos that describe that having a good grasp of inverted chords is really going to free you up to right way more interesting melodic and moving chord progressions at the end of this video. We're going to examine a few different examples.

Transcription

 Please note, this transcription was computer generated and has not been checked for errors.  However, I do hope you find it helpful.   

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Hey, I'm Jake lizzio. And in this video we're going to learn pretty much everything you want to know about chord inversions and slash chord notation.

Of where we've heard these kind of things used to really great effect, but for the first half of the lesson, we really need to focus on what are inverted chords. How do we read them and understand them and how can we write them as well to get started? I'm just going to pick the key of a major and we're just going to build an a major Triad or an a major chord. That's just the first note of the a major scale the third note and the fifth note. So that would be the note say C sharp and E. And if I play those three notes at the same time, I will get an A major chord as long as a is on the base. As long as a is the lowest note that's ringing out. Out so I can play those notes in this order I could play. Hey he a C sharp and E and we'd still call that an a major chord in its root position. I can play those notes in any order as long as a is on the base. So here's another version of an a major chord.

Here's another version of an a major chord.

Here's another version of an E major.

Those are all a quartz because they contain the notes AC sharp any and a is on the base now a chord in first inversion means that instead of our route being our bass note. Our third is now our base note. So our third was C sharp, and if I make that the lowest note of an a chord like this.

I have an a chord in first inversion. And once again, I can rearrange the order of these notes to get different kinds of a in its first inversion, but that's all that a 1st. Inverted chord is it means the third is now played on the base and to notate this there's a traditional way to notate a cordon first inversion. We'd write an A and then we would follow it up the numbers six and three what that's telling us is it's telling us the distances between our notes now if we look at my a chord now, we'll see that C sharp. Is my new base note and the distance from that base note to the next note is a minor third.

That's what the 3 represents the distance from. My base note to the next note after that is a minor sixth. That's what the 6 represents.

So when you C63 it's really just describing the intervals there, but you just want to memorize the 6-3 means a chord in its first inversion. That means the third is now being played on the base.

Now, I'll be honest. I really don't like that notation.

It's descriptive but it's kind of old and it's kind of confusing as well. To make matters worse a lot of composers will just notate this with a giant number 6 instead and people might read that and think that they're talking about a sixth chord.

So I don't really prefer to use this notation, but it is important to know it because it does pop up quite a bit. What I would rather do to describe what we just saw is right the cord as a / C sharp anytime you see a slash chord in music. It just means that hey we've replaced our base note a is supposed to have a on the base, but the slash is telling us that we've replaced that bass. No. Note with the C sharp. So when I see a chord like this, I would much rather write it as a / C sharp then a 6-3.

Now if we take a look at that same chord in second inversion, it just means that our fifth is now being played on the base so we could take a look at those same chords we have now and then an A and then a C sharp and then another E. This would be an A in its second inversion. I would just call it a /e I think that's the much easier way to describe this chord, but the traditional way to notate it would be an a And six four and once again that's describing the intervals here. If you look at my new base note, which is e you'll notice the distance between E and A is a perfect fourth. That's what the four represents the distance between e and C sharp is a major Sixth and that's what the 6 represents so really, this is all you got to memorize the traditional way to notate this is that a chord in first inversion is called a 6-3 cord and it has the third on the base Accord in its second.

Inversion is a 6 4 Chord and it has the fifth on the base now everything we just learned. And applies identically to minor chords. So if I look at an A minor chord, I have an A and A C and so here's an A Minor in root position. I could put it into its first inversion just by adding that see onto the base.

Now. I'm playing an a / an A Minor /c or an A Minor 6 3 once again, if I put it on the base, I could just let the low open E ring out when I play this and I'd have an A Minor / e or an A Minor 6 4 so why should we care about this stuff? How's it going to help us write better chord progressions? Well to answer that. I just want to demonstrate a very simple example using just three different chords. If I go from my 1 chord in a which is a to my five chord, which is e to my six chord, which is F sharp minor.

We have a simple little chord progression that just sounds nice to the ear one five six and let's just pay close attention to what the base is doing during that chord progression on the a chord the bass plays in a on the E. Chord the bass plays Annie.

On F sharp minor the bass plays an F sharp. So our base is this big jump from a down to e and then up to F sharp a sharp F sharp.

Now, that sounds fine, but we could completely recraft that Baseline into something less jumpy and to something a little smoother. We could have a descend all the way down to F sharp just by introducing some inverted chords. So here's my a chord again, but instead of playing e with it. On the base. I'm going to play e with G sharp on the base instead and it gives me this motion from a major to be / G sharp. And did you hear my base now going from a to G sharp to F sharp minor?

I think that sounds I'm not going to say better but it's different and there's gonna be instances where you would rather do something like that or the base is slowly falling as opposed to this base movement that's jumping up and down I think for I'm like a love song where you're trying to kind of create this feeling of actually falling in love or you're doing something that has that that descending effect an inverted cord is going to save you there from that wild jumpy base movement and just for reference this chord progression where we have our tonic and then we have our inverted 5 chord and then we go to our six chord in root position.

You're going to see this everywhere off the top of my head the first few chords of American Pie by Don McLean is a G chord, that's the one and then it does a d / f sharp. That's an inverted.

And then it goes to the 6 quart also free bird is starts off with a g d f sharp / f sharp and then E minor so you're going to see that exact movement quite a bit and you should be able to recognize now that that movement that popular chord progression is created just through the clever use of a single major chord in first inversion. Now, let's take a look at some deeper and more interesting uses of these inverted chords in action and I'm going to go over three different examples by three prolific songwriters the Example I want to take a look at is from George Harrison's something. I did do an entire analysis on just this song. So check out that video if you like what you're hearing here, but I really just want to focus on this small little section of chords that happens during our happier major chorus sections. Those are in the key of a major and they train change from the one chord A major to the three chords C sharp minor now normally the base movement there would move up that major third. We have a then up to C sharp minor instead though. They play that C sharp minor in it. It's second inversion. That means my new base note is G sharp.

And that means my base movement is now falling down just a half step. So it's going to go from a to G sharp on the base.

The next chord is just the 6 chord F sharp minor in root position and then they go back to the tonic chord A. But once again that is flipped into second inversion.

So V is on the base.

Now, if you look at the bass note that we just the base notes in that chord progression. You'll notice they go from a to G sharp to f Charm to we've got a nice descending chord progression all the way through there. That sounds really nice. Even though our chords are changing all over the place. And if you compare the two side-by-side here are the notes in root position a major a C sharp then F sharp than a now compare That Base movement to a G-sharp that up then I think it's a, you know, completely different effect. Like I said, I don't want to say better or worse, but I in that instance, I would much rather hear it in that Arrangement as opposed to just those big jumpy base movements now for me personally. The first time I really grew to appreciate inverted chords is what I learned dream theater's regression is the acoustic track that starts off their album scenes from a memory and it's in the key of D. It starts off on a D major chord then it plays a deep / f sharp. That's a D in first inversion straight into a g and then back to D and then a d / C sharp which isn't a major chord in first inversion, but you could Give it as a Major Seventh chord that's being inverted then straight to the 6 chord B minor and then that bass no from the minor just turns into an A. So it's a B-minor / and once again, you could think of this as a minor 7 chord that has been inverted, but I'm just going to call it the B minor 7 or a B-minor / k then straight to an E / G sharp. So an E chord in first inversion, and we can think of that as the five of our five. It's a secondary dominant chord to take us to a major and a major will help us resolve.

So I think that's a really clever use of chords. You've got some nice, you know stuff in there. You got a secondary dominant. You got some nice base movement. And if you listen to this chord progression without those basic movements, it's pretty boring, you know in my opinion those bass movements are really the only reason that chord progression Works without it. You've just got this really simple boring, you know diatonic chord progression up until that surprise E major.

So I think by adding in that basement then you're getting a lot more interest out of that sin.

Sharp straight to the back to be minor /a e / G sharp and then a sus4 for our last example, I won't fault you if you don't recognize it. I had written a song a few years back called generations and I posted it here on the channel. It's an instrumental prog rock song and the verse sections all consist of some really simple chords that have just been enhanced through the use of Slash chords adding in new chords to the base and taking chord inversions and kind of helping create a little bit more interesting movement there on the base.

So the chord progression at its most basic level is just a deed and then a d / C sharp and then a C major and then a G major what I ended up turning that into was a dese us to and then a dese us to / C sharp and then a c and then a Geo And if you look at the base movement there, you'll notice that the base is just a sending a half step at a time like that and to make this chord progression more interesting. I added in even more base movement just on its own to help that base kind of, you know, really have its own role even as a guitar player. I wanted to have a prominent base movement. So it turned into this the D over C sharp to C major and then G over B, and then I finally bring in the G after that. It just goes back to a diesel. Us too but it goes straight to a B minor 7 and then a d-flat with a Adam sharp eleven for some nice. Try Tony goodness.

Now, if you're curious where those chords come from you may have recognized they're not all in the key of C. Then you're going to definitely want to check out my lessons on borrowed.

because in my opinion if you understand how to write a diatonic chord progression if you understand borrowed chords, if you understand secondary dominant chords and you understand chord inversions, you are basically prepared to write any chord progression that to me are the four huge pillars of progression writing and if you you know, if you're struggling with any one of those topics right now, I highly suggest you go back over those topics and master them because to me, I think you're almost Untouchable as a composer if you have a really good grasp of these four Concepts, Combine them together and you can just you will be have an infinite supply of interesting unique and recognizable chord progressions. Now before we close things out, there's a few things we got to talk about first this notation that we talked about earlier. The one I said, I didn't like with the 6-3 in the six-four that's called Figure debase and you can actually go even more detail in that there's where there's figured bass notation for 7th chords and minor 7th chords so you can if you do like that notation and if you're interested in you know and learning that definitely pursue that on your own plenty of information. Out on the internet, but I will say that it's going to be pretty impractical to most musicians who are just guitar players. It's a much more practical, you know notation to learn if you're going to be writing out scores or if you're planning on enlisting in some college level music theory classes. That's a pretty important topic to learn. I also really want to encourage people to use slash chord notation. It's so easy when I say something like a / C sharp it instantly tells us what it is. We don't have to count intervals or remember which one is first inversion. Which one is second inversion.

The only thing is is when you use Slash chords, you can sometimes misnamed Accord like if I took the cord a slash F sharp. Well the the court a / f sharp if I look at all those notes in order. I basically get the notes of an F sharp minor 7th chord.

So should you call it an F sharp minor 7 or should you call it an a slash F sharp? There's actually times where it would make more sense to call it an a / f sharp. Like let's say I was doing an a major and then a slash g sharp and then a slash calf sharp and then a slash.

It's Awarded the George Harrison thing we heard I would rather call that an a / f sharp because it kind of tells us what's going on. We have an a major Triad that's static. It's unchanged and then underneath that our base note is moving once at a time.

You could notate that as a major and then a slash g sharp and then call it an F sharp minor 7, but to me, it doesn't describe the music as well. So there's many times when you're dealing with Slash chords where a court can literally have two different names. It's also worth noting that if we rearrange those same notes of An F sharp minor 7 then we get the notes of an a 6-quart. That's an a Triad with a natural sixth added. So, you know, we got three different ways to call that same that same chord could have three potential names and a good composer just picks the name that best describes what's going on. So I hope this video helps you out. And if it did you're going to have to thank my awesome patreon supporters for making it possible. They've been supporting this Channel and in exchange. I post them some PDFs and occasional mp3s and special videos. If you'd like to join them you can there's links Below in the description, but if you don't like to do that, you can just like subscribe and But if you'd like to help me out, thanks for watching and I'll see you next time.

 





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