Bill Hilton·117 videos

In videos such as my rock piano tutorial, you’ll see that I often play chords with different hand positions rather than the chord in its most simple ‘root’ position. In this simple tutorial I explain how to choose chord inversions in a comp, as well as the reasons for choosing different inversions of a chord.

Chord inversions are the three different ways in which simple triads can be played. The root chord is the one often given if you search for a chord online: the note the chord is named after comes at the bottom.

The other two positions are called the first and second inversions. The same notes are played whatever the chord inversion, but they are played in different places on the keyboard.

The reasons for choosing to play an inversion instead of a root chord are for convenience but also for musical effect. For example, in my rock tutorial I use inversions with common notes to keep the chords close together on the keyboard and to avoid large leaps between chords. This in turn improves the phrasing of the sequence of chords, and creates a more musically pleasing sound.

There are other musical reasons for keeping the chords close together, which are connected with the overtone series and the way harmonies sound. If there are too many jumps between chords, your listener will perceive the chords differently. This comes under the heading of ‘voice leading’ which you should look up if you want to know about chord inversions in more depth.

A more simple rule of thumb when it comes to choosing chord inversions when improvising is simply to avoid making two jumps between chords in succession. Try to stick to common notes or notes that are very close together.

It’s also useful to make sure that you learn the different inversions of triads rather than just the root chord. It’s worth learning the different voicings of the chords too- though that is something that applies to bigger chords rather than triads. These are different from inversions and I’ve discussed them in another video.

When you’re finding the chords for a song, rather than simply playing the chords as they’re given to you in their root form, have a go at inverting them for better progression and flow.

More information on chords and their inversions can be found in my book, which includes a section on chords and basic harmony

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