Second inversion chords are the third chord position that students learn, since most methods restrict chord study to triads (three note chords) first.
You must first fully understand both “root position” chords and “first inversion” chords before you attempt to understand second inversions.
Inversions are based on a full knowledge of root position.
First of all, what is “inversion?” It means, literally, “to turn upside down.” In the drawing above, to “invert” the chord, you would change the order of the books: instead of GREEN/BLUE/RED you might put the bottom book (GREEN) on top, so the order is now BLUE/RED/GREEN.
Let’s review the first inversion chord, since in principle it is constructed in the same way as a second inversion chord.
Remember in the root position chord, the name of the chord was always the bottom note (the key furthest to your left.) So if you played a C chord, the lowest key of that chord in ROOT POSITION is always C.
Here’s a C chord:
The C is on the bottom, the E is in the middle, and the G is on the top.
Now take that bottom note C, and put it on the top of the pile:
Now you have a “first inversion” of the C chord, in which the bottom note is no longer the root of the chord ( C ) but has been changed to E. The chord is still a C chord, except that it is now a different “flavor” of C. The flavor is “first inversion.”
Now take that same chord and do the same process again. Here’s the first inversion chord we left off with above:
Now take that bottom note E, and put it on the top of the pile:
Now you have a “second inversion” of a C chord, in which the bottom note is no longer the root of the chord ( C ) but has been changed to G. The chord is still a C chord, except that it is now a different “flavor” of C. The flavor is “second inversion.”
The principle is universally the same with all 12 chords: to make a “second inversion” of a chord, take the bottom note of a “first inversion” chord and move it to the top.
Do this with the basic chords C F G D E and A. Don’t go further until you fully understand the idea and can play C F G D E and A chords in root position, first inversion and second inversion.
Think of inversions of chords as groups of Legos, in which you can endlessly rearrange the order of the same three Lego blocks.
For beginners, there are only three possible positions for notes within chords: bottom, middle and top.
Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press