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  1. #1

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    This may seem like a dumb and silly question (which probably is!) but why do we name inversions by the bass note of the chord? Wouldn't it make more sense to name things where the root is at?

    For example

    E G B C or G B E C or B E G C

    Trying to learn chords in an organized matter is what I'm attempting to do. I would love to call these '1st Inv' but instead the proper way is to call these chords respectively 1st Inv, 2nd Inv, and 3rd Inv. Is it okay to be improper if I keep it to myself?

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  3. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by jazznylon View Post
    This may seem like a dumb and silly question (which probably is!) but why do we name inversions by the bass note of the chord? Wouldn't it make more sense to name things where the root is at?

    For example

    E G B C or G B E C or B E G C

    Trying to learn chords in an organized matter is what I'm attempting to do. I would love to call these '1st Inv' but instead the proper way is to call these chords respectively 1st Inv, 2nd Inv, and 3rd Inv. Is it okay to be improper if I keep it to myself?
    Sure, as long as you never leave your cave or try to communicate with other musicians. That's how most guitarists tend to approach it. Invent your own language that nobody else speaks.

    There's easy, and there's lazy. You're better than that.

  4. #3

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    Can we at least call a chord with the root in the bass "0th inversion"?
    Build bridges, not walls.

  5. #4

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    Yeah nevermind the thread I made was stupid lol. Back to my cave then

  6. #5

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    first..the "dumb or silly" question is the one not asked..

    naming chords for beginners to pros can be and is in many cases confusing and illogical..in jazz in particular it can be impossible..well almost..

    what little organization there is in naming chords is in basic triads and basic four note chords..not altered in any way..once they become altered the names to begin to vary..

    with basic four note chords Cmajor 7 as an example..I see the inversions this way

    C E G B 1357
    E G B C 3571
    G B C E 5713
    B C E G 7135
    note the organization vertical and horizontal

    of course the guitar being "illogical" the fingering of the order of notes may have to be changed but the systematic way the chord is voiced does not..example

    a common way to voice the C major 7 chord is

    C G B E 1573 so moving each note of the chord to its next voice becomes
    E B C G 3715
    G C E B 5137
    B E G C 7351

    again..note the organization vertical and horizontal

    now most basic chords arranged this way can be played on a given set of strings and even on different sets without too much difficulty

    BUT

    the bass note has been the key note of the inversion no matter how it is voiced

    so Cmaj7/E

    gives you options to voice the chord..now there may be considerations; how to configure the remaining notes..on which set of strings..as the melodic line may require it ..this kind of thing happens with chord melody arrangements mostly and voice leading techniques..

    and in this kind of thing when playing with other musicians..bass and keyboard in particular..this communication is important to the overall sound of the tune you will be playing

    now in more advanced arrangements and harmonic complex tunes ..chords may have ANY note in the bass that is not related to the basic chord at all..again this has to do with voice leading and harmonic structure of the music being played..

    so..playing basic inversions it is recommended that you use the BASS note as the guide to the chord name..Cmaj7/G will be easier to understand by most musicians

    hope some of this is clear and helpful
    play well ...
    wolf

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by jazznylon View Post
    This may seem like a dumb and silly question (which probably is!) but why do we name inversions by the bass note of the chord? Wouldn't it make more sense to name things where the root is at?

    For example

    E G B C or G B E C or B E G C

    Trying to learn chords in an organized matter is what I'm attempting to do. I would love to call these '1st Inv' but instead the proper way is to call these chords respectively 1st Inv, 2nd Inv, and 3rd Inv. Is it okay to be improper if I keep it to myself?


    There's a certain logic to what you're saying. It's always easier to look at something from the back end and say, "They should have done it this way, instead."

    You probably already know that the inversions of chords stem from the root position close-voiced triad - CEG. Invert it once, you get EGC. Invert it again and you get GCE - so root position, first inversion, second inversion. That's just as logical when seen from the front end.

    .
    The disgusting stink of a too-loud electric guitar; now that's my idea of a good time - Frank Zappa

  8. #7

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    Maybe I'm misunderstanding Wolfen, but when I see music that has a slash chord, I don't assume the chord voicing in an inversion but instead only that the bass player (or if two guitars the one carrying the bass line), is to play that note as the bass note AND that this bass note does NOT need to be part of the standard chord voicing. Often the slash chord is just a step or two lower then the root (so it could be the 7 or b7 which would be a chord tone and thus an inversion).

    Of course I don't know of any lead sheet music that actually tells one to play an inversion. So I don't really get the OP when he says the chord is named by the root of the inversion. Instead when I'm playing an inversion and someone asks me what chord I'm playing, I'll just say Cmaj7, inversion 1 or Cmaj7 with the 3rd as the root. I don't call it a type of E chord.

    In many cases I'm dropping the root for an alternate bass note per slash. I.e. the final chord voicing doesn't contain the root note at all.

  9. #8

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    A couple of questions:

    1. Who says this is about the guitar?

    2. How else would you indicate the central point? (i.e. the note in the bass when it's not the root) In other words, there are many voicing options for what appears over the bass.


    If there is a better system, please define it. And "better" means short, simple, easy to understand, conveys the essentials, etc.

  10. #9

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    I believe the current system of chordal inversion notation is just an outgrowth of continuo, which identifies inversions by the intervals that are created as you invert the notes of a 7th chord. Knowing the bass and the melody implies the other notes in the chord easily in diatonic music and even works well for some amount of functional chromatic harmony. Continuo has limited ability to codify extended harmonies and is pretty much useless for altered chords, though. So I think the current system of notating chord-over-bass-note is just an extension of what already works in many cases, with a practical tweak (ditching intervallic notation against a key center) to make it more useful for the kind of chromaticism you find in jazz and pop.

  11. #10

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    Acutally in classical theory they are named through the intervals between the bass and other important notes

    C6 means E-g-c
    C 6/4 means G-c-e

    E-g-b-c will be called C 6/5
    G-b-c-e will be called C 4/5
    B-c-e-g will be C2

    I operate these terms quite easily and they are very clear to me... the only thing is that C6 can be mistaken for Cadd6 in jazz context.


    Another important difference is that there are two characteresitcs

    1) inversion indicates ONLY bass so E - g-b-c and E - b-c-g and E - c-g- b are the same C 6/5 chord becasue it has the 3rd in the bass.
    It comes from teh idea that bass can be however distant from the rest of the chord

    2) and the melodic note is usually called melodic position

    In my opinion this tradition in pop and jazz when inversion means just everything inverted in close position and it means both bass and melodic voice changeing... it has pros but also cons.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonah View Post
    Acutally in classical theory they are named through the intervals between the bass and other important notes

    C6 means E-g-c
    C 6/4 means G-c-e

    E-g-b-c will be called C 6/5
    G-b-c-e will be called C 4/5
    B-c-e-g will be C2

    I operate these terms quite easily and they are very clear to me... the only thing is that C6 can be mistaken for Cadd6 in jazz context.


    Another important difference is that there are two characteresitcs

    1) inversion indicates ONLY bass so E - g-b-c and E - b-c-g and E - c-g- b are the same C 6/5 chord becasue it has the 3rd in the bass.
    It comes from teh idea that bass can be however distant from the rest of the chord

    2) and the melodic note is usually called melodic position

    In my opinion this tradition in pop and jazz when inversion means just everything inverted in close position and it means both bass and melodic voice changeing... it has pros but also cons.
    Continuo does not name a chord root. There is standard notation that consists of a melody note and a continuo figure (aka figured bass) beneath the staff. Thus the actual notation of the first inversion chord would simply be a 6 beneath the staff that contains the melody note. Thus, there is no "C6" in figured bass notation.

    The current shorthand chordal notation does not imply anything about voicing; the 6 in first inversion continuo does not distinguish M6 from 13, although in modern chordal notation these are, in fact, different.

    C6 and Cadd6 are literally the same set of notes, which is why Cadd6 is not commonly seen in chord charts. C13 implies dom 7. It doesn't say where the 13 has to be voiced, although it often won't sound correctly unless voiced above the 7th.

  13. #12

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    Haven't read entire thread. Inversions are often written with the bass like so: CM7/E, CM7/G, etc.

    Not to be confused with one triad/chord over another, of course. Refer to context. Should be clear - ie:

    Whose bright idea was it to name inversions by the bass note of a chord?-jpg

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by starjasmine View Post
    Continuo does not name a chord root. There is standard notation that consists of a melody note and a continuo figure (aka figured bass) beneath the staff. Thus the actual notation of the first inversion chord would simply be a 6 beneath the staff that contains the melody note. Thus, there is no "C6" in figured bass notation.

    The current shorthand chordal notation does not imply anything about voicing; the 6 in first inversion continuo does not distinguish M6 from 13, although in modern chordal notation these are, in fact, different.

    C6 and Cadd6 are literally the same set of notes, which is why Cadd6 is not commonly seen in chord charts. C13 implies dom 7. It doesn't say where the 13 has to be voiced, although it often won't sound correctly unless voiced above the 7th.
    did I ever mention continuo or figured bass? I play it on lutes and know it (and essentially it is the same thing), but I described the system that is used in modern classical theory education formed in late romantic period... usually it is scale degree not letter but it does not make much difference.

    I6 in C major would mean C major triad with E in the bass.
    In short hand when it is out of key reference one can write C6 .
    And this can be mixed with jazz C6 which means C major triad added 6 (6 ajoutee).

    Hope I made clear what I had meant.Whose bright idea was it to name inversions by the bass note of a chord?-c-dur-d-moll-1-jpg

  15. #14

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    It seems like each musical 'world' has it's own conventions as far as how chord symbols are written. When I'm charting out my tunes for my band, I try to adhere to established conventions, but also try to keep things simple as far as communicating what the harmony of the song needs that particular chord to be.

    Many of the chords I'm playing on guitar are complex and could be 'correctly' expressed in several different ways, so in the chart I try to go for communicating the essential notes that need to be there in symbol I use. I might be playing G-E-G-B-D-F#(in my odd tuning), so I could call it GM7add6, Emi9/G, Emi7add9/G, or even GM13. So I decide if the chord is functioning as a G major or an E minor harmonically, because that will influence how the bass player reads it, what the other guitar player does, what keyboards might do (which will be different if it's piano or organ).

    If I decide it's harmonically an E minor, I'll likely write it as Em7add9/G rather than Em9/G even though that's more confusing to sight read. there's a convention that says the 7 is implied in Em9. But a straight minor 9 (no 7) sounds vastly different than a minor 7 add 9, especially if there's a G in the root. Yada yada yada.

    Honestly I've gone round and round on this. Sometimes it seems easier to just chart out tunes with the most simple chord symbol possible. But in a band context, it becomes immediately obvious that what I'm playing on guitar is very different from the chart. So usually I write out the chord I'm playing in it's entirety (even though that makes for some very crowded lead sheets in a tune with lots of changes) and tell players to feel free to simplify, and/or follow their ears. I feel like it's beneficial for players who understand theory to be able to see specifically what I'm doing (and the song's harmony) as they work out what they're going to do, and as long as the basic chord is correct (Em in this example) the rest can be worked out in rehearsal.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonah View Post
    did I ever mention continuo or figured bass? I play it on lutes and know it (and essentially it is the same thing), but I described the system that is used in modern classical theory education formed in late romantic period... usually it is scale degree not letter but it does not make much difference.

    I6 in C major would mean C major triad with E in the bass.
    In short hand when it is out of key reference one can write C6 .
    And this can be mixed with jazz C6 which means C major triad added 6 (6 ajoutee).

    Hope I made clear what I had meant.Whose bright idea was it to name inversions by the bass note of a chord?-c-dur-d-moll-1-jpg
    Thanks for the scanned example, Jonah - I haven't seen that notational system before. I'm curious about what caused this system to evolve - any recommendations on a good explanation of its basis, rationale, evolution?

    As for continuo, no I mentioned that, not you :-) I was suggesting to the OP that the current convention of naming inversions by bass note might have evolved from continuo notation.

    Cheers,

    SJ
    Last edited by starjasmine; 06-27-2019 at 05:50 PM.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by starjasmine View Post
    Thanks for the scanned example, Jonah - I haven't seen that notational system before. I'm curious about what caused this system to evolve - any recommendations on a good explanation of its basis, rationale, evolution?

    As for continuo, no I mentioned that, not you :-) I was suggesting to the OP that the current convention of naming inversions by bass note might have evolved from continuo notation.

    Cheers,

    SJ
    You see... I came to the point that there were national shools in classical music and even though they were all European tradition they had their own path of musical development, different periods of climaxex and a bit different theoretic apparatus.

    Approximatlely form late baroque German music began to dominate and during late 19th century there was elaborated methodical and theoretical apparatus.
    I am Russian, and Russian school adopted German system (most terminlogy is translation from German) through Tchaikowski, Taneev, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rakhmaninov who were first to write methods and maybe even made it more system. To solve 'harmonic tasks' was and still is a common routine in musical education here, I still own a methodical book with more than 100 tasks for harmonization int it. Usually when you solve it you also (at least at the beginning or in complex places) put in shorthand these functional and positional descritpion of the chord, the idea is to develope functional hearing and functional voice-leading.

    We say 'quint sext' (5 6) or 'cadential quart sext' as colloquial musicians' slang. We do not say '1st invesion or 2nd inversion' etc
    Also invesion means only bass rotation in the 4-voiced triad or 7th chord. (I noticed that in pop music tend to rotate all the sounds whe they apply the inversion term)

    This system was developed fisrt of all for functional analysis of music and learning process. But it comes from functional relations first of all... this system is retrospectively applied to baroque music too where the functional relations already existed.

    Recently I translated my friend's essay into English and I noticed that the things that are absolutely clearly expressed in German and Russian become almost untranslateable becasue there is no terminology for that in English.

    I think that due to decline of the English tradition in music during 19th and early 20th century there was some kind of passive theoretic development, they just adopted German stuff too more or less (I am sure though that Ives or Britten or Elgar knew what I 2 or V 5/6 means) but not as intensively as in Russia becasue in Russian music it was a period of growth and it is natural that they absorbed everything.

    But whatever it is of course any classical musicologist would understand this conception in any country. It is more or less convemtional the difference maybe that we are taught even at the basic level, and in some countries it may be considered as a special knowledge - I am not sure.

    Just my theory about it ...

    Thank to jazz and expansion of pop music there was developed new theoretic apparatus in English that is more realted to these styles than to classical.

  18. #17

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    The basic theoretical tool in the musicians back pocket is this gigantic thing called the piano.

    I've heard it said (on more than one occasion) that Bach was the father of Music Theory and Bach developed this theory based on the layout of the keyboard.

    If the guitar neck befuddles you, as it tends to do in my case, I would recommend to study the piano, not so much to achieve technical prowess and dexterity but to understand the basic layout of Music Theory. It's a Wonderful tool to use and for some odd reason (my wife has a master's degree in music composition), I've always had one around the house, although I don't play it per say, I understand its layout and it is very helpful when I have a theoretical question that I want to work out... and then as a matter of course put it under my fingers with my main instrument the electric Bass, or my equally second instrument the CES (a nod to Gibson) guitar.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by geogio View Post
    The basic theoretical tool in the musicians back pocket is this gigantic thing called the piano.

    I've heard it said (on more than one occasion) that Bach was the father of Music Theory and Bach developed this theory based on the layout of the keyboard.

    If the guitar neck befuddles you, as it tends to do in my case, I would recommend to study the piano, not so much to achieve technical prowess and dexterity but to understand the basic layout of Music Theory. It's a Wonderful tool to use and for some odd reason (my wife has a master's degree in music composition), I've always had one around the house, although I don't play it per say, I understand its layout and it is very helpful when I have a theoretical question that I want to work out... and then as a matter of course put it under my fingers with my main instrument the electric Bass, or my equally second instrument the CES (a nod to Gibson) guitar.
    Piano helps to visualize theoretic things better of course...

    I don't know what you meant about Bach though. He did not develope any theory.... he did not leave any theoretic treatise, and he did not own any by other authors (after his death his library containes mostly theological works). He was very practical in music (which actually shows in his workds very clearly).

    Though his music is built already on functional tonality - as a theory it was developed much later.

  20. #19

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    Exactly. I've never heard any such confusion amongst piano players. Sorry guitar players.
    When I got pretty good I went on the road with a group - We starved - Wes Montgomery

  21. #20

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    Coming out of my dark cave (its been a long time!) I've decided a long time ago that I should leave the inversions where they are at. Its not worth it to try and change it into something else that can potentially confuse myself and potentially others in the future.

    Instead I came up with different names for categorizing these chords depending on where the root is at for my own personal use (don't ask). I don't really care about where the concept of inversions come from (the explanation is cool though!). I just don't like wasting my time even though I do it a lot. So yeah.. around 300 chord voicings to go and I'm set for life when it comes to knowing harmony on the fretboard Wish me luck