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I'm learning to play Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars (Jobim) on the piano. On the 11th and 12th measure the left hand plays a chord progression of Em7 to A7+5.

If those were not inverted, I would be playing E G B D, and then A C# E# G. That would require moving my hand around a lot, so, as my piano teacher taught me, I'm inverting the second chord so my fingers move less.

My first instinct was to try to play the first chord as-is, then invert the second chord to E# G A C#. To me it sounds muddled. I am don't know how you describe it otherwise.

If I instead play G A C# E#, it sounds clearer.

It seems like the second chord inversion is better but I'm unclear whether this is my ears deceiving me, or whether it really isn't as "good" an inversion. This is confusing because I always thought all inversions were equal but definitely some, though not most, seem different.

Can someone explain why? And help me understand the vocabulary to research more?

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    Please focus your post. There are at least three distinct questions here. (Also, C# not Db.)
    – Aaron
    Nov 29, 2022 at 2:48

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As mentioned in comments, a A7 has a C#, not a Db. It is the same note, but it must be spelled correctly, C# is the 3rd of an A7 chord. Also as @Todd_Wilcox pointed out, the F is actually an E# because that note is the (raised) 5th of the chord.

The reason that chord doesn’t sound very good is because it contains three whole steps (E#,G,A) side-by-side. Since you are voicing from root position I suggest replacing the root of the A7+ with a Bb (the b9). This will give you a better sounding chord. You end up with E,G,B,D to E#,G,Bb,C#. See what you think.

At a point down the road you will probably start learning about rootless voicings which have a more open and refined sound but knowing how to voice from the root is an important skill so keep it up.

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  • Am I missing something that two people pointed out the C# but not the E#? Nov 29, 2022 at 3:43
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    @ToddWilcox You have a point. I’ll correct. In my defense I tend to think of +5 as b13 ;) Nov 29, 2022 at 4:49
  • This is great. I'm still struggling a little with the fingering but that's just experimentation I suppose
    – xrd
    Dec 1, 2022 at 2:26
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    @xrd Bb is the b9, not the 9, an important distinction. In jazzy styles like Bossa Nova musicians will sometimes take liberties with chords. That includes both adding and taking away notes from chords or even coming up with substitutions for the original chords. That is part of what makes performances by different players unique. The trick is to do it in a way that works with the melody and the rest of the chord progression. Dec 1, 2022 at 6:15
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    @xrd As for adding the 13, the +5, or F, is actually the same note as the b13 so it’s already sort of in there. One thing to be aware of is that the root of an A7+ chord is always A. Putting the F at the bottom is using an inversion or a voicing. It doesn’t change the root, it just changes the bass note (which doesn’t necessarily have to be the root). Dec 1, 2022 at 6:21

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