I understood how to invert the chords (moving the bass note an octave above). When it comes to melodies I have seen many examples on the net but cant seem to understand the idea behind it.

For example this one is given on wikipedia:

This example above is given on wikipedia. On the sources they say you invert the melody upside down. This is not what I get when I invert it upside down. I dont understand it.

Could someone please explain it in a simple way and why we do this?

  • I might recommend furthering your understanding of chord inversions, as it sounds like you may have a slightly inaccurate view based on the way you phrased that. Simply, a inverted chord is one that has any chord tone other than the root of the chord as its lowest note. – Basstickler May 20 '15 at 16:59

Melodic Inversion

Where the original melody goes up by an interval, the inverted melody goes down by the same interval. Sometimes you do it where you keep the same number of semi-tones (sometimes you do a "diatonic" inversion and just keep the scale degree). It's a technique for taking given melodic content and constructing more, related melodic content.

In your example, the original goes from a to c (up three semitones); the inverted goes from e down to c# (down 3 semitones). Then it goes from c down to b (1 semitone); the inverted goes up one semitone and so on.

(The diatonic version would go down a third, to c-natural, then up one scale degree to d and so on. The key feature is that no accidentals would be used).

As far as I can tell melodic inversion doesn't have much to do with chord inversions, other than sharing the same name.

  • Thank you for your answer. Is there any easy way to do that for the entire piece or we should do it note by note just like you said? And what is the point of doing these, to spice the melody? By the way I still did not understand could you give me a simpler example which you do inversion on it? – user20273 May 20 '15 at 16:30
  • The point is to generate a new melody whose relationship to the existing one is extremely close. It's really hard to get any simpler than the Rachmaninov example. Instead of up a third, down a tone, down a tone, and up a fifth, he goes down a third, up a tone, up a tone, and down a fifth. Do you see how Rachmaninov's melody is a mirror-image of Paganini's? The melodic contour has been inverted. What are you still unsure of? – dennisdeems May 20 '15 at 18:24
  • @dennisdeems What I am unsure of is everything actually. I do not get what am I supposed to do. Lets assume that I have a sequence which is C D E G could you invert it step by step to show me how we do it? – user20273 May 20 '15 at 18:53
  • c d e g goes +2 +2 +2 semitones (c to d, d to e, e to g), so the inverted melody would go -2 -2 -2, so if you started on c, it would go: c b-flat, a-flat, g-flat (the inverted melody could start on any note). – Dave May 20 '15 at 19:04
  • Actually e to g is +3 semitones so the inversion would be a-flat to f. – dennisdeems May 20 '15 at 19:30

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