(in the piano this would be impossible to play but it's doable in a guitar)


C4, E4, G4 -> E4, C5, G5


2 Answers 2


This is a common misconception about what inversions are. Inversions only consider what the bass (lowest) note is. If the bass note of a chord is the root of the chord, then it is in root position, regardless of how the chord notes are distributed among the upper (non-bass) parts. Similarly, if the lowest note of a chord is the third of the chord, then it is in 1st inversion, regardless of the upper voices. And so on.

So in your examples, both chords are in first inversion. The second one is an "open" voicing, meaning the chord tones are spread out across more than an octave. It is certainly possible on a piano, when you consider both hands (which you must do to properly name an inversion).

  • I probably misunderstand the remark in parenthesis. Why can't you name E4,C5,G5 properly if you play it with one hand?
    – JiK
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 9:19
  • You can name it properly if you play it with one hand. You can't name it properly if you are using both hands, but not taking into account what one of them is doing.
    – thelr
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 12:01
  • 1
    @JiK If you're playing with only one hand, you still know what the other hand is doing: nothing. If playing with both hands, even if you consider only the left hand, there's a small chance that one hand is crossed over the other. (the "must" refers to the considering, not the playing) Commented May 24, 2016 at 13:21

They're both C major, first inversion, but the voicings differ. The first chord is in close position, the second in open.

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