When we take an open D chord (D-F♯-A) and we add the open A to the chord, we would have second inversion as A is the fifth in the chord. The chord would be noted as D/A.

If we were to add the 2nd fret on the low E to the chord (which is an F♯ note), and still mute the open A, we would have first inversion as F♯ is the third in the chord. This would be noted D/F♯.

Now, if we play first inversion, and add in the open A, how would we notate that? The chord would still be a D chord as we only still just have the notes D, F♯, and A. It would still be first inversion as the third, or F♯, is still the bass note. The curveball here is that there is now a fifth (A) between the bass note and the root of the chord. How do we show this?

  • @theonlygusti thanks for the edit, English is not my native tongue, so any grammatical help is appreciated ;-)
    – rock-on
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 9:07
  • :P no problem, this is a really good question. +1 (psst, my edit message is a joke...)
    – minseong
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 10:42

5 Answers 5


Only the lowest note determines the inversion. If F# is the lowest note, it's first inversion and D/F# no matter what else is in the chord.

The way the other notes of the chord are arranged is called the voicing. So having the open A is one voicing, without the open A is a different voicing, but they are both the same inversion if the lowest note doesn't change.

I don't know of any way to specify a voicing with the chord name alone. You have to use fretboard diagrams, score, or tab to do that.

  • I think the OP is specifically talking about the open a string in a D Major chord which would definitely then make it a chord in second inversion.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 16:30
  • 3
    @NeilMeyer Quoting the asker, "It would still be first inversion as the third, or F#, is still the bass note. The curveball here is that there is now a fifth (or A note) between the bass note and the root of the chord. How do we show this[?]". (Emphasis added) Since the lowest sounding note in the asker's example is still the F#, it's still first inversion. Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 17:26

As I understand, your question is asking whether the following two chords, built from the bottom up, are the same:

F♯ D A

F♯ A D

And yes, they're the same chord, but the voicing is different. They're both D chords in first inversion.


Check out drop tuning.Drop 2 chords. Drop 4 chords. Particularly useful for guitarists playing jazz and comping, and only wishing to play 3 or 4 strings. The fingering is kept fairly simple, and each voicing can be achieved. Thus the F#DA (1st inv.) can be played F#AD (still 1st inv.) but using drop tuning, nothing to do with downtuning, each different voicing of a particular chord can be played and specified. Gets a bit more complex with 4 and 5 note chords, obviously.


You would show it in notation, tab, or by verbal description. Chord symbols tell us what chord, what inversion. They tell us nothing about voicing.

  • 1
    Chord symbols often don't tell us which inversion. They won't all be roots without a slash. At least not when I play them!
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 12:07
  • Certainly this is true for a guitar player or a 'right hand only' keyboard player. But the information CAN be included, for instruments that can make use of it.
    – Laurence
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 13:52

I gather you're talking about a specific voicing of a D Major chord in its first inversion, not "open D" (usually the root and the 5th).

If you want the performer to play the F#-A-D that are closest to one another I would recommend including the chord symbol D/F# and either giving an instruction to play a "closed chord" (maybe "closed chord on 4th, 5th, 6th strings) or inserting a fret board example that shows the exact notes and frets to be played.

  • 1
    Are you confusing D5 with whatever 'open D' is. That's root and 5. Open D on guitar is generally played with top three strings fretted, and often strummed with only top 4, giving a root 'inversion'.
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 12:05

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