I am learning about neighboring chords (prolongation) and I have hit a speed bump, basically it seems the only tone that needs to be consistent in an inversion of a chord is the root, all the others can be whatever chord tones you want? Can someone verify this or yell at me for being more dumber?


I think you are a bit dazzled about how chords work. Let's take C major for example and work on that one.

The notes are: C,E and G.

If you use the C (root of the chord) as the bass note, you have the chord in root position. It doesn't matter how you place the other notes on top of that, or which ones you duplicate (if you duplicate any).

If you use the E (third of the chord) as the bass note, you have the chord in first inversion. Similarly as before for the notes you stack on top of this note.

Lastly, if you use the G (Fifth of the chord) as the bass note, you have the chord in second inversion. Once again, the way you place the other notes on top of this, doesn't affect the inversion.

  • This was exactly what I was trying to find out. I'm taking composing classes after being a trombone player growing up, dazzled is an excellent word for it haha. – Frank Badertscher Mar 10 '17 at 23:16
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    @Frank Badertsher - If his answer is 'exactly' what you were trying to find out, then I think you 'owe it to him' to Select his answer as your preferred one. You do so by clicking on the little check mark just below his answer score. – L3B Mar 12 '17 at 16:50

If you're asking what I think you're asking, yes it's the bottom note that tells us what inversion a chord is in. The remaining notes may be filled in above in any order, in an open or closed voicing.

Be careful about your use of the term 'root'. It doesn't mean 'the bottom note' when talking about chord inversions.

Not sure what you mean by 'prolongation'?

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The root is the chord's main identifier, so yes, it should be there. This is also normally the bass note in the chord.

When coming to inversions, any note can in the bass, in major and minor chords, this can be the 3rd (called 1st inversion) or the 5th (called 2nd inversion). Third inversions is also possible in chords which consist of 4 notes.

Also note, the bass note in an inversion need not to be one of the notes in the chords, it can be any note, except the root

  • yes I get all of that, thats not really what I was asking, I know that the root is the basis of the inversion. I am asking if any of the other harmonic voices matter, or if just the bass needs to be the inverted root. – Frank Badertscher Mar 10 '17 at 8:08

90% of songs just use the 1st as the root all the time. That just leaves the other 10% that don't. Using the third creates an especially cool sound. The fifth is good too. I can't give you any advice about when to use it. You'll just have to listen and judge for yourself.

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