How do you write in music notation a dominant ninth chord in its fourth inversion?

I only know of the ways to write first, second and third inversion. Fourth I have never come across.

  • 1
    Do you mean writing it on the staff, or the figured bass?
    – Richard
    Jun 28, 2017 at 12:42
  • 1
    For a famous repertoire example, check out m. 42 of Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht.
    – Richard
    Jun 20, 2019 at 14:39
  • If this isn't just a theoretical question, can you post a sample of what you are analyzing? Jun 20, 2019 at 14:40
  • @Richard, I added the Schoenberg example in my post. Did I get the right measure? If got it right, it looks like an 11th chord with the 9th in the bass! Jun 21, 2019 at 13:34
  • @MichaelCurtis It should be a ninth chord. Perhaps there's a hidden clef change somewhere?
    – Richard
    Jul 1, 2019 at 13:34

4 Answers 4


Let's take C9 - C dominant 9th. C9/D. The notes are C, E, G, Bb, D rising. So the fourth inversion needs the D underneath. The order of the others doesn't have to be in that same rising order, though, so it could be, and often is, voiced in another order. It will also be voiced differently depending on which instrument it's written for.

  • This is good jazz notation, and it's what lead sheets would use.
    – Dekkadeci
    Jun 28, 2017 at 13:05
  • In a jazz context, C9/D implies that the comping instrument should play a C9 chord, & the bass should play a D. This effectively changes the harmony to Dsus♭13 or Gmin6/D. This is different from what I see Jolene asking about--my take is she wants a C in the bass and a particular inverted voicing in the piano/guitar. In a solo piano context, this is the difference between (1) playing a C9 chord in the middle register & a D in the lower register/bass & (2) playing an inverted C9 voicing in the middle register with either nothing in the bass or a C in the bass.
    – jdjazz
    Jun 28, 2017 at 16:43
  • @jdjazz - Gm6/D doesn't have a C in it, so how does that work?
    – Tim
    Jun 28, 2017 at 16:51
  • @Tim, that's true--I was thinking more about the underlying harmony than the proper writing. Gmin13 would probably be a better way to actually write it, because the 13 often implies lower extensions like the 11. But this still isn't really a way to notate a specific desired voicing. It would just be a way to notate the harmony in a lead sheet. The larger point I wanted to suggest is that the slash notation makes implications about what the bass would be doing which I suspect Jolene doesn't intend.
    – jdjazz
    Jun 28, 2017 at 17:06

A review of Ottman, Kostka, and Piston all agree 4th inversion ninth chord aren't normally used. Piston gives all thee inversion figures for 1st, 2nd, 3rd: 7/6/(5), 6/5/4, 4/3/2. He points out ninth chord inversions are only occasionally found, and specifically 4th is not used. His general rule is 9th above the root and leading tone below thw 9th. Lacking a standard practice it seems best to list the complete figure for 4th inversion: V7/6/4/2.

Of course the question will be about the surrounding harmony and whether a 4th inversion 9th is actually the clearest analysis. When I play that 4th inversion in isolation it seems like it could be a 3rd inversion half-diminished chord with a non-chord tone above.


@Richard commented about an example from Schoenberg, I'm adding it below for convenience...

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I don't remember ever seeing a fourth-inversion dominant 9th chord in classical music (the 9th is usually the topmost note), but the "figured bass" version is V 7/6/4/2. Maybe V 7/6 is the most elegant compressed version?


For example, we have a G9 chord. This is the V9 of C major. It has the notes G-B-D-F-A. In the context of four-part harmony, we will omit the fifth. So we will get G-B-F-A.

Root position: (G-B-F-A)

If we count the intervals from the bass note:

  • G-B is 3 - G(1) A(2) B(3)

  • G-F is 7 - G(1) A(2) B(3) C(4) D(5) E(6) F(7)

  • G-A is 9 - G(1) A(2) B(3) C(4) D(5) E(6) F(7) G(8) A(9)

So, we mark the root position ninth chord as C: V9. (Chord name is G9)

First inversion: (B-F-G-A)

If we count the intervals:

  • B-F is 5 - B(1) C(2) D(3) E(4) F(5)

  • B-G is 6 - B(1) C(2) D(3) E(4) F(5) G(6)

  • B-A is 7 - B(1) C(2) D(3) E(4) F(5) G(6) A(7)

So, we notate the first inversion as C: V7/6/5. (Chord name is G9/B)

Second inversion: (D-G-B-A or D-G-F-A)

In the second inversion ninth chord, we can't omit the fifth because the fifth should be the bass. So we'll omit the seventh or the third instead.

If we omit the seventh:

  • D-G is 4 - D(1) E(2) F(3) G(4)

  • D-B is 6 - D(1) E(2) F(3) G(4) A(5) B(6)

  • D-A is 5 - D(1) E(2) F(3) G(4) A(5)

If we omit the third:

  • D-G is 4 - D(1) E(2) F(3) G(4)

  • D-F is 3 - D(1) E(2) F(3)

  • D-A is 5 - D(1) E(2) F(3) G(4) A(5)

So we mark the second inversion as either C: V6/5/4 or C: V5/4/3. (Chord name is G9/D)

Third inversion: (F-G-B-A)

  • F-G is 2 - F(1) G(2)

  • F-B is 4 - F(1) G(2) A(3) B(4)

  • F-A is 3 - F(1) G(2) A(3)

So the third inversion will be notated as C: V4/3/2. (Chord name is G9/F)

Fourth inversion: (A-B-F-G)

  • A-B is 2 - A(1) B(2)

  • A-F is 6 - A(1) B(2) C(3) D(4) E(5) F(6)

  • A-G is 7 - A(1) B(2) C(3) D(4) E(5) F(6) G(7)

So, we'll notate the fourth inversion as C: V7/6/2. (Chord name is G9/A)

Overall, we get:

V9, V7/6/5, V6/5/4 or V5/4/3, V4/3/2, and V7/6/2. (Chord names: G9, G9/B, G9/D, G9/F, and G9/A)

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