I need advice on how to sight read triad chords (root position and inversions).

For example, lets take a look at "Waltz in A Minor" by Chopin:

In the bass clef, on the second bar there is a low A followed by a root position Am chord, on the third bar there is a low D followed by second inversion Dm chord.

In the root position Am I think it is straight forward I should direct my hand first to the low note (A) and adjust my hand to play the rest of the chord. bu in the case of the inverted Dm, should I start with the low note (A) or with the root note (D)?

  • 2
    I agree with the answer, there's no need to exactly identify what chord you're playing as long as you can play it. Is there a reason why you're doing so?
    – user28
    Commented May 7, 2012 at 17:41

2 Answers 2


I would recommend reading the chord from bottom to top. To start with the root note would presuppose that you've analyzed the chord, and that's not something you would want to spend time doing when sight reading. Given enough experience, though, chord recognition should become second nature, making the whole question moot.


It pretty much indeed comes down to chord recognition in this case. This includes reading in intervals.

Instead of figuring out each single note in a chord [always starting from the bottom and working your way up], and let's assume the second measure you have shown here - you will, eventually, immediately recognize that it is the second inversion, because the third interval is at the top of the chord, not at the bottom (as is the case in the fourth measure).

In fact, I'd personally say that reading chords is one of the more easy components of sight-reading. Keeping in mind all the relevant things such as key signature, rhythm, staying ahead of one-self is much more challenging.

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