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So I have these chords in my song, and was wondering what they're called. I've heard they might be classed as an 'inversion' or 'power chord', but I'm still learning musical jargon so any insight would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

In the key of Bb Major/G Minor

G D Bb

I'm assuming this one is Gm inverted?

F F A

I think this one would be a power chord, or F Major but without the C? This one has really stumped me.

Eb Bb G

This feels like Eb Major Inverted.

D A F

D minor Inverted maybe?

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Chord inversion generally refers to changing the bass note of a chord to something other than the root note of the chord. Thus, if you played G minor chord with the notes G-Bb-D but put the Bb in the bass (so, Bb-G-D or Bb-D-G), then it would be called "inverted".

Power chords, meanwhile, tend to refer to open fifth chords. That is, you only have the root and fifth of the chord. If you played F-C by itself, that could be a power chord. But F-F-A is more likely interpreted as an incomplete F major chord.

Anyhow, what you're really referring to here is known as chord spacing or chord voicing (which mean roughly the same thing for your examples). Take a look at the examples in that Wikipedia link and see how you can move the notes of a chord to different octaves to create an "open voicing" or "open spacing" of a chord, versus the "closed voicing" or "close position" of a chord where the notes are right next to each other (e.g., G-Bb-D in the same octave).

Hence, your chords are simply G minor, F major (an incomplete chord, without the C), E-flat major, and D minor. To make any of these "inverted" would require that you put a different note as the lowest (bass) note.

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  • Thank you so much Athanasius! This has been really helpful. In terms of 'voicing' then, when does a chord become 'open', is it only after the chord is no longer a perfect triad? Or when one of the notes in that chord is in a different octave? – Jordy Dec 6 '19 at 20:04
  • "Close position" means the voices are as close as possible, i.e., within the same octave. Inverted triads can also be in close position, so G-Bb-D is "close position" but so would be Bb-D-G if they are in the same octave with Bb as the lowest note. So yes, it becomes "open position" when you move a note to different octave so the notes aren't as close as possible. – Athanasius Dec 6 '19 at 20:33
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These are the voicings I understand you are using...

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...you can call those open voicing as compared to closed voicing where the closed voicing arranges the notes by thirds (or their permutations, ex. GBDF, BDFG, DFGB, etc...)

enter image description here

The second chord (F A) doesn't have three tones to make a complete triad. You can call that an implied or incomplete chord. Some degree of harmony analysis needs to be done to make a claim about what the incomplete chord is, but we will skip those details and just say this is an implied F major chord with the fifth of the chord omitted.

Power chord is a rock music thing where the third of the chord is omitted. Your progression as power chords would look like...

enter image description here

Inversion is when a tone other than the chord root is put in the bass. Another way to state that is: a bass line can be harmonized with chords other than root position chords. We could do that with your descending bass line G F Eb D like this...

enter image description here

...even though the bass is the same the chords are now Gm Dm Cm D7 where the Dm and Cm are in first inversion.

A typical reason for this kind of harmony is to avoid all the parts moving in parallel motion, meaning all the voice moving the same way.

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  • Thank you so much for this Michael! It's been really helpful. And double thanks for providing me with examples on how to invert my chords, what they'd look like, and why they're used. – Jordy Dec 6 '19 at 20:05
  • Closed voicings can also include a 4th. Consider a closed voiced 2nd inversion - G C E. 4th and 3rd. – Tim Dec 6 '19 at 20:15
  • @Tim, good point, I made an edit for that. – Michael Curtis Dec 6 '19 at 22:11

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