An important key to successfully recognizing seventh chord inversions by ear is developing an excellent ear for intervals. Over time and practice, this will become much simpler.
An inversion of a dominant seventh chord ALWAYS contains an interval of one harmonic second. This can be seen by looking at the table of chord qualities below; in particular, look at column two for the triad quality and column three for interval note number.
Just as with triads, seventh chords may exhibit inversions based on which note in the chord is its lowest sounding member and can be labeled with either 1, 2, 3 or 4. Depending on which inversion is selected, its notes could either stack above or below its root note.
It’s essential that musicians know how to read figured bass notation when identifying seventh chord inversions, as this type of notation is widely utilized in music theory courses and its symbols usually precede Roman numerals and appear after the bass note of each chord.
Example of a major 7th chord in root position with notes E, G# and A: 6/5/3 is its figured bass symbol and signifies its root note as being E; any answers suggesting otherwise would be incorrect; it always depends on which note has the lowest note – this is due to seventh chords having special “leading tone” qualities which help it resolve naturally up towards their root note.
A first inversion of a seventh chord can be created by inverting its third and fifth notes above the root, using either major or minor triads; its result can either sound dissonant or harmonious, depending on how its voiced is played.
C major 7th chords can often be heard played in their first inversion, with the root as bass note and its fifth and third notes stacked above it – known as an inverted C major triad – such as that heard in Bacharach’s “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”.
Chord inversions are integral in creating seamless voice leading between chords and adding variety to a composition. Additionally, they may help resolve dissonant chords and bring movement to pieces of music. When analyzing seventh chords it’s essential that one knows both their quality and inversion so as to correctly label them.
Identification of seventh chord inversions by ear can be challenging, particularly when they aren’t in root position. With practice and an understanding of intervals, though, you can develop the necessary skills.
To perform a seventh chord in its second inversion, simply double the fifth of the bass note and double its fifth harmonic frequency. This produces an unsteady sound compared to that produced by first inversion chords; yet still retains some “rub” because there is no third formed with its lowest note.
Second inversion seventh chords are sometimes known as rootless sonorities because it’s difficult to determine the actual bass note audibly; due to 12 semitones comprising an octave, its lowest note can lie anywhere within this range. Spotting such chords usually involves looking closely at their harmonic context in which they’re played.
The third inversion of a seventh chord occurs when its root is placed above its fifth note; this inversion is also known as the flatted dominant seventh. To recognize this inversion, listen for bass notes which are flatted sixths above the root chord’s root note and note how their intervals between notes is uniformly equal.
This chord may not be as common, but learning its inversion is still extremely valuable. Furthermore, understanding how a seventh chord works through its inversion is key in understanding its sound – both positively and negatively.
Be mindful that inversion of a seventh chord depends on its lowest note, unlike triad inversions which use their highest note as the basis. This difference exists because seventh chords contain dissonant sevenths which need to be resolved, making them less stable than triads and necessitating additional care when dealing with them.