Learning 7th Chords and Inversions

Discover quality 7th chords by first listening to their root position, then practicing identifying inversions of them.

As with triads, seventh chords also offer inversions. To create such an inverted version of a seventh chord, its bass notes should be raised an octave; chord-symbol notation indicates this by including both a slash and capital letter in its notation.

First Inversion

As with triads, seventh chords can also be inverted. For the first inversion of a seventh chord, taking its root and moving it up one octave from its original position gives an open sounding chord than when in its root position.

An inversion of a seventh chord can alter its sound by altering its intervals between members, such as by adding or subtracting accidentals from notes in the chord, altering both their intervals as well as, potentially, tonal direction of its chord. The easiest way to do this is through accidental addition or subtraction – adding and subtracting accidentals will change both its intervals as well as tonal direction of its chord.

An example would be a major 7 chord in its root position which sounds discordant; but in context of a progression it adds tension and movement. This is because dominant seventh chords tend to move down by one step as they resolve, creating urgency and tension that propels music forward – due to having an implied bass note (the fifth note from their original root position triad).

Second Inversion

This type of seventh chord features a flattened fifth, meaning that its bass note and root notes are one fourth apart – considered dissonance in certain contexts and thus used on weak beats such as beat 2 or 4.

If you want to create tension, this chord can help. It is also popularly used in R & B music.

A second inversion of a dominant seventh chord may appear less stable than its first, however this shouldn’t be seen as a major issue if placed properly within context.

Some musicians prefer playing this second inversion on strong beats, such as beat 1 of a 4/4 time signature. It is ultimately up to you as the player to choose which inversion works best; take care when listening and choosing what appeals most.

Third Inversion

A third inversion of a seventh chord is similar to its second inversion, except the top two notes have been switched. This makes the bottom note match that of its counterpart in root position while its middle note becomes its new base note of the chord.

An inverted seventh chord’s figured bass can be realized similarly to that of a triad. To do this, realize its original form first and then invert it. For instance, Gmi7 chord has a 6/5/3 figure bass.

Identification of various inversions of seventh chords requires some practice. To start off, root position seventh chords should be learned first before moving on to more intricate inversions. Roman numeral analysis system for triads may also prove invaluable when it comes to identifying chords from their symbols or bass notation notation.

Fourth Inversion

Inversions are an effective way of adding texture and movement to your chords. Take note of what happens when you add sevenths to triads that you play; add one or more and notice how adding another changes the mood and structure of music.

To invert a seventh chord, take its lowest note and move it up an octave so it becomes the last note in the chord – all other notes remain unchanged. Most often used are first, second, and third inversions of this type.

Roman numeral analysis system also helps identify diatonic seventh chords. Similar to triad analysis system, you use Roman numerals to represent each note of a chord; for instance, C Major 7 chord is written as 6/5. Using this system you can quickly recognize inversion of any closed-position seventh chord by looking at its root note; furthermore this approach comes in handy when learning about augmented and diminished seventh chords.