Taking chord voicings that you already know and invert them is a very great way to look for new chords. You can work on this from a more guitar oriented approach and not only music theory. That is the approach I will cover in this lesson.
Besides learning new voicings this is also a good exercise in knowing what notes are in the chords and once you start making inversions you will train you fretboard knowledge and ability to solve riddles with making the inversions playable.
Inversions on a string set
The approach that I suggest you use in the beginning when making inversions is maybe a bit more guitar oriented and not too theoretical. Often the process of making inversions from a theoretical point of view stops us from actually playing the chords.
This mostly applies to voicings that we have learned that are not already in a system like Drop2 or Drop3, since you start working on those in all inversions from the first go anyway.
The idea is really quite simple. In Ex 1 I have written out a Cmaj7(9) chord. If we look at the notes separately as in bar 2 we can order them so that they are in one octave by shifting down the high D one octave. In bar 3 we have converted the notes of the voicing to a “scale” where in order of pitch. In this case that would be the notes C D E B
If you stay on the same string set then then you can lean the figure out the scale on each string which will eventually be a map of the inversions.
To go over this in detail for the Cmaj7(9) chord: In example 2 the first chord is the basic voicing we already know. The next inversion will be the one where for each note in the chord we move it up one step in the “scale”.
From Bar 1 to Bar 2 in example 2: Low to high: C becomes D, E becomes B, B becomes C and D becomes E.
This continues from Bar2 to 3: D becomes E, B becomes C, C becomes D and E becomes B.
So in this way we are making the inversion on the same string set directly on the guitar.
Now that we have this system let’s try it out on a few more chords:
D/G is a good voicing for Gmaj7, A7sus4, and Em7 type chords. Since it is a triad over a bass note it is not a construction that we would qucikly think to make inversions of.
In example 3 you have 4 inversions of the chord. As you can see bar 3 and 4 are very difficult to play, but 4 is doable if you add an artificial harmonic to raise the F# an octave. A trick I picked up from Lenny Breau.
Another voicing that we can invert is a 4 note stack of 4ths as shown in Example 4. What this shows is that the voicing is realted to an E7sus4 drop 2 voicing (especially visible in bar3).
What is also useful about this is that we use the first chord as a voicing for Gmaj7, E7sus4, D6/9 or Cmaj7, and they are then related to E7sus4 which could give you a new perspective on where to look for voicings for the other types of chords.
A few progressions with the new inversions
Just to demonstrate how you can take some of these voicings and use them in a context I made 3 examples of II V I cadences with the voicings. I am also using some other chord voicings that I came up with from inversions so it will also be an example of some of the other things you can create with this technique.
In example 5 I am using the Cmaj7(9) voicing found in bar 3 of example 2. You can see that the voicings preceding it are a Drop2,4 Dm7(11) voicing and a Drop2 G7alt voicing.
Example 6 is starting with an Am7(9) Drop2 voicing and continuing with a D7alt voicing that you could also hear or think of as an D7 chord from the whole tone scale since it does not contain a 9 but does contain both b5 and b13. The last chord is the 2nd bar of example 3, but then with a fingering that is a bit more playable.
The final example is a II V I in C, and here we are using the drop2 E7sus4 voicing from bar 3 of example 4. The first Dm7 voicing is a n in inversion of a Dm7(9) voicing that you probably already know. The G7 alt voicing is an incomplete chord since it does contain the 3rd but not the 7th. The overal sound of the altered dominant comes across in context because it for the rest contains b9,b5 and b13. The G7alt voicing resolves very smoothly to the Cmaj7 voicing in bar 3.
I hope that you can use the material that I went over here to get some new ideas and learn some new chords and maybe expand your view on how different voicing types are related to each other.
If you want to study the examples away from the video or article you can download a pdf here:
Find New Jazz Chords with inversions
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