Keyboard Chords

Finding Inversions

Finding the keyboard chords you need quickly takes practice. Here are some tried and tested methods that will definitely help. With easy-to-follow instructions, learners of any age-and-stage can learn and practice them, and teachers can use them with their pupils.

This Musicarta module - "Keyboard Chords – Finding Inversions" - now has MIDI support. You can download the MIDI files for it using this link.

The zipped folder of MIDI files is called Inversion Method MIDI 1. Save the folder to your desktop and ‘unzip’ it. Put the unzipped folder in your Musicarta MIDI folder and tidy up. If you are not familiar with zipped folders, the Musicarta MidiPiano download page has full instructions. It’s simple!

You can play the MIDI files on MidiPiano, Musicarta’s recommended virtual keyboard. The number, e.g. InvMeth_1, in the right hand table cell under each musical example tells you which MIDI file to play. MIDI files are tiny – downloading will use next to nothing of your bandwidth.

If you have not already downloaded MidiPiano, DO SO NOW! Downloading is simple and safe and the application is small, FREE and easy to use. Use the MIDI PIANO tab on the navbar, left or follow the link to go to the Musicarta MidiPiano download page, which will tell you all you need to know. Take it all the way – today! MidiPiano is a great addition to your learning resources. You'll soon get used to using it and come to find it invaluable.

BEFORE we get to the keyboard chords inversions material, a quick announcement

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Before we get to the keyboard chords inversions material, a quick announcement...

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    Inverting chords

When you’re just starting, the difficulty with learning inversions is that you lose sight of the keys when you take your hand off to move. The Musicarta method overcomes this initial problem by using two hands – to start with. Make sure you follow the two-hand instructions exactly to get the full benefit.

We will be using the chord tones of C major, shown here (shaded) on a keyboard.

C major chord tones

InvMeth_1

There are three steps in this method, which repeat.

1. Start with a simple C major triad in root position. The right hand plays, using fingers 1, 3, 5. Hold the notes down.

C major chord

InvMeth_2

2. Repeat the thumb note. It’s a white-key C. Take just that one note off, but play and hold the next C up the keyboard with your left hand. (Any finger will do.)

You will know you have found the right note because it will look and sound the same as the bottom note you just played.

InvMeth_3

3. Next, you take those three notes over with your right hand using fingers 1, 2, 5. The bottom note has gone up an octave: the root position chord has ‘inverted’ into a first inversion chord. Play the first inversion chord with your right hand.

InvMeth_4

The next audio clip covers Steps 1, 2 and 3 all rolled into one:

InvMeth_5

Repeat steps 1, 2, 3 to climb up from the first inversion chord to the second inversion chord.

C major chord inversions

InvMeth_6

Repeat the three steps to climb up from the second inversion chord to the root position chord, an octave above where you started.

How-to inversions

InvMeth_7
To finish the exercise off musically, repeat the to end on a first inversion chord with C, the root, at the top.

chordal inversions

InvMeth_8

This is what you’ve done:

Chord finder

InvMeth_9


    Inversions descending

To come down, you start from the top first inversion chord using RH fingers 1, 2, 5.

chord generator

There are three steps to each downward flip.

1. Play your highest first inversion C chord with RH fingers 1, 2, 5 (above). Hold the notes down.

(The audio clip - for all three steps - is below.)

2. Exchange the top note (C, RH5) for the next C down the keyboard – played with your left hand. (Any finger will do.) You should now be holding three notes – two in the right hand (1, 2) and the one left-hand note.

descending inversions

3. Next, you take those three notes over with your right hand using fingers 1, 3, 5. The top note has gone down an octave: the first inversion position chord has ‘flipped’ down into a root position chord. Play the root position chord with your right hand.

(The audio clip is for all three steps.)

InvMeth_10

Continue the three-step process until you get back down to the starting root position chord.

InvMeth_11

InvMeth_12

InvMeth_13

This is what the whole downward movement looks and sounds like:

InvMeth_14

You can see in this diagram how the inversions we have used in this exercise overlap.

inversions overlapping

    Recap your motivation

To make an inversion, one of the outside notes of a triad jumps an octave over the other two notes, which stay the same.

Root position chords – the ones we usually learn first and can usually always find – are not the nicest-sounding chords. First inversion chords, with the root at the top, are a lot more useful. Second inversion chords, with the third at the top, sound much nicer.

It’s annoying being sent back to First Grade, but using this ‘baby’ two-hand method will teach you to locate your inversions without mistakes and without stress far faster than trial and error and ‘just hoping’.

    Putting it into practice

The Musicarta Keyboard Chord Generator shows you how to find all the major and minor keyboard chords. Open the visual Chord Generator file to do the following exercises and go to the Chord Generator page for an explanation and more ways of getting the most out of this great tool.

1. Four flips up and down

Repeat the pattern exactly as you played it here from any Group One root position (circles) chord in the Chord Generator. The following audio file plays the pattern in A minor, then continuously in G major. Practice until you can play along.

InvMeth_15

2. One flip up, one flip down

Play the root position chord (circles) and flip the chord upwards into first inversion (triangles) and downwards into second inversion (squares) using the two-handed method you’ve just learned.

InvMeth_16

You’re trying to become as sure about the octave jump and as slick in taking over the three notes with the right hand as possible.

Make sure you repeat to yourself over and over what chord it is you’re rehearsing as you do these exercises. That way you tie the sight of the keys to the chord’s name in your head.

3. Repeat the above exercises with Group Two chords, and so on. Start from any inversion – circles, squares or triangles. The following audio file plays ‘Four flips up and down’ from root position (circles) in D major, then in C minor. Practice until you can play along.

InvMeth_17

    Moving forward from here

Your next step is practicing finding the inversions using just the right hand. Click through to Keyboard Chords - Finding Inversions 2 (module in preparation) for a methodical approach that's bound to produce results.

Then there's a brain-twister called 'Three Chord Tones in Three Places' (Keyboard Chords - Finding Inversions 3 - click through here) which will help you recognize those inversions inside out, back to front and upside down! Get some perspective on what it's like to really see the chords in the keys! Click through and bookmark it for your next study session.


Keyboard chords – Finding Inversions is a Musicarta.com web page. To explore similar keyboard chords explanations and exercises, click up to the Musicarta Chords Division home page.

If you are not already familiar with Musicarta.com, please visit our home page for an overview of how the site can help you develop your musical gifts.

New Musicarta material is constantly becoming available. The What's new? tab on the navbar left will bring you up to date with revisions and new modules. You can subscribe to an RSS feed there, too.

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The CANON PROJECT

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Check out the sample content via the 'Learn more' links, and see the title playlists at Mister Musicarta YouTube.


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