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Do you struggle with chord inversions?

by Bruce Siegel on January 27th, 2015

A DoctorKeys subscriber just emailed me a question that’s so important, I’ve decided to post our exchange. Here’s the question:

It takes me too long to invert chords when I am trying to play songs. For example, if I was playing the root position of C chord and wanted to progress to the closest inversion of G chord, I have to think for a while to know that it is “B D G”. Also, once the chord is inverted, I get lost. (like, “what is this chord that I’m playing right now?”) Do I just have to practice the transition over and over or is there a better way?

And here’s my response:

Great question! Two things in particular can help.

One is exactly what you suspected — practicing that transition repeatedly. And the good news is that mastering it will not only help you with the song in question, but also pave the way for you to play other songs that use the same (or a similar) chord sequence. So as you practice, you’re always accumulating ability that will continue to pay off.

The second suggestion is to practice an exercise specifically designed to help you master inversions. Some people like exercises, some don’t. But for those who are open to them, certain drills, if practiced regularly, can help you accomplish a lot in a fairly short time.

In Play & Sing, go to the lesson called “Inversions: The secret to smooth chord changes”. The last page has the Chord Inversion Exercise. It shows you how to systematically practice each position (root position and the two inversions) of the C, F, and G chords. If you make that exercise part of your daily routine, it will go a long way towards putting those inversions literally at your fingertips whenever you need them.

You can also expand on that drill to include other chord qualities and roots. In fact, as part of Pop Piano Accompaniment, I just uploaded a new version of the same drill, incorporating the many new chord qualities that are introduced in the tutorial called “The Essential Chord Guide: How to Build 21 Different Chords on Any Note,” also part of Pop Piano Accompaniment.

And the video after that one extends this exercise by having you practice in all the keys (or as many as you feel ready to tackle), by following what we call the circle of fifths.

I hope this helps!

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