Tip: Inversions

In this lesson we’ll see that going up is sometimes the same as going down on the fretboard. Let’s give a concrete example. Bar, with the tip of yourfirst finger, strings 2 through 4, fret 7. Pluck or strum that a couple of times, and then remove your fingertip and play those same strings open, or fret 0. You’ve just descended seven frets.

Now, play the same first chord at fret 7 and then zoom up to fret 12. Play strings 2 through 4 there. You’ve just ascended five frets – 12 minus 7 equals five. But this second chord at fret 12 is the same as the chord at fret 0, just one octave removed. Play the two together and you’ll hear their sameness.

The point being made here is that descending seven frets gets you to the same chord as ascending five frets. Here’s some musical math to help you see this important relationship in other chord movements. If you’re trying to go up a certain number of frets to a particular chord, but you’d rather (or need to) go down to that same chord, you do this: subtract from 12 the number of frets you wanted to go up. In our example, we went up 5 frets from fret 7. Subtract that number from 12: 12 minus 5 equals 7. That’s the number of frets we can go down from 7 to hear the same chord we went up to.

If this is confusing, it might be less so if you try this out in several different places. Try going up three and down nine frets, and vice versa.

We’ll need this knowledge of inversions when we start deciphering chord charts.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright © 2010 Darrin Koltow

This first appeared in the Guitar Noise News – June 15, 2008 newsletter. Reprinted with permission.