In the beginning stage of your playing, you've probably come across certain terms that at first glance seem confusing or intimidating, but I assure that a bulk of the music theory concepts that you'll encounter are actually deceptively simple; it's just a matter of finding order in all the chaos. To show you what I mean, we will cover (cue dramatic music: Dun-dun-DUNN!) chord inversions.
In a previous post we've covered the topic of chord construction (if you've not checked it out, you can find it here), so for simplicity's sake, we're going to cover the triad, the most basic element of a chord. Just as a recap, please refer to the following recipe for making a triad:
3rd (major or minor)
Now, lets get creative -- as you examine the example above, can you think of different ways to arrange the numbers?
Very good! As you've probably noticed, you can also arrange those same numbers in the following order:
Triad: (1st Inversion)
3rd (major or minor)
This is what's known as a first inversion. This is essentially the same chord, simply with its inherent intervals rearranged, or inverted.
In fact, each triad actually has two different types of inversions, which are as follows:
You may be wondering: since it's first shown, why is the second example considered a first inversion and not a second inversion? Great question! The simple answer is that it's the most basic order of notes, which is to say that it isn't rearranged, or inverted; it's also no coincidence that it also happens to be the most stable in terms of the chord voicing.
Okay, that's enough of the theoretical, let's pick up our guitars and put it into practice:
In the illustration above are: E minor/ E minor (1st inversion)/E minor (2nd inversion)/ resolving back to good ol' regular E minor. Experiment by comparing each triad, and see which one sounds best to your ear -- chances are that the E minor triad will sound best due to the sequential order of intervals, which is often described as being most "stable."
Just remember that while the example in this post covers the E minor triad and its inversions, the same principle applies to any other chord; whether it be a major, minor, augmented, diminished, etc., they can all be inverted to create different voicings.
As a bit of a post-discussion challenge, find a triad that you like and experiment with finding its inversions.