Chords can be inverted by moving the lowest note up an octave. The lowest note after the inversion, i.e. the bass note, determines the name of the inversion.

Take for example the C major chord. As you can read in my detailed article for Chords Theory, the C chord consists of the following triad: C-E-G, thus C is the root, E is the third and G is the fifth.

  • If the chord lowest or bass note is the root note, i.e. C, then the chord is in root position.
  • If we now move C up an octave, the lowest note becomes E. We call this first inversion and you will see the chord written as C/E, i.e. this is a C chord with E bass note.
  • If we additionally move E up an octave, then the lowest note becomes G. We call this second inversion and you will see the chord written C/G, i.e. C chord with G bass note.

Read on, to see this process in detail.

Identifying a Chord in root position

We continue with our example of the C chord (triad), that consists of C-E-G. Remember, the lowest note, called the bass note, determines the name of the inversion.

You can see a C chord written below. How can we tell if this in root position?

1-Chord triad
When the lowest note is the root of the chord, the chord is in root position.

The lowest note in our case is C. See it below:

2-Chord Bass


  • You notice that in this C chord, the lowest note is C.
  • As this is the C chord, you know that the root is C.
  • So, the lowest note is the root note! This chord is in root position!


Chord first inversion

Now, let’s invert the chord.

4-first inversion

It is now E, the chords third. That is why the chord is now called first inversion.

See it below:

5-third becomes bass

Chord second inversion

Let’s invert the C chord again.

6-second inversion

It is now G, the chords fifth. That is why the chord is now called second inversion.

7-3rd inversion

Chord third inversion (back to … position)

Let’s invert the C chord once again.

8-3rd inversion

It is now C, the chords root. That means that the chord is now at root position, but one octave higher.

9-toor becomes bass again

Chord inversion reference

Use this chart for reference to chords (triads) inversion.

10-reference inversion

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