First inversion

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The first inversion of a chord is the voicing of a triad, seventh chord, or ninth chord with the third of the chord in the bass and the root a sixth above it.[1] In the first inversion of a C-major triad About this sound Play , the bass is E—the third of the triad—with the fifth and the root stacked above it (the root now shifted an octave higher), forming the intervals of a third and a sixth above the inverted bass of E, respectively.

Root position, first inversion, and second inversion C major chords About this sound Play root position C major chord , About this sound Play first inversion C major chord , or About this sound Play second inversion C major chord . Chord roots (all the same) in red.
F major chord
First inversion F major chord: A,C,F.
First inversion.
Second inversion F major chord: C,F,A.
Second inversion.
Third inversion F major chord: E-flat,F,A,C.
Third inversion F7 chord About this sound Play .

First inversion of C major triad.svg


In early music,[vague] what is today called a sixth chord or first inversion in classical music was considered an autonomous harmonic entity with the root named by the bass, while it was later simply considered an inversion of a chord with the bass being the third (not the root) and the root being the sixth (not the bass).[citation needed]

Special kinds of sixth chords[edit]

The Neapolitan sixth is a root-position minor subdominant triad with its fifth displaced upward to the flatted supertonic (second degree of the scale)[citation needed] – a Neapolitan sixth in C minor, therefore, consists of the notes F, A and D. About this sound Neapolitan sixth chord preceding authentic cadence (V-I) 

There are a number of augmented sixth chords. Each of them has a major third and augmented sixth above the bass.[clarification needed] When these are the only three notes present, the chord is an Italian sixth About this sound Italian sixth moving to V. ; when an augmented fourth is added above the bass, the chord is a French sixth About this sound French sixth moving to V. ; while adding a perfect fifth above the bass of an Italian sixth makes it a German sixth About this sound German sixth moving to V  (the etymology of all these names is unclear). All usually have the flatted submediant in major keys (sixth degree of the scale, A flat in C major, for example), but the normal minor-sixth submediant in minor keys (A flat in C minor, for example) as the bass note. In this case, they tend to resolve to the dominant.[citation needed] Another related chord with an augmented sixth is the Tristan chord.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Walter Piston, Harmony, fifth edition, revised and expanded by Mark DeVoto (New York: W. W. Norton, 1987): p. 66. ISBN 978-0-393-95480-7.