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Using Chord Inversions

Waldo

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I'm interested in how you'all utilize chord inversions.

I like to use them when doing background accompaniment. Repeating the chord progression over and over using the same root chords get old, quickly. In order to create some interest, in said repetition, I move up or down, inversion wise, returning to the root chords in the middle (or so) of the tune and then close with them. It certainly makes it more fun to play.

Another use I make of inversions is to un-complicate the fingering demands. Properly selected inversions eliminate large hand movements by moving the "long reach" chord closer, or adjacent too, the other chords. It is often possible, using inversions, to structure the chord progressions whereby one finger is always duplicated in the next chord played. This allows that one finger to remain stationary and properly orient the other fingers to the next chord.

Inversions also create a sort of "arpeggio scale". By following a chord's inversions up or downscale, a "goof proof" (however somewhat limited) scale presents itself for single note, double note and triplet play, within the chord demands.

Inversions, while running up and down the octaves, utilize the same bass rotations required for just the root chords.

I have developed several songs, composed solely of inversions, for the purpose of exercising my inversion patterning. They have proved to be fun tunes that I can vary in rhythm, speed and inversion order. Besides being fun, I have learned a great deal about my accordion (keyboard and bellows control) and what sounds good to the ear. I have also discovered some surprising relationships between Keys.

Lastly, CBA responders; How many rows do you utilize when playing? I use all 5 rows, all the time. If you're a 3 (or even 4) row player, are inversions as useful to you? Do you even use them?

Press on,
Waldo
 

Siegmund

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Is your question more about the left hand or the right?

As a classical-minded composer I care a great deal about inversions in the left hand, and probably scare off casual accordionists by specifying a whole lot more two-buttons-at-once left hand chords than they are used to. If I'm writing for someone with a specific instrument it matters a great deal to my voicing. (To me it doesn't seem all that scary - if you can play an alternating bass you can play two buttons at once just as easily.)

Say we have the "standard" stradella registers, where the Alto notes run C-B and the Contralto notes run F#-F. That means that using Master or Soft Bass, F#, G, Ab, A, and Bb chords will automatically be in root position; B, C, C# chords will be in second inversion; D, Eb, E, F chords will be in first inversion. That is great news is you want to play in G minor: G-Bb-D (i), G-C-Eb (iv), and F#-A-D or F#-C-D (V or V7) flow together smoothly and the tonic chord is in the most stable position. It's really awful news if you want to play in C major, where every C chord will have the "wrong" note (G) in the bass. In these registers I feel obligated to write a C or E fundamental bass (before or) simultaneously with almost every C chord.

Now, playing in Tenor register, the situation is reversed: now C to E naturally lie in root position, F,F#, and G in second inversion, and Ab to B in first inversion. This is great news for the key of D, OK news for the key of C, and bad news for the key of G.

If I want a piece of music to go light on the left hand, I choose a key and register that cause the most important chords to lie in the inversion I want. (Of course now I have an instrument where the LH chord voices run E to D#... so anything I wrote before I got it no longer works as intended on my own instrument. Heh.)

---

Re right hand: I do play CBA (B system), and freely use all 5 rows. A root-position major chord is easiest with the thumb on the root, and two fingers on the third and fifth two rows farther back: C-E-G in right hand I am probably playing on the middle and back rows, not the middle and second rows.. If playing E-G-C I would have either thumb+2 or 2+3 on the 2nd row (E-G) and either 3 or 4 on the 3rd row (C).

The scale books will have suggested patterns for playing C E D F E G F A G B A C B D C type scales, and for parallel thirds with two fingers at a time, and for arpeggios - but trying C E G D F A E G B F A C G B D A C E B D F C can be a real finger twister if you haven't practiced it before.
 

Waldo

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Sieg,
It never occurred to me to specify. But since you brought it up...Right hand on C system CBA (for me anyway). Your dissertation on the bass side has opened my eye to even more of a miracle the Stradella system is. It's gonna take me a while to apply all you said, to where I fully get it, but I'm game. That's what this whole music thing is about, isn't it? Learning! Thank You for that.

Waldo
 

Tom

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Hi Waldo,

I like to use the chord tones as harmony to melody (real or improvised, ie passing tones) notes, especially on long notes, or those at the end of phrases. I generally do this by playing the melody notes with the "middle, ring, little" fingers of the right hand, and the lower chord tones with the "thumb, first, middle" fingers. I will go for whichever inversion matches the hand position at the time, moving to a higher or lower inversion when necessary, or moving to the appropriate inversion of the next chord. When comping, or improvising on chord inversions, I will try to use the closest inversions of the chords, but move up or down for interest. I think this is a pretty common way to approach the inversions in traditional music.
 

NickC

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I haven't done a lot of accompaniment on the CBA yet, but for the music that I play there are often rhythmic 'hits' at the end of phrases. Often times, I determine the inversion by 1. which finger I use to end the phrase and 2. which register I'm using. If I end with the thumb, I usually play the next 2 chord tones up. Or the index, I might do one chord tone below with the thumb and one up with the middle. If I am playing with the master coupler, I tend to play inversions in the middle of the range so it's not too muddy.
I love listening to good piano accompaniment. Sometimes they add nice extensions in there while only moving one or two notes a 1/2 or whole step.

I always loved this prelude. Nice use of inversions:
 

losthobos

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The beauty of the accordion is we can toy with these inversion/harmonies otherwise might as well play a single line instrument.
I love muddling through and finding which other inversions/combinations hit the sweet spot....
One day my fingers may even make subconsciously what I'm imagining...
It's not the amount of melodies you know...more the amount of inversions you can summon that'll carry you furthest...
 

debra

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Simple chords (major, minor, seventh, minor seventh, diminished) can all be inverted at will. They sound fine in all inversions.
But when you go further, like ninth... you have to be careful. A chord like C9: C-E-G-Bb-D should not inverted so that you get C-D-E next to each other. It just doesn't sound right. This is something I have to be well aware of when making arrangements for ensembles, because when dividing chords over different voices, perhaps using different registers, you easily mix things up so that in reality you get a C-D-E sounding in the same octave without being obvious from the score...
 

JeffJetton

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Another use I make of inversions is to un-complicate the fingering demands. Properly selected inversions eliminate large hand movements by moving the "long reach" chord closer, or adjacent too, the other chords. It is often possible, using inversions, to structure the chord progressions whereby one finger is always duplicated in the next chord played. This allows that one finger to remain stationary and properly orient the other fingers to the next chord.

This is basically voice-leading and is (IMHO) a crucial skill for coming up with natural-sounding accompaniments in the RH.
 

Waldo

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Good stuff, all. Gives me a lot to consider and ponder over.
Thanks Jeff for the voice-leading comment. I was only looking to make the chord transitions easier, but, I now see (hear) the musical advantages afforded by the use of the inversions. That is, the reduction in "jump", interval wise, makes for a much more pleasing sound. When people I talked to comment that "most western songs follow the I, IV, V rotation", inversions were never mentioned.
Debra; Is there a similar consideration when playing 7ths?

Press on,
Waldo
 

Siegmund

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Re "Is there a similar consideration when playing 7ths?" - traditionally those same voice-leading rules applied to sevenths and diminished chords too. (Plus a couple additional rules for handling dissonances, which will usually take care of themselves for your purposes: it would be strange to follow G-B-F in the right hand with anything other than G-C-E, so no point in dwelling on a guideline to move sevenths downward rather than up.)

It's much easier to control this in the right hand than the left.
 

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