15 Free Chord Inversion Guitar Lessons

15 Free Chord Inversion Guitar Lessons

Any instructor will tell you that the vast majority of players suffer from the same malady with respect to their rhythm playing; a severely limited vocabulary of chords, comping applications and rhythm patterns. And those stacks of chord books and rhythm exercises that most of us have stashed somewhere are gathering dust for a good reason – they just don’t work. What to do? Take a few trips with Frank Vignola on his Inversion Excursion.

In this series, you’ll study a set of inversions, pick a key, grab a new pattern and apply over a practice rhythm tracks – playing your way through while you smarten up your chops. Don’t wait. Start your journey now!

C Major Chord Inversions: Introduction

Let us start with major chord triads in C major. All “fancy” chords start with a triad. The major chord triad is C-E-G which is the first, third and fifth step of the scale. This is the basis of all major and dominant chords. We start with the triad on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd strings. Root position means that the root or C note is in the lowest part of the chord or in the bass. First inversion means that the 3rd is in the bass and the 2nd inversion means the 5th is in the bass. Same chord, but different way of putting notes together. In this section we go through the C triad on all the different sets of strings. 1st, 2nd and 3rd, then 2nd, 3rd and 4th, then 3rd, 4th and 5th then 4th, 5th and 6th. We also go through what I call the spread inversions where a string is skipped to give a larger sounding chord. Then we move onto the extensions such as major 7th, major 6th and just about every other chord extension I could come up with. Don’t forget that learning your triads will help you to learn the extended chords because all extended chords are based on the triad.

C Major Chord Inversions: 1st-2nd-3rd Strings Lesson

Download the chart for this chord inversion lesson.

These are the C major triads on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd strings. Start slowly learning the three different inversions on the first 3 strings. Try strumming four beats per inversion moving smoothly between chords. Think ahead and visualize where your fingers need to go while strumming the chord you are currently on. This will help you to move smoothly in between chords. Always look to see how this triad fits into larger bar style chords or chord grips that you may already know. For each inversion, look at the chord and pick out each of the chord tones naming the notes.

C Major Chord Inversions: 1st-2nd-3rd Strings Performance

Download the chart for this chord inversion lesson.

Now it’s time to practice these inversions with a jam track. Start by strumming 4 or 8 beats per inversion moving to each inversion in a smooth and effortless manner. When learning something new, we tend to tighten up putting way too much pressure on the guitar neck which in turn makes it harder to play smoothly. Relax while making the move in between inversions and concentrate on trying not to squeeze the guitar neck too hard. We will work the same jam track for all major chords. This way you don’t have to learn a new groove for each jam track and can fully concentrate on the inversions. The simple groove jam track we will use to study these major inversions is designed to make it easier to learn the inversions and work with different comping techniques. Start with playing the same rhythm as the bass player is using. This will help you lock into the groove. Once you feel comfortable with this jam track, move on to another jam track in a different key and learn the inversions in other keys.

C Major 6 Chord Inversions: 1st-2nd-3rd-4th Strings Lesson

Download the chart & jam track for this chord inversion lesson.

Now that you have a good grasp on the triads and major 7th chords let’s move on to playing major 6 and major 6/9 chords and the various inversions. We start with adding the major 6th to the triad to make a C major 6th chord. Remember: a triad is a three note chord consisting of the 1st, 3rd and 5th step of the applicable scale. In this case C, E and G spell the C major triad. Adding an extension to the triad creates a 4 note chord. In this case we are adding the 6th step of the scale to the C major triad. The 6th step of the C scale is A or the major 6th. So the spelling of a C major 6th chord is: C-E-G-A or 1-3-5-6. You may notice that these are the same notes as the A minor 7th chord. A C major 6th chord inverted with the A in the lowest voice is also an A minor 7th. Next we will add the 9th to the major 6th chord making C 6/9 chords. Now that we are adding 2 extensions to the triad, they are essentially 5 note chords. The spelling of a C major 6/9 chord is C-E-G-A-D. The 1st, 3rd, 5th, 6th and 9th of the C major scale. Since we are using 4 note chords, we will be leaving one of the 5 notes out of the chord creating even more inversions on our excursion through inversions. For each inversion, look at the chord and pick out each of the chord tones naming the notes. Let’s start inverting. In this case, when playing the A in the bass this is considered the 3rd inversion. Root position has root in the bass, 1st inversion has the 3rd in the bass, 2nd inversion has the 5th in the bass and the 3rd inversion has the extension or in this case the 6th in the bass. When we play the 9th or D in the bass this is considered the 4th inversion.

C Major 6 Chord Inversions: 1st-2nd-3rd-4th Strings Performance

Download the chart & jam track for this chord inversion lesson.

Now it’s time to practice these inversions with a jam track. Start by strumming or hybrid finger/pick strum 4 or 8 beats per inversion moving to each inversion in a smooth and effortless manner. When learning something new, we tend to tighten up putting way too much pressure on the guitar neck which in turn makes it harder to play smoothly. Relax while making the move in between inversions and concentrate on trying not to squeeze the guitar neck too hard. These major 6th chords and major 6/9 chords are great for playing in a sparse way letting the chords ring out. They are pretty sounding chords and can be used to great effect. Also using the whole step approach by playing the chord two frets or whole step above then sliding down to play the applicable chord. These are cool chords to add effects such as chorus or reverb, etc…

C Major Clusters: Lesson

Download the chart & jam track for this chord inversion lesson.

When you see a C or C altered chord in a piece of music, think about this C chord in it’s simplest form meaning a C chord. This allows you to have the choice of all the different chord types and inversions to choose from. You may choose a C major 7th or C major 6th or any of the chord types we went over in the previous segments. Try connecting the different chord types. For example: Try C major 7th for 4 beats to C major 6th for 4 beats moving to the different inversions. A chord cluster is a 3 note chord usually within the range of a fifth using any 3 notes in the various inversions and chord types we discussed. Example is B-(7th) on the 3rd string (4th fret), C-(Root) on the 2nd string (1st fret) and open E-(3rd) on the 1st string. Tightly voiced three note chords are called chord clusters. We go over these chord clusters in detail during this segment. For each inversion, look at the chord and pick out each of the chord tones naming the notes.

C Major Jam

Download the jam track for this chord inversion lesson.

Now it’s time to jam trying out all these inversions. Don’t forget about the simple C triads and all the various inversions and chord types we went over. Enjoy, experiment and be creative.

A Minor 9 Chord Inversions: 1st-2nd-3rd-4th Strings Lesson

Download the chat & jam track for this chord inversion lesson.

We will now go over A minor 9 chords and the various inversions. It is a 5 note chord meaning two extensions are added to the triads. The spelling of an A minor 9 chord is: A-C-E-G-B or 1-b3-5-b7-9. You can replace the minor 7th (G) with the 6th (F#): A-C-E-F#-B or major 7th (G#): A-C-E-G#-B. Since we are dealing with the 1-2-3-4 strings we will be using 4 of the 5 notes as you don’t have to play all 5 notes. Notice where on the fingerboard the fifth note of the chord lies as you are playing the other four notes of the chord. In this segment I go over some of my favorite inversions of these cool sounding minor 9th chord inversions. Some variations on the minor 9th chord are also discussed. For each inversion, look at the chord and pick out each of the chord tones naming the notes.

A Minor 9 Chord Inversions: 1st-2nd-3rd-4th Strings Performance

Download the chat & jam track for this chord inversion lesson.

Now it’s time to practice these inversions with a jam track. Start by strumming or hybrid finger/pick strum 4 or 8 beats per inversion moving to each inversion in a smooth and effortless manner. When learning something new, we tend to tighten up putting way too much pressure on the guitar neck which in turn makes it harder to play smoothly. Relax while making the move in between inversions and concentrate on trying not to squeeze the guitar neck too hard. These open string minor 9 chords are real nice because you are utilizing open strings within the inversion. These open string chords produce a nice sustaining sound. Real mellow sounding chords that are great for smoother jazz and Pop.

C Dominant 7 Chord Inversions: Introduction

In this section we go through all the dominant 7th chord inversions. To make a chord dominant you add the flatted 7th step of the scale to the triad. The C triad spelling once again is C-E-G or 1-3-5. Adding the Bb or the flatted 7th to the triad makes a dominant 7th chord. The spelling for C dominant 7th or C7 is C-E-G-Bb. We will go through all the inversions on the different sets of strings, then get into dominant 9th, dominant 13th, suspended, flat 9 and more.

C Dominant 7 Chord Inversions: 1st-2nd-3rd-4th Strings Lesson

Download the chat & jam track for this chord inversion lesson.

We will be adding the flatted 7th to the triad to make a C dominant 7th chord. Remember: a triad is a three note chord consisting of the 1st, 3rd and 5th step of the applicable scale. In this case C, E and G spell the C major triad. Adding an extension to the triad creates a 4 note chord. In this case we are adding the flatted 7th step of the scale to the C major triad. The 7th step of the C scale is Bb or the flatted 7th. So the spelling of a C dominant 7th chord is: C-E-G-Bb or 1-3-5-b7. Let’s start inverting. In this case, when playing the Bb in the bass is considered the 3rd inversion. Root position has root in the bass, 1st inversion has the 3rd in the bass, 2nd inversion has the 5th in the bass and the 3rd inversion has the extension or in this case the 7th in the bass. For each inversion, look at the chord and pick out each of the chord tones naming the notes.

C Dominant 7 Chord Inversions: 1st-2nd-3rd-4th Strings Performance

Download the chat & jam track for this chord inversion lesson.

Now it’s time to practice these inversions with a jam track. Start by strumming or hybrid finger/pick strum 4 or 8 beats per inversion moving to each inversion in a smooth and effortless manner. When learning something new, we tend to tighten up putting way too much pressure on the guitar neck which in turn makes it harder to play smoothly. Relax while making the move in between inversions and concentrate on trying not to squeeze the guitar neck too hard. These major 6th chords and major 6/9 chords are great for playing in a sparse way letting the chords ring out. They are pretty sounding chords and can be used to great effect. Also using the whole step approach by playing the chord two frets or whole step above then sliding down to play the applicable chord. These are cool chords to add effects such as chorus or reverb, etc…

Frank’s Favorite 9th Chords

Download the chat & jam track for this chord inversion lesson.

Here are some of my favorite dominant 9 chords that I use in action. I must have played these chords thousands and thousands of times in the past 25 years whether it was with Les Paul or playing a gig in Macy’s at Christmas time. Some are spread inversions, some are full 6 string chords and some are 4 string inversions that we did not go over in the previous segments.

C Dominant 11 and #11 Chords: Lesson

Download the chat & jam track for this chord inversion lesson.

These are our first introduction to 6 note chords adding 3 extensions to the triad. It is fascinating how it keeps coming back to the triad which is why it is so important to know those triads inside and out. The notes of the 11 chords are: C-E (or Eb)-G-Bb (or B)-D (or Db or D#(Eb)) and F (or F#). 1-3-5-7-9-11. The 7th can be flatted or not. You can add an 11th or #11th to either major or minor chord type. The 9th can be flatted, natural or sharp. Examples – C major 7th with the added 9 and #11, C dominant 9 with an added 11, C dominant 7 with an added flat 9 and #11. The point is that the 3, 7, 9 can be altered while adding either the 11th or sharp 11. In this segment, I take you through a bunch of different inversions and variations to get this great sound. There are too many options to go through in one course. Take it slow and perhaps each week for the next 10 years you can add another 11 inversion to your tool box. For each inversion, look at the chord and pick out each of the chord tones naming the notes.

C Dominant 11 and #11 Chords: Performance

Download the chat & jam track for this chord inversion lesson.

We start with using the dominant 11th chord and moving the 11th up and down to create voice leading then move on to other 11 and #11 inversions. The Djangoesque dominant #11 is one of my favorites and I have used it many times especially for ending a song. I first heard Les Paul use this chord on the Jazz at the Philharmonic recordings that he participated in. Move these chords into other keys and work with the other jam tracks to really familiarize yourself with this great sound or tonal center.


Over the course of the Inversion Excursion journey, with the help of the full course, you’ll develop a massive vocabulary of chords, patterns and applications that you can pull out when comping, arranging, composing and improvising. In short, you’ll NEVER find yourself struggling to come up with something fresh and appropriate, if not downright dazzling. You can find it here…

Click to check out Frank Vignola’s Inversion Excursion on TrueFire!