Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Be It Let – A Beatles Chord Inversion Primer

I'm very pleased to present this video guest post by Lee Pat of One Minute Song

Do you remember when you started out on the piano or guitar and you only knew one chord shape? How embarrassing it was to jump all over the place just to play C – G – C?

Well, you probably learned fast enough that C major is still C major whether you play c-e-g, e-g-c or g-c-e.

You probably also realized how useful these different shapes can be for bass lines and melodies, even if you didn't care what they might be called (root position, first inversion, second inversion) or how they might be written (C, C/E (C over E) and C/G (C over G)).

Let It Be offers a nice example of the usefulness of inversions.

Before each new verse, we hear the short f---e-d-c motif, which is then extended (Ticket 9 - recycle musical cells) and repeated just before the guitar solo.

Let's imagine for a minute that Paul came up with that short motif first and then decided to harmonise it. (Matt here probably knows better if that's the case). [Matt: I don't! Sorry!]

What were his choices?

F - C G | C …
F - Am G | C …
F - C Dm | C … , etc.

In each of these cases, the note in the motif, whether you think about it as a melody (highest note), bass line (lowest note) or something in between (middle voice?), is a chord tone in the corresponding chord...

Of course, who says you can't have a non-chord tone (or a non-scale tone) in the melody or in the bass? That's how you get chord extensions, bass pedals and the like, but that's another story.
What if Paul had simply played

F / / / | C …

with f---e-d | c … in the melody?

The first chord is clearly Fmaj, the second Fmaj7, but the third?

Is it F6, Dm7/F, or something else? And, if you like how it sounds, does it matter?

Lee Pat is the guitarist and singer for Let Bygones and One Night Band. He recently founded oneminutesong.com to make wannabe rockstars, past their prime, who want to hear better music on the radio (himself included), actually sit down and write it. So he is currently writing ... a book on music theory for songwriters. Write to him at leepat@oneminutesong.com

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