Chord Voicing Variations

So far the chords we’ve talked about were built with the root as the lowest note (1 3 5, for example).

However, chords can be found in other patterns. When the root is on the bottom, the chord is in “root position.” When a note other than the root note is the lowest note, the chord is “inverted.”

When the third is the lowest note, the chord is in “1st inversion.” When the fifth is the lowest note, the chord is in “2nd inversion.” When the 7th is the lowest note, the chord is in “3rd inversion.” Here are what they sound like, starting off with a root position triad:

 

Beyond inversions, the notes of a chord can be spread out or rearranged. A chord doesn’t always have to be built in the order “1-3-5.” For example, you could raise the 3rd an octave up, and voice a chord: 1-5-10. This works great for house supersaws, I find, because the third is often the main note that characterizes the sound of the chord. The root note gives your ear a foundation, the 5th strengthens and adds power, but the 3rd is the primary source of the harmonic quality. So putting the 3rd as the highest note can emphasize it strongly.

You can also double certain notes. For example, if you want a chord that sounds particularly strong, you could put two 5ths, an octave apart, and voice a chord: 5-1-3-5. These are just some ideas of variations. Chords don’t have to be 1-3-5. They can be rearranged and spread out over many octaves.

Here are what the two examples I mentioned sound like, a 1-5-10 voicing (from bottom to top) followed by a 5-1-3-5 voicing:

 

Another option is delaying certain notes of a chord. One trick I love doing that reminds me a lot of Wolfgang Gartner’s stuff is starting a chord with just a root and 3rd, and delaying the 5th, especially if it’s a 2nd inversion (meaning the 5th is the lowest note). Here’s what that sounds like:

 

TL;DR: Chords can be inverted. The 3 main classes of inversion are: 1st (the 3rd is the lowest note), 2nd (the 5th is the lowest note), and 3rd (the 7th is the lowest note). The notes of a chord can also be rearranged or spread wider than an octave.