How do you move between triad inversions without counting?

Hi all. I get the concept of triads and can find all the inversions, but moving between inversions is very slow for me because I’m still counting 1,2,3 ok here’s the first inversion, 4, 5 ok here’s the second inversion… and so on. Besides rote memorization, how can I move between inversions much quicker without having to count manually? Thanks.

Hi Rabbid,

Are you working on arpeggios or chord voicings? I think a bit of extra context might help us.

Hi @jllopez
I am working on chord voicings. Thank you

Counting is a good practice. You should always be playing in time, and counting helps reinforce a regular tempo - but also the exact placement of rhythm in the bar.

As far as moving chords in time, the trick is to be mentally preparing for the next chord as soon as you played the last one. If you’re counting 1-2-3-4, and moving to the next chord on 1, then you should visualize the notes and the movement to the new chord by 2 or 3 in the count.

You need to know exactly where you’re going before you get to 4. In between 4 and 1, you should be physically moving to the new chord, to land squarely on 1.

If you wait until 4 or 1 to start to prep for the next move, you won’t have enough time. This is a mental habit that requires training and time to develop.

1 Like

Hey @rabbid !

What helps me with triad inversions is to memorize the shapes of each inversion and then keep in mind where the root note is in each inversion in relation to the shape.

So for example on the top 3 strings in the root position of the triad the root note is on the G string.

In the first inversion its on the high E, etc.

After memorizing the shapes and where the root is, it is pretty easy (I guess you need to know the notes on the fretboard well too :smiley:)

I am still not very “fluent” with triads but thats how I get my head around it

1 Like

Dumb question, but what do you mean “counting” here?

1 Like

Just a matter of practice. At some point you don’t think about these chords as ‘inversions’ anymore, it’s like just another chords with their own distinctive sound.
Being superlazy to play exersises I usually just created a simple micro-songs with inversions.

Oh, and one more veeery useful routine: you take some song that you know well, and play it using only inversions. i.e. first you play it using 1st inversion only, then you use 2nd inversions only, then 3rd (for seventh).

1 Like

Are you trying to do an arpeggio exercise or just trying to learn what the inversions are? How many strings are you crossing? 6,4,3?
You should definitely understand triads and the neck before trying to learn to practice them. Or you could just google some exercises to get them under your fingers. But understanding them and knowing where notes are is much more helpful. A little from column A and a little from column B.
In tertian harmony there’s only two inversions unless you want to build on 7ths(which is also very helpful). 3rd as the bass and 5th as the bass. Technically there is more but to not complicate things with 3-5-1, 3-1-5, 5-1-3, 5-3-1 and the iterations of those including 7s. You should focus on building whatever chord(I suggest C) from its root,3rd and 5th in shape that’s comfortable on the fretboard. Know what a major and minor third looks like on the fretboard across all strings. And linearly.
I suggest doing it on the middle four strings for starters.
Good luck!

Not a dumb question and I’m sorry if I was not so clear. I meant that I’m counting the degree of the note within the scale to find the position of the next inversion. So I would start by playing the Root position of the triad, and then on the high E string I would count 5th, 6th, 7th, 1st ok here’s the next inversion, and then 2nd, 3rd ok there’s another inversion here, and so on up and down the neck. In practice what I would like to do is to play let’s just say I IV V I, and for the first “verse” I would play the Root position of the I chord, and play the closest triads for the IV and V.
Then for the second verse I would play the First Inversion of the I chord, and play the nearest triads for the IV and V.
Then for the third verse I would play the Second Inversion of the I chord, and play the nearest triads for the IV and V.

In this example, moving from the first to the second verse would take me a while because I need to count from Root position to find out where the First Inversion is. Same thing when moving from second to third verse I need to count from First Inversion to find the physical position of the Second Inversion.

I hope that’s much clearer. Thank you!

I’m just trying to move between Root position, First Inversion, and Second Inversion as smoothly and fast as possible actually. :slight_smile:

Yes I suppose I should memorize the shapes first at least. Thank you!


Well, it is clear that practice is the only way forward.

I think all of us work to some degree on learning the secrets to the fretboard and the fact that the same note can be played on multiple spots does not make the task any easier.

At first you’ll feel you’re counting frets but you’ll get the hang of the fretboard in time. A key point is that interval shapes on the fretboard repeat, so all the hard work you’re currently doing will pay off big time soon.

I would suggest working on several fronts at the same time to build those connections:

  1. For every chord voicing, do also a scale on it and a full arpeggio.

  2. Work on different scale fingerings over each voicing (pentatonic, major, lydian, etc.). As a very good challenge, I suggest you also alternate these. That is to say, go up in major and come back down in Lydian, for instance. Mix them up. In weeks you’ll start seeing where each note fits into the puzzle.

There are few shortcuts in this process. I hear Steve Vai devoted 2-3 hours a day to finding every possible voicing of a given chord on the fretboard and mixed it up with some scale/arpeggio/pattern exercises.

I can find maj7 voicings quite quickly now and connect them, but if you ask me to do a maj9add#11 I’ll need some time, but a shorter time than I would have needed when I started unlocking the fretboard.

Another word of caution. The CAGED shortcut can be a good complement to your journey but don’t over-rely on it as it is quite simplistic IMHO.

Best of luck!

1 Like

memorize the shapes then you should be able to move quicker. Knowing the degrees should come second cause you could use visualization to even work on that like root position 1 3 5
1st inversion 3 5 1 and 2nd inversion 5 1 3 etc even without the guitar in your hand as long as your brain can visualize the shape.

1 Like

Inversions happen on chord tones. I don’t really understand what you’re trying to state. 1st inversion makes the 3rd the bass . 2nd inversion makes the 5th the bass. You don’t need to even change positions on guitar to learn these shapes. Across a whole scale you don’t need to change shapes.
Are you confused about harmony? Or playing shapes? Learn the whole step/half step relation for a major scale.