[Smt-talk] Inversions

Ninov, Dimitar N dn16 at txstate.edu
Thu Mar 20 08:09:09 PDT 2014

Dear Colleagues,

I neither see a problem here, nor do I think we are talking about the same thing. I will divide the discussion in two parts: general, and specific. The former concerns chord's harmonic and melodic positions per se, regardless of the format or texture, and the latter concerns Trevor' question about the particular position in the right hand.

GENERAL. The harmonic position of the chord is determined by the bass note. Thus 5 (or 5/3) denotes a root position triad, 6 denotes a first inversion triad, and 6/4 denotes a second inversion triad.

The melodic position of the chord is determined by the soprano note, and in my teaching I use the following terminology: basic or octave melodic position; third melodic position; and fifth melodic position, denoting respectively a root, a third or a fifth in the soprano.

SPECIFICS FOR THE RIGHT HAND. If a teacher wants those who play harmonic progressions to master the possible harmonic and melodic positions in the right hand independently from the left hand's bass note, he or she will simply use the concept above, explicitly mentioning that those parameters concern the right hand alone, for practical purposes.  

Thus the teacher may say, "in the right hand play a 5 chord in fifth melodic position, or a 6 chord in basic melodic position, or a 6/4 chord in third melodic position. " These are the possibilities if one would plays triads in close structure with the right hand. In C, this will result in C-E-G, E-G-C, and G-C-E, respectively. What the bass has to play does not concern the mechanism of mastering the right hand voicing. Of course, when the bass is added, the harmonic position of the whole structure will be determined by it, but the melodic position of the chord will remain as determined by the right hand.

Thank you,


Dr. Dimitar Ninov, Lecturer
School of Music
Texas State University
601 University Drive
San Marcos, Texas 78666

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