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Inversions and Basslines

©2011 m.mermikides@surrey.ac.uk

So far we have been looking mainly at root inversion chords, however


inversions are often used to create compelling (often step-wise) bass-lines.
There are countless examples, a representative selection of which are below.
You'll notice that some of these will include, but are not limited to, CESH elements.

1. I to V(1st inversion)
I to V(1st inv) to vi creates a descending bassline:
E.g. Let it be (Beatles) Tears in Heaven (Clapton - in A major) A Day In the Life (G major)
C G/B A‹

& 44 w
w
w
w
w
w
w
w
w
w
w w

Or the same bassline may occur using an inversion of Imaj7


E.g. No Woman No Cry (Bob Marley)

C CŒ„Š7/B A‹

& w
w
w
w
w
w
w
w
w
w w w

Or a similar concept in minor key:

A‹ E7/G© A‹7/G
w
w w w
& w
w w#w
w
w
nw
w

This mechanism of creating a descending bass line with I(i) to 1st. inv V can be employed in various ways,
common in rock music, sometimes in parallel sequences. For example:

C G/B G/B C C G/B D A/C© G/B C A/C© D E

& ˙˙ ˙ ˙ ˙˙ ˙˙ ˙ ˙˙ ˙ ˙ n ˙˙ ˙ ˙˙ w
w
˙ ˙ ˙ #˙ ˙ #˙
2
2. I to iii (2nd inversion)
Similarly a move from I to a second inversion iii (or III) chord creates a chromatic descent.
7th forms of any of these chords may of course be used. Some examples:
C E‹/B C E/B CŒ„Š7 E7/B
w
& w
w w
w w
w #w
w nw
w
w #w
w
w
w w w w w w
The downward motion may be continued with the vi of IV (1st inv.) Some examples:
C E‹/B A‹ C E7/B A‹ C E/B F/A

& w
w
w w
w w
w
w w
w
w #w
w
w
w
w
w w
w
w #w
w
w
w
w
w
w w w w w w

3. Continuing down.
Once the bass has reached the VI degree through 1. or 2. it may continue downwards with a V,
3rd inversion vi7, 1st inversion iv or appropriate combinations thereof, followed by a cadence.
Here are a few of many possibe sequences
C G/B A‹ G F G C

& V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V

C E7/B A‹ A‹7/G F F/G C

& V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V

C E/B F/A F‹/A¨ C/G F‹ C

& V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V
4. I to ii to 1(1st inv.)
The use of a 1st inversion I chord can create an ascending bass-line of I-ii-I, this can be made more
bluesy with a passing diminished chord.

& ™™ V V V V V V V V ™™ V V V V V V V V
C D‹ C/E D‹ C D‹ D©º7 C/E

This device of inversions and passing diminshed chords can be taken further with a #ivº to I(2nd inv)

& ™™ V V V V ™™
C/G

V V V V V V V V V V V V
C D‹ D©º7 C/E F F©º7 G
3
5. i to V(2nd inv.) to 1(1st inv.)
A simple alternating i-V7 pattern can be given a step-wise bass motion through the use of inversions

& V V V V V V V V V V V V
A‹ E7/B A‹/C E7/B A‹

Using passing diminished chords and a 2nd inversion I chords, an ascending bassline may be achieved.

& ™™ V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V ™™
A‹ E7/B A‹/C C©º7 D‹ D©º7 A‹/E E7

6. Static chords with moving basslines


The use of a continually moving bass line can create interesting progressions with harmonic implications.
Here are some examples

& ™™ V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V ™™
C CŒ„Š7/B C7/B¨ F/A F‹/A¨ C/G G

& ™™ V V V V ™™ ™™ V V V V ™™
A‹ A‹/G A‹/F A‹/E A‹ A‹/G A‹/F© A‹/F

V V V V V V V V

& ™™ V V V V ™™
A‹ A‹/G© A‹/G A‹/F© A‹/F A‹/E E7

V V V V V V V V V V V V
A bass-line can outline a mode under a static chord eg:
Mixolydian (Champagne Supernova) Ionian (Older Chests-Damien Rice)

& ™™ V V V V ™™ ™™ V V V V ™™
C C/B¨ C/A C/G C C/E C/F C/G

V V V V V V V V
Major triad with chromatically descending bassline (eg Something - Beatles in A)
C C/B C/B¨ C/A C/A¨ C/G

& V V V V V V V V V V V V
Putting it all together
From Something-Beatles, note the use of inversions descending bass lines (both diatonic and chromatic)

###
A C©‹/G© F©‹ F©‹/E D G A /G© /G /F© /F /E

& V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V