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1. First Inversion Triads.

a. A triad is in first inversion when the third of the chord is in the bass voice. The fifth and the root are voiced above the third (Figure 3-1).

Figure 3-1. First Inversion Triad

NOTE: The root of the triad remains the root (scale degree upon which the triad is formed) regardless of its position in the triad.

b. First inversion triads allow for smooth voice leading of the bass voice and provide harmonic variety.

2. Doubling of First Inversion Triads.

a. When the primary triad is in first inversion, double the root or fifth of the chord (Figure 3-2). The upper three voices will have one root and two fifths or two roots and one fifth.

Figure 3-2. First Inversion Doubling

b. You will determine which note to double by the voice leading necessary to make the voices connect smoothly.

NOTE: It is better to double the soprano with an inner voice than to double the two inner voices. However, both are correct (Figure 3-3).

Figure 3-3. Doubling Alternatives

3. Figured Bass for First Inversion Triads.

a. The numerals indicate a triad in first inversion (Figure 3-4).

NOTE: The 3 represents the note an interval of a third above the bass note. That note which is the third above the bass voice is the fifth of the triad. The 6 represents the note the interval of a sixth above the bass note. That note is the root of the triad.

Figure 3-4. First Inversion Figured Bass

b. A first inversion triad can also be indicated by the numbers and . The added number dictates the doubled note. This is usually not done in bass figuring (Figure 3-5).

Figure 3-5. Complete First Inversion Figured Bass

c. Usually, only the 6 appears under the bass note. The interval of the third is understood. You determine which note (root or fifth) to double (Figure 3-6).

Figure 3-6. Essential First Inversion Figured Bass

NOTE: First inversion triads are called six (6) chords. You should not confuse this with the added 6th chords (a triad with the note a Major sixth above the root of the triad added) in popular harmony. The 6, when used with an alphabet letter, represents a four-note chord. When used with a Roman numeral, the 6 represents a triad (three-note chord) with the third as the lowest note (Figure 3-7).

Figure 3-7. Added 6th Chord and 6 Chord

4. Analysis of First Inversion Triads.

The Roman numeral indicates the scale degree upon which the chord is constructed (the root of the triad). In a first inversion triad, the bass note is not the root of the chord. However, you can determine the root of the chord from the bass note. Since the bass note is the third of the chord, the root is the interval of a third below the bass note (or a sixth above the bass note). The number 6 identifies the interval that is the root of the chord (Figure 3-8).


Figure 3-8. Root Identification

David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 06, 2015