Using First-Inversion Chords to Create Smooth Bass Motion

Over the past several lessons, we’ve been looking at brief sections of well-known songs that feature a chord progression with a bass line that either drops chromatically or walks down the major scale while chord tones above it remain stationary (as common tones), descend or chromatically ascend, which creates sweet-sounding contrary motion. As you recall, the progressions incorporated the use of first- and second-inversion chords, for which the lowest note is the chord’s third or fifth, respectively. I’d now like to point out some other musically appealing ways that great songwriters have used first-inversion chords to craft progressions behind their melodies and create smooth, step-wise bass motion, meaning either a half step or whole step, as opposed to the big, angular intervallic skips of a perfect fourth or fifth.

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Jimmy Brown

Over the past 30 years, Jimmy Brown has built a reputation as one of the world's finest music educators, through his work as a transcriber and Senior Music Editor for Guitar World magazine and Lessons Editor for its sister publication, Guitar Player. In addition to these roles, Jimmy is also a busy working musician, performing regularly in the greater New York City area. Jimmy earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies and Performance and Music Management from William Paterson University in 1989. He is also an experienced private guitar teacher and an accomplished writer.