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In this guitar lesson, we're going to take a look at how you can play your guitar more like a piano player. The guitar is a unique instrument in that we tend to think in shapes rather than notes. Pianos are laid out linearly, which makes thinking about the notes in a chord a lot easier. Piano players tend to play chord inversions so that they don't have to make such large movements when changing between chords. We'll be looking at how we can utilize the CAGED system to do the same thing and make some chord transitions a lot easier.
Before getting into this lesson, it's important that you have a solid understanding of the CAGED system on the guitar. You can learn more about it here: The CAGED System
An inversion is simply changing the lowest note of a chord to another note from that chord. For example, if we had a G major chord spelled G, B, D. When we play a G major chord, we typically have G as the lowest note. If we had B as our lowest note, but still included all the same notes, we would have a G major chord in 1st inversion. If we did the same thing and had D as our lowest note, we would have a G major chord in 2nd inversion.
Using chord inversions along with the different shapes we've learned from the CAGED system will allow us to play chords that require a large jump in easier-to-access positions. In this lesson, we have been using the G major, C major, and D major chords. If you played all these as E major shape bar chords, you would be making giant leaps up the fretboard. To minimize the distance you need to move, you could use A major shape bar chords for your C major and D major chords.
To take this concept even further and use a chord inversions, we can utilize the top strings of the C major shape to play our D major chord. To do this, you need to move your standard C major shape up two frets and make a bar at the 2nd fret. You'll notice this shape is pretty impractical as is, so we'll simply remove our pinky. Since our lowest note is now an F#, we have a D major chord in 2nd inversion. And this new D major chord is right on top of our G major and C major bar chords so we don't have to shift to a new position.
Thinking about chord inversions and making your transitions more efficient can go a long way in speeding up your progress on the guitar. For more theory-related lessons check out our guitar theory, ear training, and reading lessons.