Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Inversions...
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10053 posts
Feb 04, 2019
7:16 PM
Okay, so I was just watching Rick Beato's latest video where he talks about 'Easier Chord Inversions for Every Instrument'. Aside form inverting a CEG chord to a EGC chord I've never thought much about inversions. I pulled up my layout chart so I could visualize things and started looking. He's talking about playing a CEG chord (or whatever chord) as a CGE chord. Okay, that's means tongue blocking the two hole on my C harp... 1/3/4 blow. On to the II chord... DFA becomes DAF 1D/3 whole bend... pretty soon my head is hurting. So here is my question... has anyone ever figured out positions or tunings that work for several inversions? Tricky tongue stuff I can handle, overblows are weak for me already, let alone if I have to OB one particular note while playing others, but I'm thinking where I have to play a draw note and a blow note at the same time is going to require either a turkey baster or a second harmonica player or something else. What do people know?

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First Post- May 8, 2009
2619 posts
Feb 04, 2019
7:42 PM
You can do some cool things with inversions on the Harmonettta--I got to borrow one in good working order for a few weeks so I could learn Valsentino to play at SPAH last year with Steve Watne and Mike Runyan (both great all around players).
That performance was an interesting story I will tell later.
George Miklas did, however, call me a natural.
On the harmonetta--tongue block would be required, but if you had those skills, all you would need to learn is the buttons for the chords--real easy if you are a math guy, it's all logical (harmonic table layout).
I bet Winslow Yerxa has something to say about inversions on the harmonica.

Last Edited by Gnarly on Feb 04, 2019 9:39 PM
692 posts
Feb 05, 2019
12:29 AM
I haven't gone through the clip, but my understanding of inversions


First inversion EGC
2nd inversion GCE

Quite often over these chords the bass will play that lower note e.g. E or G on the 1st / 2nd inversion respectively.

I personally don't think to play any differently over an inversion vs a standard chord.
However, the first inversion of the V chord is fairly common -

G/B ie BDG instead of GBD

I've been told this is because the a major 7th chord BD#F# is a bit awkward sounding and the inversion of the V is smoother.

I interpret G/B as an indication that the tune is strongly major and 1st or 12th position is a better bet e.g. Louisiana 1927
The Iceman
3766 posts
Feb 05, 2019
4:28 AM
Chord inversions have more to do with piano chords or band arrangements and placement of the bass note than anything else...it defines the sound of the voicing of that chord.

If you see it written as G/B or G/D, don't worry about what is below that vincula - that is more for the bass player than anything else...
The Iceman
10054 posts
Feb 05, 2019
5:10 PM
Gnarly, yeah, Boris mentioned that. (I posted it on the MBH FB page too.) My problem is I tend to get excited hands when I play videogames or instruments and press too hard. I've got chronic recurring tendonitis in both wrists. I've been a bit flared up since I tried to do the National Novel Writer's Month event in November (although I did get my 50k words out). I was hoping there was a tuning solution. I've been working, on and off on a design for a different type of chord harmonica, but it's based on getting maj/min/aug/dim/7 and doesn't seem to work well for inversions.

Hmm, not sure why the video isn't posting now...

GamblersHand, yeah. There are some variations with how far apart are, but that's the basics. Lots of instruments can play them- most string instrument and key instruments. Harmonica is a bit of an odd man out. In regular Richter we can play a couple, and sort of play a couple more, but most instruments that can play multiple notes at once can do a better job than we can. I'm not sure on the big chord harps if they cover inversions. They can have a very pleasing sound. I was listening to a piano part the other day that was using several inversions of the same chord played back to back and I really loved the sound.

Iceman, yeah, I know it's usually strings/keyboards or multi-instrument arrangements. Not being particularly good at those (I know the names of the notes on piano and can play a couple chords, and the names of the strings on guitar) I'd never really played with them much. I learned them years ago in theory class, but that was long before I took up harmonica. Watching Beato's video I was struck by how cool they sounded. I took a look at what it would take to do them on the harmonica, first with Richter tuning, and then moving some notes around and I wasn't having a ton of luck. I mean, ast inversion on the C chord on a C harp is just 1/3/4 blow, but after that you quickly start running into situations where you have to bend the middle note and not bend the note on either side (I can do bend the end note and not bend the other two, with some difficulty, but not bend the middle), or spots were you have to blow and draw a note at the same time (although thankfully not in the same hole).

Actually, with tongue blocking the blow notes are fairly easy to invert... CEGCEGCEGC. You could tune a draw plate to handle one chord that way too. Actually, with a pair of stacked harmonicas it wouldn't be too hard to tune them so you could have your I IV V chords all available to you, but you'd have 2 specially tuned harmonicas so that you could just play in I IV V in one key. Hole wise it would probably be easier to put the IV V on the same harmonica. Actually, that would mean you could use one regular harp and one special tuned stacked. You could use the blow notes from a C harp in C for instance, and then do the IV V on the second harp as blow and draw respectively.


For 1st inversion you'd block the 3rd of the chord... so the A or the B. For 5th you'd just play the DGB. I may try that.

I think I may have got them named wrong here... concept works but I need to redo the names. I'll fix them tomorrow.

Okay, here is the edited version...

Nathan Smith I'm focusing on playing chords, and particularly on playing inversions. So, for a C chord in root position it's C E G. In 1st inversion it's EGC and in 2nd inversion it's GCE.

Since the top row of a C harp is C E G C E G C E G C you just have to start in different spots to get the different inverions. You start having to do tongue blocks of middle notes, and at some point you even end up needing blow and draw notes at the same time.

But I think I've got a solution, using 2 harmonicas for one key, playing stacked style. For blues it's most important to have the I IV V chords, so you could grab one C harmonica for blow notes, and then create a harmonica like this.


That would let you do root, 1st and 2nd inversions for the I IV V on two harps. You'd also have all the notes in a scale, albeit in a very unfamiliar pattern. If you went to a 3 harp stack you could make each harmonica have identical blow and draw notes for one of those rows. Maybe make the IV chord one and the V chord one so either the blow or draw was slightly different so you could get a 7 chord out it too.

So harp one would be:

Harp two would be:
F A C Eb F A C Eb F A (that wouldn't fit on a standard Seydel configured plate.)

Harp three would be:
G B D Fb G B D Fb G B (again, you'd have to make a split reed plate to fit that tuning on).

Of course, there are more ways to do inversions than just this, but with tongue blocks you could add a lot more. You'd have to play them in a stack, but you would have a lot of control over how to voice each chord, and have a I IV V for blues, with 7 chords for the IV and V.

Actually, you could configure the first 6 notes and make 3 Seydel Big 6's for doing this. Probably want to tune them close to Just to make the chords sound smooth, although I don't know what happens when you start doing inversions in Temperaments.

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First Post- May 8, 2009

Last Edited by nacoran on Feb 06, 2019 2:41 AM
Thievin' Heathen
1109 posts
Feb 07, 2019
5:51 AM
It's all right here...,
Mel Bay Complete 10-Hole Diatonic Harmonica Series
2625 posts
Feb 07, 2019
9:06 AM
One thing is for sure, this concept is easier to execute on guitar! Being able to place a certain note in the bass can even be done with the right hand, if need be.
Keyboard even easier, obviously.
I do retune harps, but don't think I would do it for this purpose--unless someone wanted me to do it for them.
I recently retuned a pair of harps for Maiden Voyage, the chords are suspended 7ths. Starts on the 5th, so the voicing is 5 1 4 5 b7 1. Draw chords too--chords are Dsus7 Fsus7 Ebsus7 Dbsus7.
I will do a video demo after I get a chance to shed a bit.

Last Edited by Gnarly on Feb 07, 2019 9:44 AM
The Iceman
3767 posts
Feb 07, 2019
11:30 AM
chords played on a diatonic are not much more than a blurry sound rather than a resonance of each individual note together as one....unless you sustain that chord for a bit....probably because of the limitation of a tiny vibrating reed, which is way different to the ear than a vibrating guitar or piano string and the way these other instrument interact sonically (with interacting overtones, etc) when playing a chord.

So, I personally wouldn't spend a lot of time worrying about diatonic harmonica chord inversions, unless you do something on solo diatonic like Richard Hunter might....
The Iceman
57 posts
Feb 08, 2019
8:01 AM
@Gnarly, I look forward to hearing the harp set up for Maiden Voyage. I learned to play that simple tune on piano decades ago and I really love the feel of the sus-chords. I should work on that one on harp, too. Thanks for the info.
2626 posts
Feb 08, 2019
7:29 PM
Well, if you insist--here ya go . . .
The video is solarized, but the visual effects are unintentional--My Flip video camera is finally crapping out after almost ten years of use (definitely got my money's worth out of that one!)

Last Edited by Gnarly on Feb 08, 2019 11:59 PM
Thievin' Heathen
1111 posts
Feb 09, 2019
7:55 AM
Solder? Blue Tack? Swapping reeds? Or is that all happening within the range of filing?
2285 posts
Feb 09, 2019
9:46 AM
Beato is using "inversion" pretty loosely here. By definition, an inverted chord has a note that isn't the root as it's lowest note so CEG and CGE are both root-position voicings.


Last Edited by timeistight on Feb 09, 2019 9:52 AM
2627 posts
Feb 09, 2019
9:51 AM
@Thievin I used solder, and might have replaced blow 10.

C F Bb C Eb F Bb C Eb F

Use a Bb

Bb D F Bb D F Bb D F Bb
C F A C Eb G A C Eb G

-1 2 -1 -2 -3 -3 -5 -7 -8
1 -2 1 -2
2628 posts
Feb 09, 2019
2:08 PM
The first harp (Dsus7 blow, Fsus7 draw) is a mighty fine blues harp, since you can draw bend every hole at least a whole step.
We will see if I start using it in the line of duty.

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