This is a public version of the members-only Bluegrass Mandolin with Mike Marshall, at ArtistWorks. Functionality is limited, but CLICK HERE for full access if you’re ready to take your playing to the next level.

These lessons are available only to members of Bluegrass Mandolin with Mike Marshall.
Join Now

Beginner Mandolin
Intermediate Mandolin
Advanced Mandolin
Additional Tunes & More
Holiday Tunes
Gear & Setup
30 Day Challenge
Lick of the Week
Tune of the Week
«Prev of Next»

Mandolin Lessons: Three Main Inversions

Lesson Video Exchanges () submit video Submit a Video Lesson Study Materials () This lesson calls for a video submission
Study Materials Quizzes
information below Close
information below
Lesson Specific Downloads
Play Along Tracks
Backing Tracks +
Written Materials +

+Beginner Mandolin

+Intermediate Mandolin

+Advanced Mandolin

+Additional Tunes & More

+Holiday Tunes

+Lick of the Week

+Tune of the Week

Additional Materials +
resource information below Close
Collaborations for
resource information below Close
Submit a video for   

This video lesson is available only to members of
Bluegrass Mandolin with Mike Marshall.

Join Now

information below Close
Course Description

This page contains a transcription of a video lesson from Bluegrass Mandolin with Mike Marshall. This is only a preview of what you get when you take Mandolin Lessons at ArtistWorks. The transcription is only one of the valuable tools we provide our online members. Sign up today for unlimited access to all lessons, plus submit videos to your teacher for personal feedback on your playing.

CLICK HERE for full access.
We're gonna now dive deeply into chords.
And really take a look at things and, and,
try to understand the mandolin
And I'm gonna zero you down to three main
shapes that i use for
almost any chord that I'm looking for.
I call these the three mother forms.
Mother shapes.
And from these mothers, you can then find
any other chord that you need.
Whether it's a minor or a major 7th or a
But you're working out of these shapes.
And the main skill that you're trying to
acquire is how to move it,
move this chord up and down the
fingerboard and
to locate many versions of the same chord
based on knowing the names of
the notes on the fingerboard, which is a
whole another level of study.
So, I'll ask you to just get brainy for a
moment here, and we're just gonna spend
time, you know, we're not gonna be jamming
here for a moment.
But and this might be a part of the tape
that you'll come back to many times,
cuz I'm gonna throw a lot of letters at
you and a lot of numbers without diving
deeply into the science of, of of chord
harmony and theory.
But the more you start hearing these
terms, it all starts making sense,
especially when you start connecting it to
a sound,
which is really what it's all about.
So, these are the names we use, mostly
coming from the jazz language, and and
But there have been other names used over
the history,
so, first thing is the music in it and
then making the music.
So we're gonna start by just looking at a,
at a G-scale.
And the notes of the G-scale, G, A, B, C,
A, D, E, F-sharp and
G and the way we create a G chord.
Is from the first, the third and the fifth
notes of that scale.
If I were to play those notes on the
G, A, B, C, D, E, F-sharp and
G, and I were to number them.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven,
I would take one, three, and five, and
those would be G, B and D,
are the three notes that make up the
chord, when you put them together.
But as you can see, the mandolin is
difficult to do that on,
because two of the notes appear on one
string and
that has to do with the fact that we're
tuned in fifths.
We have a long way to go before we get to
the next pitch on our instrument.
We're tuned in fifth.
So, we have to go five notes before we can
get to another string.
So, what we do is we take that B note and
we bring it up an octave to high B.
And we play the G and the D open.
And the B, on the second fret of the A
So that is what I call the root position
triad for the mandolin,
and this chord is actually movable to an A
simply by barring it.
So that it's as if your first finger is
functioning as the net, [LAUGH] and
it just slides up to two, two, four, and
five, okay.
So this G is our root position G.
If you studied piano at all.
And you learn about root position on
It's one, three, and five.
Then they have something called first
inversion, three, five, one.
They simply bring that low root position
up an octave, and
you have three, five, one.
Well, on the mandolin, and
they call that the first inversion cuz
you're inverting everything.
You're not adding any notes,
you're just moving everything up one step,
one position.
So on the mandolin our first inversion
starts on the third of the chord, or
the B note, fourth fret.
And then you play the G on the fifth fret
and you play the D now,
barred on the second string, fifth fret.
So this position, now some people will
play it with, two fingers.
B, G, and D, four, five, five.
Whatever's comfortable for you.
When it comes to chords at best, whatever
you can do to make it work.
Then the next inversion.
Now, the next mother shape starts at the D
then it goes D note, B note, G note or
five, three, one.
So, I want you to memorize these three
shapes, really cleanly,
really get them under your hands.
You've got the root position, triad, which
is root 5,3.
You've got the first inversion which is
three, root, five.
Notice the root is now in the middle of
the chord.
And you've got the second inversion which
is five, three, root.
Root is now on the second string.
So there they are.
Root position, first inversion, second
Really get comfortable moving between
Because from each of these shapes,
we are now going to find all the other
chords that you ever could imagine.
Now we're gonna take each of these three
inversions, and
I'm gonna help you move them up the finger
And in order to do this,
you have to know the names of the notes,
atleast on one of the strings.
So, for this.
First root position mother chord.
The G.
We know that the open G string is the root
of the chord.
So wherever we are on that string, that's
the name of that chord.
So for the open position, it's G.
If we were to go up two frets and bar it,
I'm gonna ask you to not play the top
string at all when you're doing this.
Just get used to playing the bottom three
Second fret is barred, fourth fret with
the third finger,
that's an A chord because that note is A.
Move it up two frets, there's your B note,
that's your B chord,.
As we said earlier, there is no B sharp,
it goes immediately to C at the fifth
fret, D at the seventh fret,
E at the ninth fret, and E and F are right
next to each other, so
F is the tenth fret, and if your mandolin
will do it, 12th fret,
is a G again, because the 12th fret is the
same as open,.
So it's all about this string.
Call out the names.
Say them with me.
B and C are right next to each other.
E and F are next to each other
And G.
You may have noticed that that doesn't
really sound like a scale.
G, A, B, C, D, E, F.
That E and F are natural notes.
I'm just trying to teach you the natural
If this were a G scale, it would have an
But we're just learning where are all the,
as we said earlier,
where are all the white keys on the
And that's it, E and F.
Identifying the pitches.
So now we're going to move to the first
inversion, which is this chord that begins
on the, with the third on the bottom, or
the B note, it's at the fourth fret.
The root is now on the third string, and
the fifth is on the fifth fret right above
So what's important is to know the names
of the notes on the third string in order
to find chords in this position.
So let's take that G chord, move it up to
an A because A is at the seventh fret.
Everything is being identified by the
third string now.
B is at the ninth fret.
The tenth fret is C.
And the 12th fret is D.
Again, we go back down to the G,
now let's go backwards, cause we've got
room to do it.
To find an F chord, we simply go down to
the third fret.
And to find an E chord, you simply go down
the second fret on the third string.
So there you have all the natural chord
tones on
in first inversion, with the third of the
on the bottom of that chord, and the root
in the middle, and the fifth on top.
Now we go to second inversion.
Here's your third, we'll call it your
third mother chord.
And that is this position here at the
seventh fret.
We're looking for G chords now, right?
Seventh fret, ninth fret, and tenth fret.
And the note which identifies this [SOUND]
is the top note or the A string.
Because that's your G.
D, B, G.
Now if we move it up two frets, it's A.
But we're gonna backwards now and find all
the others.
There's G.
We come back two frets to find an F.
One fret to find an E.
Two frets to find a D, and two more frets
to find a C.
And voila, there's the second chord you
ever learned.
So, from these inversions we're gonna now
take a little pause.
Want you to really spend some time
thinking about this.
And one of the things I recommend is just
take one string and
see if you can identify the natural notes
on that string.
If that's D, where's E?
Where's F?
Where's G?
Where's A?
Where's B?
Where's C?
And where's D?
And just memorize that.
Because if you've got that memorized,
go backwards also because you're not
following the alphabet.
It sorta forces you to really think
Really just cycle that, get it down.
You should be able to point it, should be
able to grab any fret randomly and say,
that's a G, that's a D, that's a B, that's
an E, that's an A, that's a C, that's a F.
Really get that quick at, cause you know
how these chords come at you
when you're jamming, they don't mess
they just keep coming, you got boom, you
gotta just grab them.
Then do the same with each string.
A string, B note, C note, D note, E note,
F note, G note, A note.
And then when you're grabbing this chord,
you're thinking about that note.
You're thinking about that finger,
because that's the finger that's
identifying the name of that chord.
And now we're gonna take these three
mother shapes and
we're gonna turn them into minors, minor
So we all know a G chord.
And you know that the bottom part of that
is our root position G, and how do we make
a major chord into a minor chord?
If you remember your music theory, what
they would have told you is you flat
the third of the chord and what is the
third in G?
G, A, B.
So wherever the B is, you're gonna flat
In this case,
in this position,
the B is on the A string at the second
You flat it.
It becomes G-minor, okay?
Let's do the same thing to the first
inversion G chord.
The one that has B, G, D.
I just gave it away, the B is on the
bottom of that chord.
So we flat that bottom note, and that
turns it into a minor.
B-flat G, and D.
So that's your minor.
From major to minor.
Now we're gonna go up to this second
inversion chord,
This high G, seven, nine, and ten, and
the notes are D, B, G, so the B is in the
middle of that chord,
And then flat it and
it becomes the G minor shape up the neck.
Just for grins, let's do it all in the key
of A, this will be a good exercise.
So here's a G, how do we make that into an
Just bar it up.
How do we make it a minor?
And take the third of the chord or
the C sharp note and make it C natural.
Let's go up to the next inversion A.
Six, seven, seven.
That's the first inversion A.
How do we make it minor?
We flat the C-sharp back to C natural.
Now it's now A minor.
Go up and find the high position A, or
second inversion.
Seven, eleven.
And I'm sorry.
Nine, 11, and 12.
We flat the third of that chord or
the C sharp note back to C natural, and
there's your A minor.
Ready for phase two of all of this.
We're gonna go back to the A major and
what we're gonna do is we're gonna try and
find how to create Major Sevenths, Sevens,
and Sixes.
If you wanna run now, now's your chance.
No, it's really easy for this.
[LAUGH] Trust me.
Very simple.
Here's your mother chord, all right, group
position A.
Now, we're going to use the top note of
this chord.
We're going to place the high A with the
A major seventh chord has the seventh note
of the scale,
Added to the triad.
So their triad lives down here.
We simply add that major seventh note,
that G sharp note to
this chord and we get that beautiful sort
of, I don't know what you'd call it,
you know, some kind of 70s, you know, walk
in the park sissy chord, right?
Used in a lot of pop tunes, jazz tunes.
Right, and I do a double bar there.
So it's a G sharp added to that triad.
To make this into a seventh chord, we
flatten that note
This is where the numbers start getting
really crazy.
When we say major seventh, we mean natural
The one that occurs in the scale.
That's a natural seven.
When we say seven, we actually mean flat
seven means flat seven,
major seven means natural.
We add that flat seven note or
the G Natural to that chord, and it's a A7
chord now.
If we wanna make it into a six chord,
we simply add the sixth note, or the F
Sharp note.
Some people like to do a full bar across
the second fret for that.
I like to use my second finger on the F
sharp and
I do a bar with the tip on those low two
So to review, tremolo this with me.
With the top note on the fifth fret.
A major 7.
A 7.
And A6
One more time, A, A major 7, A 7, and A6.
Let's now move up to the sit, first
inversion a chord.
We don't add anything to this cord.
What we do to make this into A major 7 is
we simply get rid of the root and flat it.
We flat it again.
And we flat it again.
We're basically moving this note along
this plane to find all these other chords.
A sits like that.
A major 7.
You flat that note,
it sounds like a minor chord but in this
context it's functioning as a major 7.
Flat it again, you have to re-finger it,
it becomes A 7.
Flat it again and it becomes A6.
So you had just,to visualize that D string
moving chromatically, we're forced to
the chord in order to move something along
a plane.
So it's a good exercise because it really
makes your hand move into a new position.
But mentally, you're doing something
that's visually really simple.
Now we move up to the 2nd inversion.
A chord at the 9th, 11th, and 12th fret,
and we do the same thing,
we take the root of that chord, which in
this case is at the 12th fret,
we move it back 1 fret, and that's A major
We move it back again and that's A7.
We move it back again and that's A6.
So I finger that with my pinky.
Then I bar it, to get the major 7 and then
I finger the 7 with my 2nd finger,
and the 6th, with my 2nd finger.
Now we go to the 3rd phase of this.
We know how to make these chords into
minor chords,
we flat the 3rd of the chord.
Or in this case, the C-sharp becomes
The 2nd string comes back.
Now there's a chord called A minor with a
major 7,
and then we make the minor chord and we
add the major 7 note to that.
There's a minor 7 means we add the flat 7
to that minor chord,
and the minor 6 means that we add the 6 or
the F sharp to that chord.
So, one more time on how do I get these, A
we bring the A note down to G sharp,
that's A minor with a major 7,
it's done in parenthesis, A minor 7, and A
minor 6.
[SOUND] Let's do that.
At the first inversion, A major, make it
into A minor.
Now we're gonna float that A note down
that plane on the D string.
A minor, A minor with a major 7, A minor
7, A minor 6.
One more time, A minor,
A minor with a major 7, A minor 7, A minor
And again, some of these chords are gonna
begin to look like other chords, but
this is a really important little piece
that I want you to memorize and
really get under your fingers.
And we'll start understanding why these
shapes look the same later,
as we get deeper into theory.
But for now, this is a great starting
Now going up to the 2nd inversion A Major
chord, up on the 9, 11, and 12.
We make it into A minor.
Now we make it into A minor with a major
By flatting that high A note down to
That's A-minor with a major 7.
A-minor 7 means that you have a natural 7,
you bring that note down one more fret,
and A-minor 6 means that you bring it down
one more time to an F sharp.
So to review, A minor, A minor with a
major 7,
A minor 7, and A minor 6.
I'd love you to send in a video now.
And, of course, that was a whole lot of
But, and if you have any questions,
please consult the forums, ask questions
of your fellow students, or
of me, and I'll do my best to straighten
out any questions you might have.
Because it is a little bit of a numbers
So, what we covered was the three basic
mother shapes in the major and in minor.
So, I'd love to see you do those in all,
at least,
in one key in the three different
positions, both major and minor.
And then,
reposition 1st inversion and
2nd inversion on the G chord.
I mean you can do it another key if you'd
like, wouldn't mind at all.
Then make it into a G minor.
G major to G minor.
G major to G minor.
And then we moved it up to A, and I'd like
you to do an A,
and then an A major 7, an A7 and an A6.
In 1st inversion as well.
A-major, A-major 7, A7, and A6.
And in 2nd inversion, A, A-major 7, A7,
And then go back down and turn it into a
minor, and do the same thing.
A-minor, A-minor with a major 7, A-minor
7, A-minor 6.
Going to the 1st inversion, A-major,
Minor 7, minor 6, and
then back to 2nd inversion A, A minor,
A minor with a major 7, A minor 7, and A
minor 6.
Let's see you do that.
You could either tremolo it,
that's kind of nice cause then you can
take a lot of time.
Or you could do it,
like a couple of bars, maybe one bar in
each one to get a little rhythm going, and
you'll notice I'm lifting my finger.
You don't have to hold this chords down
the whole time,
there are 4 string chords, so that
actually hurt,
and doing that little groove actually give
your fingers a little relief.
All right.