Once you have spent some time on chords ear training you should be able recognise major, minor, augmented and diminished triads by ear.

A useful next step is to work on recognising the different inversions of each chord.

Recap: What is an inversion?

An inversion of a chord simply means arranging the notes of a chord in a different order. For example, with a triad chord you have the 1, 3 and 5 notes of the scale and the 1 is lowest in pitch, 3 in the middle and 5 highest. In its first inversion you would move the 1 note up to the top (one whole octave higher) so that it is still the same note – but now in a higher register than the 3 and the 5. So the 3 note is now the lowest, the 5 in the middle, and the 1 on top.

How to recognise chord inversions

At first you will just hear all the inversions of a chord as sounding the same. For example, all inversions of a major triad will have the same overall “bright and happy” sound, while all the inversions of a minor triad will have the same overall “dark and gloomy” sound.

However, it is possible to train your ears to tell not only the type of chord (e.g. major) but also which inversion is played (e.g. first inversion).

There are three ways you can learn to tell different inversions apart:

1. Overall spread of pitches

This is a vague and somewhat unreliable approach but it is the way you will instinctively start to hear the differences.

Play each inversion of a major triad. You will hear that the pitches are spread out differently in each case. For example, the first and second inversions will sound “wider” or “larger” than the basic root form of the chord.

This is particularly noticeable with four-note chords, where you may find clusters of p