Katy Perry is at it again with another fantastic example of pop music theory. Today’s topic: first inversion.
If you are a songwriter or musician, you absolutely MUST understand first inversion. Let Katy Perry’s simple example enlighten you on this essential music theory topic.
Before we go any further, let’s listen to the song. (You really only need to listen to the first 5 seconds or so)
To keep it nice and easy, Katy decided to put us in the wonderfully simple key of C Major (no sharps or flats).
Listen to the first 4 chords:
A minor (vi chord)
G Major (V chord)
C Major (I chord)* This is our special chord!
F Major (IV chord)
So, what is special about the C Major chord above? The root of the chord is not the C note, but rather E. Another way of understanding this is by looking at the bass line (notes: A-G-E-F).
The C major chord is in what we call first inversion. This is just a fancy way of saying that the lowest note in the chord, the bass note, is not the first scale degree of the chord (C), but rather the third scale degree (E).
The other chords in the chord progression above are in root position, meaning that the bottom note, the root of the chord, is the 1st degree of the chord (the name of the chord itself). There are other types of inversions that occur in pop music as well, which we will cover in future posts.
If you are craving more Katy Perry, she has also taught us about the seventh scale degree and syncopation. For more on inversions, check out Chromatic Chords in “When I was Your Man” by Bruno Mars.
Can you think of one of the many pop songs that use first inversion? Tell me in the comments!