Saturday, November 13, 2010

iNversions ala tomato

All the students are working on inversions this month. Even the youngest of the studio are practicing "tipping chords over". Older students do the circle of 5ths, we are also learning minors, dominant and diminished 7ths, solid and broken. It's a good time to do this before we learn Christmas carols by ear and need the chords.

I explained that to make an inversion is like doing a cartwheel. As you tip over, your hands touch the ground. But you stay you, and a chord, as we tip it over, stays the same notes too. So a chord with the notes C-E-G tips over to be an E-G-C, and a G-C-E, but it is still a C Major chord. My blocks invention is also very helpful spelling chords and manipulating the notes. you can watch the inversion happen, while tangibly touching the wooden blocks.

Last week we had a few students still wanted to change C-E-G, to E-G-B (!) as they tipped it over, so I ran upstairs and got my ketchup bottle. "As I tip my ketchup over to pour it out," I demonstrated, "it does not become mustard. It is still ketchup, even on its side." The notes are the same, and the chord is the same, no matter what note is on the left or the right.

One clever fellow reminded me that his ketchup bottle stands on its head; it's already upside down, so he doesn't need to learn inversions, he'll just always buy the ketchup with the cap at the bottom. At the local grocery store, they still sell both styles of bottles, pictured here, cap at the top, and cap on the bottom.

I said I was going to come to his house and tip his ketchup over in the refrigerator.
You are a product of the 70s if you know why I chose this song.


  1. I wish I had learned to play the piano. Unfortunately I have no musical talent whatsoever, but I like the way you teach.

  2. thanks, Nancy! Do you have a desire to learn an instrument? It's never too late!

  3. I would like to say thanks for such a beautiful and instructive post. I played piano aged five to twelve but didn't learn how to read music (nor was I interested), so all my playing was done by ear.

    Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  4. Hey there Cuban! I'm teaching all of my students to listen, really listen, in order to play by ear, on purpose-it's quite a gift to be able to really hear, melody, harmony, rhythm. I know so many fine musicians that play by ear, you're very musical too, from your posts. Have a fine day!


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