Triads in Second Inversion
(Music Theory Lesson


While composers use root position and first inversion triads freely, second inversion usually occurs in three situations.

Like first inversion, second inversion may be used to smooth out a bass line.

Look at this example -- notice the movement of the bass line.

By placing the V chord in second inversion, the bass line moves by step and becomes smooth.

When used in this fashion, a second inversion triad is called a passing six-four chord.

Second inversion may also be used to straighten a bass line.

Look at this example -- notice how the bass line jumps up to the F and then returns back to C.

By using a second inversion IV chord, the movement in the bass line is eliminated.

A second inversion triad used in this fashion is called a pedal six-four chord.

The cadential six-four chord is the final and most noticeable use.

In this form, the second inversion triad preceeds a V chord in a cadence. Often, the cadence will sound stronger due to the cadential six-four's presence.

Examine the cadential six-four chord and its resolution to V.

Some theorists prefer to identify the cadential six-four chord as a V with two nonharmonic tones.

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