This page was last updated on Wednesday 5th of March 2014
If you are interesting in learning about basic piano chords you have come to the right place.
To gain a better understanding of chords you should learn the notes on the piano keyboard. If you know your alphabet you are almost there.
The first note on a full size piano is called A major. The first note on most electronic keyboards is called C major.
When you look at the piano keyboard you will see a repeating pattern. The pattern is 7 white keys and 5 black keys.
The note C is the first white note of the octave. The next white notes are D, E, F, G, A, B. From this point the pattern repeats as you move to the right. As you move to the right you should hear the pitch increase.
Black keys on the keyboard will be a little harder to learn. These notes have a different color and shape. They are named to correspond to their neighbor white keys. The black note that is above C major is called C sharp. Sharp means ‘higher’. D sharp is the black note above D, there is no sharp above E, then there is F#,G#, and A# (‘#’ is the musical symbol for a sharp note).
The black keys are also called by another name, according to the note before the key, which is the flat key. This identifies the note before D as D Flat. The black note before E is called E flat, and so on. The symbol for a flat note looks like a ‘♭’, and E flat is written as E♭.
All types of piano music use chords as the building blocks for the musical sounds.
A chord is a group of notes played simultaneously to create harmony. You strike two or more notes on the keyboard to make the chord sound. Chords provide the texture to accompany the melody and provide the rhythm for the song being played.
Some piano teachers believe a pianist can play almost anything on the piano with a understanding of basic piano chords. A good knowledge of chords and musical terms will help most beginners learn to play the piano faster and to increase their potential for mastering the piano.
Types of Piano Chords
Piano chords are major, minor, whole tone, chromatic, pentatonic, octatonic, lacrian, dorian, lydian, diminished, and augmented.
To begin it is very important to learn the basic structure of chords and to learn the different types. It is best that you memorize them. Learning chords early in developing piano skills will help them come to you later naturally while piano playing. They are not hard to learn once you understand the basic structure.
The piano keyboard with white keys and black keys are made up of whole and half-step keys.
Chords start on a particular note and is made up of a combination of several whole and half-step notes. The starting note determines whether you are playing a major key or a minor key.
The basic chord is made up of three notes which are known as a triad. All chords are built around notes on a scale.
A triad can be defined as a collection of three notes that are played at the same time where the
- first note is the root note
- the second note is 4 half-steps higher than the first
- the third note is 3 half-steps higher than the second
Let’s Build a Chord For Example.
The G major scale notes are G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G.
To play a simple triad is the play the first note of the scale, the third note, and the fifth note on the scale. So the G major chord is a combination of the G, B, and D notes on the G major scale.
If you start with the second note of a major scale and build a triad, you will play a minor chord.
Start with A the second note of the G Major Scale and play note C and note E and you will play the A minor chord.
Now start with B the third note of the G major scale and include D and F# and you are playing a B minor chord.
Starting with the fourth note and playing notes C, E, and G you will be playing the C major chord.
Beginning with the fifth note you creates the D major chord when you play the notes D, F#, and A.
The sixth note returns to a minor chord which is E minor when you play E, G, and B.
The final chord starts with the seventh note F# and is called F Sharp diminished chord when you play F#, A, and C as the triad. A diminished chord has its own unique sound and does not sound like a major or minor chord sound.
So you can see that the starting note identifies whether a major chord or minor chord is being played.
Now you should have a better understanding of a chord and how piano chord progression comes out of the scale that a song’s key is based on.
Chord Harmonize a Piece of Melody
The melody of a song is usually played with right hand while the piano chords that accompany the melody is played with the left hand. For a piece of music to be complete you have to play chords.
Therefore, a good understanding of the theory of basic piano chords is important.