Piano chords: Learning the basics and beyond
On this page, we’ll be looking at a collection of videos and blog posts about piano chords. We’ll start from the very basics, and move on up to slightly more challenging piano chords and chord patterns.
As of yet, we haven’t delved into difficult and complicated chord theory. This channel has currently progressed to around a grade 2-3 level. Stay tuned in the future if you’re looking for more challenging chord theory studies!
Piano Chords: The first things to know
Most books start off with this pair of chords, which is why I chose to spotlight them first as well. C chord is probably the simplest chord on piano, since most of the music we learn initially is in the key of C.
G7 is a bit of a weird piano chord – very tense and discordant – but necessary as a natural complement to C chord.
In addition to adult method books like Piano Adventures and Alfred, you’ll also come across these two piano chords in early Czerny books, and other Classical books, as well.
Minor piano chords just involve one simple modification from a major chord. Minor chords sound much darker, and are second in popularity only to major chords (like C major above).
This C minor chord is couched in a tutorial, so you’ll be able to practice integrating it, with free sheet music to download if you’d like.
Just like the C minor chord above, the lesson on this new F major chord involves a music tutorial to practice. C, F and G7 are the three most common chords (in the key of C), so they’re crucial to understand as a piano player.
The Key of G major chords
This tutorial uses the well-known Beethoven “Ode To Joy” tune to demonstrate chords in the key of G. In this video, you’ll learn how to play a G major chord, and it’s corresponding complement, D7.
There are many ways to play chords beyond hitting all the notes at the same time. One of the easiest chord patterns is the broken chord. It sounds nice, often adding a touch of elegance and movement that is missing from just playing chords solid.
More on Piano Chords: Majors, Minors and Inversions
When learning major and minor chords, one of the first things I have my students do is learn to tell them apart by ear. If you can hear the difference in sound between a major chord and a minor chord, it is much easier to play them correctly.
I find piano students are much more successful figuring out chords on their own if their ear is on their side. Memorizing formulas has its place, but the importance of developing this ear skill mustn’t be understated.
Inverting chords is the art of taking a simple chord, like C major, and rearranging its letters into different shapes (like childhood blocks). When it comes to understanding sheet music, or being able to jam with friends, you’ll find this skill very useful.
Beyond major and minor chords
Diminished chords go a step beyond the tension you hear in a G7 or D7 chord. A diminished chord is not just tense – it’s straight-up spooky. While I don’t always advocate formulas for chords, you can figure out diminished chords easily, on any note of the piano, with a very simple formula.
There are a variety of 7th chords, most notably the 7th (as in G7), major 7th (as in Gmaj7), and minor 7th (as in Gmin7).
The variety, and the fact that they’re all pretty similar to another, makes them easy targets for confusion. As with major and minor chords, it helps to train your ear to tell them apart. Your ear is your #1 ally at the piano, helping correct mistakes your eyes might miss.
Suspended chords are very simple to learn if you understand major chords (which I hope you do by this point). They add exactly what their name might suggest – suspense.
Reading chords & playing them effectively
Lead sheets are what you call those songs with no left hand written out – instead, you get a right hand part, and the left hand is notated as “C” or “Gmin7”. With lead sheets, it’s up to you, the performer, to improvise the chords.
Learning patterns in music is a great idea. Modern music especially tends to favor simpler chord patterns, and three chords pop up again and again in every key. If you know what the three most important chords in every key are, it’s much easier to improvise, read lead sheets, or even play Classical music (which also uses chord patterns).
This video integrates all of the chord basics. Whether you’re interested in jamming with others, songwriting, or simply understanding why songs are the way you are, this is a good primer.
That’s all for this section on chords. Check back often, as I’ll continue adding to this list as videos are published on the subject.