Piano chords come in any number of shapes and sizes...much like people!
They are made up of different numbers of notes, can be in different keys, have progressive formats for the one chord, and create a sense of fullness in our sound on the piano.
If you have learned single notes and are able to play them on the piano, you are ready to learn about chords and how to play them.
One of the biggest differences you're going to find in playing chords versus single notes is that you get a lot more sound when you play them because there are more notes to play at one time. Another difference is that you'll hear harmony from the combination of notes being played together, versus the more melodic lines you get with just playing one note at a time.
The most important things to learn about chords is the 4 main types of chords, how to spell them, and how to play chord progressions.
First, let's look at what we mean when we say "spell chords".
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Step 1: How to Spell Chords
Spelling out chords is exactly what it sounds like it is - you literally say/spell the note names of the chord you are learning before you play it.
How many notes are in your chord? Now name each of them, starting from the bottom and going to the top.
That's all there is to it...it's as easy as A - B - C.
Or, C - E - G-, as in the C major Chord in the 2nd image.
Now that you know how to Spell Chords, let's learn the 4 main different types of chords we encounter in piano music.
Step 2: The 4 Main Types of Chords
Chords always start with a root note or bottom note. The rest of the chord structure is based upon this root note in all chords. There can be any number of notes in one chord, even as little as 2. Here are the 4 main types of chords you need to know.
- A Major Chord is a chord that has a root, (bottom note), another note that is a major 3rd above the root, and another note that is a perfect 5th above the root note. *When there are just 3 notes like in this case, we call this a Major Triad*
- A Minor Chord is a chord that has a root, (bottom note), another note that is a minor 3rd above the root, and another note that is a perfect 5th above the root. *Since there are just 3 notes in this chord, we call it a Minor Triad*
- An Augmented Chord is one that starts with the root note, then has a major 3rd note, with an Augmented 5th. This simply means that the 5th of the chord is raised by 1/2 step.
- A Diminished Chord is one that starts with the root note, has a root note, then a minor 3rd, with a Diminished 5th. This simply means that you lower the 5th of the chord by 1/2 step.
Now that we know the main different types of chords, let's learn about Chord Progressions and what a few of the main patterns are that we run into when learning them.
Step 3: Chord Progressions
Chord Progressions are very common in piano music and simply put, are different sequences of chords and chord structures in a piece.
These different progressions provide harmonic structure to the melody of the piece and are used in every key that you will play in so once you get the main ones learned, you're on your way to moving through them easily in your music.
The most common Chord Progressions that you will learn are the 1, 4, and 5 patterns.
What this means, is that the chords you play will begin with either the 1st, 4th, or 5th note of the scale.
For example, in the key of C major, the 1 chord, would start with the note C since C is the 1st note in the C scale; the 4 chord would start with the note F since F is the 4th note in the C scale; and the 5 chord would start with the note G since the 5th note in the C scale is G.
Now that you know about Chords and Chords Progressions, it's time to learn hands on how to play them and recognize them on the keyboard.
Step 4: Come Practice With Me!
The best way to learn chords and the main progressions that you need to know to get started playing them is to see what they look like in music and on the keyboard.
That's exactly what this video will do for you and there's a link for you to download a Chord practice sheet that I also go over with you in this video. You will also learn the best way to practice your chords so that you retain what you've learned while adding in new ones to your repertoire.