- Max Kuehn
If you’re starting out playing the piano, you might be wondering how to read chords piano. Chords are groups of notes played together, and they can be tricky to read if you don’t know what you’re doing. But don’t worry! With a little practice, you’ll be reading chords like a pro. Here are a few tips to get you started.
What Is The Definition Of A Piano Chord?
Simply put, a chord is formed when you play more than one note simultaneously. So, to make what chord, what notes do you play? With 88 keys on the piano, there must be an infinite number of combinations. It’s a lot easier than that.
There are just twelve tones on the piano keyboard. These tones, known as the chromatic scale, repeat as you progress up the keyboard. The scale includes each white or black key, which is a half step distant from the keys.
As you progress up the keyboard, twelve half steps will return you to the beginning of the tone sequence. When you compose it, the distance between the tones, measured in half steps, determines its kind.
The majority of chords in current Western music are either major or minor. These two types of chords and their variations are used in nearly all popular music, as well as almost all classical music.
The root, third, and fifth tones of major and minor chords are three tones. Chords are always given their root name. The root and lowest note of the C major chord, for example, is C.
The third tone of the C major scale, or an E, will be played. The fifth will be the G or the fifth tone of the C major scale. Whatever the root of a major chord is, it sounds like a major chord.
This is the case because the number of half steps between each note will always be the same. There will always be four half steps between the root and the third, a major 3rd interval.
From the third to the fifth note of the chord, the top two notes will be three-half steps apart or a minor third. This is how you construct a major chord using any twelve chromatic scales.
Let’s say you want to make a D major chord. F-sharp is obtained by counting up four half steps from D. Then, count up three half steps from F-sharp to get A. D, F-sharp, A is the D major chord.
Let’s imagine you wish to begin in a black key, like E-flat. In the same way, make the chord. Count up to G, then three half steps to B-flat. E-flat, G, and B-flat are your E-flat major chord notes.
See if you can play each major chord, one for each of the twelve tones, on your piano keyboard. You can hear how each major chord sounds like. This is because their notes have the same connection.
Returning to the letters above, the musical staff now. For a major chord, you will write the letter name of the root in capital letters.
A capital “E” appears above the staff for an E major chord. F# indicates an F-sharp major chord. Play an A major chord using the letter “A.” It’s as simple as that.
Major Chord Symbol Example (C major chord): C
Piano Minor Chords
A minor chord is constructed similarly as an upside-down major one. From root to third, the minor 3rd is on the bottom, and the major 3rd is from third to fifth. The minor goes on the bottom, the major on the top, and the fifth in the same spot.
To construct a minor chord, begin with any chromatic scale’s twelve tones. For example, the C minor chord has the same root as the C major chord, but goes up three half steps (a minor third) to an E-flat.
G is reached after four additional half steps (a major 3rd). D, F, and A are the notes that make up a D minor chord.
You may have observed that all you have to do to convert from a major to a minor chord is move the third (the middle tone) down one-half step. A minor chord replaces a major chord with this minor shift.
If you know the major chord, decrease the third a half step to make the minor chord. Try it out on the piano. Make every minor chord you can think of, all twelve of them. A capital letter indicates a minor chord followed by a lower case “m” in chord symbols.
A minor chord, for example, is written “Am.” “Min” is sometimes used instead of “m”; however, this is uncommon. A minus sign for minor is also possible, but it happens even less frequently.
Symbols for minor chords in C: Cm, C min, C-
Additional Piano Chords
The more edgy, dissonant diminished chord, formed on two minor thirds, is likely to appear in jazz and other idioms. For example, to make a reduced C, use C, E-flat, and G-flat. D, F, and A-flat are required for D decreased.
Play a few reduced chords on your piano to hear how unusual and unsettling they sound. There are also the strange, space-age augmented chords, such as C, E, and G#, formed on two major thirds.
Although diminished and augmented chords are less common than major and minor chords, you’ll want to have them in your repertoire if you stumble across them. The root is followed by the letters “dim” in a diminished chord.
A little open circle, similar to a degree sign, may appear occasionally. The letter name of the root is frequently followed by “aug” or a + sign for augmented.
Symbols for diminished chords (C diminished): C dim, Co
Symbols for augmented chords (in C): C aug, C+
How To Read Piano Chords
Reading Piano Chord Charts
1. Look for the chord chart.
The detailed notes of the chord would be represented on the staff in traditional sheet music. Each chord is represented by a series of letters and numbers with a chord chart.
The chord’s name indicates how to play the chord on the piano. It tells you which keys to put your fingers on to play that chord.
2. Determine the chord’s fundamental note.
The root note is the first capital letter in the chord name on a chord chart. The root note is the initial note you play, and it serves as the foundation for the rest of it.
In most chords, the other notes are called in relation to the root note. A seventh chord, for example, is named after the last note in the chord, which is the seventh note distant from the root note.
3.Be able to distinguish between major and minor chords.
Major and minor chords are the most fundamental chords, and they make up the great majority of piano songs. A minor chord is a major chord that has been turned upside down.
Both major and minor chords are made up of three notes. Major chords are usually represented by the root note’s capital letter. On the other hand, Seventh chords are an exception to this norm.
A C Seventh chord, as opposed to a C Major Seventh chord, is indicated by the letter “C7” on a chord chart. You’ll see “major” abbreviated with a “M” or “maj” following the root note in seventh chords.
After the capital letter, there will be a lower-case “m” for minor chords. When you play a minor chord, the center note is half a step lower than when you play a major chord, but the other two notes remain the same. This makes a minor chord sound sadder and more solemn.
4. Look for sharps and flats.
Many keys feature sharps or flats in their names, commonly denoted by a “#” for a sharp and a “b” for a flat in the chord name. These correspond to the piano’s black keys.
The black key is to the right of, or above, a white key. C sharp, for example, is the black key immediately to the right of C. The flat of a white key, on the other hand, is the black key directly to the left of or below it.
Different white keys have black keys to the right and left of them. As a result, the identical black key classified as C sharp can also be classified as D flat. When looking for notes on the piano keyboard, keep this in mind.
5. Begin with basic chords.
There are three major chords and three minor chords that may be performed on the piano using only the white keys. These chords allow you to play songs without worrying about sharps and flats.
C, G, and F are the three major chords. The three minor chords are a minor, D minor, and E minor. If you’re new to piano, these chords are a fantastic place to start.
6. To complete the chord, read the next section of the notation.
The chord’s name will give extra information you’ll need to perform the chord on the piano after the root note and whether it’s major or minor.
Different chords are constructed in different ways. You’ll need to acquire some language to grasp the chord’s name. If you see “Caug” on a chord chart, you must play an augmented C chord.
You take the major chord and half-step up the last note when augmenting a chord. Because a C Major chord is C-E-G sharp, and a “Caug” chord is C-E-G sharp.
A reduced chord is made by reducing the middle and last notes by a half step. If you see the name “Cdim” on a chord chart, you would play C-E flat-G flat. Cdim is a minor C chord with the fifth scale degree reduced by half a step.
Memorize The Basic Chords.
Look through the chord charts for some of your favorite songs to notice which chords frequently appear. Please make a list of them and memorize the notes you play.
You’ll know what chord to play whenever you see that notation without getting mired down in music theory.
Look up fingering charts online to see where your fingers are placed for different chords. You may recognize “chord forms” that will remain consistent regardless of the fundamental note. Put your first finger on the key corresponding to it to play the root note.
Scales of Learning
1. Separate the whole and half steps.
When you look at a piano’s keyboard, you’ll notice white keys with black keys. Black keys are arranged in pairs and threes with a space between them. The pattern continues across the keyboard.
A half stride separates a white key from the black key immediately adjacent to it. One step is the distance between two white keys separated by a black key.
Practice making whole and half steps up and down the keyboard to obtain a hands-on grasp of how they work and how the notes connect.
2.Practice the scale in various keys.
The root note of a key is where the scale begins. The “whole-whole-half whole-whole-whole-half” You may play the entire scale by following that pattern once you’ve found the root note.
You can find the scales on your own, without sheet music. Begin with C and progress across the white keys until you reach the next C on the keyboard. You’ve just completed the C Major scale and performed entirely on white keys.
To locate the D Major scale, go to the D and use the same “whole-whole-half whole-whole-whole-half”. You must now employ two black keys – F sharp and C sharp – by repeating the pattern one key over.
You may find the scale for every note by following this pattern from any key on the piano. You may discover that you can play a scale without looking at the keys once your fingers have become accustomed to the pattern.
3.Search the scale for chords.
You can get all the major chords once you know the scale by stacking notes about the root note. Starting with the root note, play 3 or 4 notes from the scale to form a chord.
The main chord is formed by the root note’s first, third, and fifth notes. The C scale’s first five notes are C-D-E-F-G; therefore, the C scale’s first five notes are C-D-E-F-G. C-E-G is the major chord.
A half-step lowers the third note to create a minor chord. C minor, for example, is C-E flat-G. You can hear the difference between the two chords if you play the major chord followed by the minor chord for the same root note.
4. Compare chord names to scale notes.
By glancing at the chord’s name, you can figure out how to play it once you know the scale. The chord name specifies how this chord differs from the major chord.
For example, in a seventh chord, you play four notes instead of three; the fourth note is the seventh note in the scale lowered a half-step. As a result, if you see “C7,” you should play C-E-G-B flat.
Recognizing Chord Theory
1.Identify the signature of the key.
On a piece of sheet music, the symbols at the beginning of the staff lines show you how to play the song. The key and time signatures can be found by following the clef symbol to distinguish the treble or bass clef.
The key signature identifies the song’s key of performance. If the key signature isn’t C major, there will be sharps or flats somewhere. Those sharps and flats are mentioned at the start of the piece.
The key signature indicates that you should play the sharp or flat specified rather than the non-accidental note every time you play that note throughout the composition.
For example, the G Major scale includes an F sharp. Therefore you’d see a sharp sign (#) over the staff line representing the F note in the G Major key signature.
2.Construct a major chord.
The most basic chord you can play is a major chord. It’s a three-note chord comprised of the root note’s first, third, and fifth notes. Making a change to the major chord is required for other chords.
You can begin with a C major chord because it is the most straightforward. Find the C note on your piano, skip a white key and lay another finger on the third.
Place the third finger on the fifth key after skipping another white key. A C Major chord is formed by playing these three notes simultaneously.
Using the same principle, keep your hand in the same location on the piano but slide over one key to the D key. Take note of where your fingers are now. They should be placed on the D, F sharp, and A. A D Major chord is formed by playing these three notes together.
3.Construct a minor chord.
A minor chord is performed in the same way as a major chord, only you play the key to its immediate left, or one half-step below, instead of the center note or third note of the scale. Minor chords are all constructed in the same way.
For example, you might play C, E, G for a C major chord, but C, E-flat, G for a C minor chord. This theory can be used to create all minor chords in the same way as major chords are created.
4.Use chord theory to understand seventh chords.
Seventh chords receive their name because they include four notes, the fourth of which is the seventh note in the root note’s scale.
Play the first, third, fifth, and seventh notes of the major scale for the major seventh chord. You’d play C-E-G-B for C Major Seventh, abbreviated as “CM7” or “Cmaj7.”
A half-step should lower any seventh chord that isn’t a major seventh. C7, for example, is C-E-G-B flat. C minor 7, sometimes known as “Cm7,” is a C-minor chord with a lowered seventh note: C-E flat-G-B flat.
5.Continue with suspended chords.
Because the third note of the major scale is replaced with the fourth note, a suspended chord has an unfinished sound. Consider suspending your finger over the third note and dropping it deeper over the fourth.
You’re playing a standard major chord, except you’re playing the first, fourth, and fifth notes of the scale instead of the first, third, and fifth notes of the scale.
Suspended chords are indicated on chord charts by the abbreviation “sus” (short for “suspended”) or the number 4 after the root note (to indicate you play the major chord with the fourth note instead of the third).
6.Use chord theory to decipher more difficult chords.
You can mix different variations to create more complicated chords if you learn the theory behind them and how they relate to the major chords.
Combining a suspended chord with a seventh chord, for example, creates a suspended seventh chord. Instead of the third note, play the fourth note of the major scale, followed by the lowered seventh note.
A suspended seventh chord will result from playing all four notes together.
Even though these sophisticated chords are rarely utilized in popular music, if you know chord theory, you’ll have no trouble playing them when you encounter them on chord charts or in sheet music.
Chords are an essential part of playing music and the piano. Remember that you are playing a chord on the piano whenever you play three or more notes together.
You can quickly and easily learn to recognize and play any chord on any chart if you know and remember your major and minor triads and turn any triad into its opposite, from major to minor and from minor to major. Fidlar hope you found this helpful article, and let us know if you have any questions!