Basic Piano Chords
Basic Piano chords are combination of notes that are played together to produce harmony.
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Piano Chords

Chords define the harmony of a song and are formed by playing more than one note at a time. Piano chords can be simple or complex, but even a beginner piano chord can make music that is fun and addicting. There are actually very few songs that don’t use chords in one way or another, especially in rock music!

Many chords are available that can be played on piano. It may discourage the new students if they want to acquire them all.  But good news for all is that by learning a few basic chords you will be able to play various songs and can enjoy your journey with the piano.

Imagine without  having practice over years you can play piano songs on the piano. It sounds unconvincing, but with the help of this website you can easily learn chords that you can play on piano or keyboard (synthesizer) and also theory behind it. Use menus to choose a particular note and a piano chord in specific category.  The chords are explained with the help of pictures and to increase your grip explanations are also given.

Common Piano Chords

What is a chord?

Basically a chord is a combination of notes that are played together to produce harmony. It means that you press more one keys at once. A variety of chords is available that can be classified in multiple categories  and groups. Basic difference between chords is that how many chords are played.

Different categories of chords include Triads (combination of three notes), tetrachords or four-chords (combination of four notes) and penta-chords (combination of five notes). Chords also exist with the combination of six or seven notes. Explore more about chord types.

STANDARD PIANO NOTES

Latest piano keyboard consist of 88 black and white keys. Three white keys surrounding two black keys and four white keys surrounding three black, repeating same order several times. From 88 keys, 52 keys are white to create the notes of the C major and 36 black keys above the white keys.

There are 7 ordinary notes on piano keyboard: C, D, E, F, G, A and B. You will see a repeating pattern of three white keys surrounding two black keys and four white keys surrounding three black. The keys move alphabetically from A to G. First 3 white keys surrounding 2 black keys are C, D, and E. And 4 white keys surrounding 3 black keys are as follows F, G, A, and B. It means if you count 8 keys right or left from middle C you will be back at C. distance between these two keys is called an octave.

Piano notes consist of these black and white keys. Each white key is given a letter from A to G, and each black key is known as sharp or flat.

Below you can see simple piano notes.

Piano keyboard

SHARP AND FLAT PIANO NOTES

It is very easy to understand difference between sharp and flat piano notes. Sharp is moving one half step Up and flat is moving half step Down. Up means going right to the key and Down means going left to the key. While half step means the distance between consecutive black and white key. Sharp is symbolled as #, and flat is symbolled as b. So, Up to the C is C# (C sharp) and Down to D is Db (D flat), where both are half step.

Piano keyboard

TRANSLATING SHARP PIANO NOTES

The black key present after the right of the key “A” is known as  “A#,” said “A sharp.”

TRANSLATING FLAT PIANO NOTES

The black key present before the left of “E” is called “Eb,” said “E flat.”

PIANO INTERVALS?

An interval is the distance between  piano keys. It defines, when played together how they sound. Basic ways to measure intervals are half steps and whole steps.

  • Half-steps: Distance between two immediate black and white keys right or left is called half step.
  • Whole-steps: Distance between two half steps is called a whole step.
  • Common intervals: Major third is used commonly in piano chords that is the distance between 2 whole steps or 4 half steps.

Learning Chords on Piano

The good way to understand chords on piano is to be close how they are created. The C minor 7 (Cm7) adds up one note to C which is 7th in the C minor scale. Similarly C Major 7 (Cmaj7)chord adds up one note to C, which is 7th in C scale. As for as the extended chords  like C7, C9 and C11, they are used to add notes using intervals after the root chord with seventh, ninth and eleventh degrees.

C major 7th chord

C major 7th chord

Cm7 chord

C minor7th chord

How to play piano chords?

After knowing that which note belongs to a chord, it will be very easy for to play that in several ways. You can play a chord by pressing all keys at same time or  pressing keys one by one. As you gain more knowledge and keep practicing you will find more ways to change result. Fingering is using right finger on piano keyboard and it is very important.

Hands

Which hand you should use to play music on piano?  It depends on where and what are you playing.

If you are playing chords which contain many notes, then it would be better to use two hands (two hand chords link). You can also play chords splitting them into two parts e.g. pressing root note first followed by all remaining keys with higher octave, this is known as stride chord. And if you are playing with a singer or a band, you can use both of your hands or can play using one hand, it depends on how much advanced notes you are playing.

If you are playing alone, more likely you will play the chords with left hand and melody with right hand. This is more natural instead of doing reverse because this merges harmony and melody in a better way.

Fingerings

Use of fingers while playing piano chords differs. Following are some advices which will lead to right practice: Always try for the best natural place for the hand
  • Try to prevent using the thumb for sharp and flat notes.
  • When using right hand and first key is not black, you should use the thumb
  • Commonly used fingers while playing triad using left hand are pinky, middle finger and the thumb(keep the same order).
  • Similarly, thumb, middle finger and pinky, (keep the same order)while playing triads using right hand.
We will use numbers  to make it easier and represent all five fingers, thumb(1), index finger (2), middle finger (2), ring finger (4) and pinky (little finger ) as 5 without concerning left or right. On this website you can discover different finger patterns to play chords, which are hints and tries to follow the traditional way.  But these could not be ideal for all positions or for all hands. You should do exercise to develop strength among the fingers. Usually ring fingers shows weakness and needs to do more practice. See detailed description of fingers explained with pictures (link).

Reading Diagrams

Below is an example how to read a piano chord diagram on this site.  

piano chords diagram

Name of the chord is written on the op of the image. Colored keys means that they are par of the chord that e are focusing. Below image of piano keyboard notes of the chord are written. S, it is very easy to understand and learn piano chords here. As, pattern of keys on keyboard is repeated, you can place your and in different positions. But it would be better to place your hands somewhere in the middle.

Notations

When we are reading about piano chords, we see different symbols. Some common symbols are # (named as sharp) for example C# (C sharp) or D# (D sharp), b (named as flat) for example Ab (A flat)  Bb (B flat). If the chord is written only with a letter, it means it is a major chord. For example, C for C major chord, D for D major chord. C major chord can also be written as Cmaj. If chord is written as Am is A minor chord. It can also be written as Amin.

Sus is the abbreviation for Suspended chords, Aug for Augmented chords, and Dim for Diminished chords. A slash / is used between the original and alternative for inverted chords, For example C/E or C/G. A parenthesis () is used for alteration or extension of the chord, for example D(#5). Dno3 means third note is emitted.

Piano Chords Chart

Common piano chords chart

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ's]

What is a piano chord?
A piano chord is the combination of two or more individual notes played together. In a piano it means that we will two or more individual notes to produce a chord.
What are basic piano chords?
Basic chords are major chords. If you are a beginner then you should start from major chords and then move to minor chords.
What is the difference between minor and major chords?
The basic difference between major and minor is 3rd note of related scale. In major chord perfect third of major scale is pressed and in minor chord third of the minor scale or flattened third of major scale is pressed. According to music  major chords sound joy/happy or neutral and minor chords sounds sad or depressing.
What is a scale?
A scale is a combination of concerned notes moving in a step-by-step sequence, just like a ladder. All scales begins with a key note, which is also known as the ‘tonic’ which fits the name of the scale. For example, if you want to play an C major scale, you will begin from the note C.
How many notes in one scale?
A one scale consists of seven individual notes.