If you have sheet music or songbooks to play from, they will likely have chords to play. There are hundreds of possible chords in piano music. There are major and minor chords, diminished chords, inverted chords, augmented chords, and more. Just because there are so many chords to learn, it does not mean you cannot get started on them right away.
The easiest place to begin for learning piano chords is with the major chords. To think about chords, you can start by thinking of the scales. You have played a C scale, which has all its notes on white piano keys. You can start with a C major chord. Remember that the scale went up: beginning note- step-step-half step-step-step-step-half step. A chord can have more than three notes in it, but you are going to choose the beginning note, the third note, and the fifth note.
Therefore, you will be playing the beginning note, skip a step, play the next step, skip a half step, and play the next step – one, three, five. If you will look back at Figure A, you can use the Home Keys position for a C major chord. Just put your right thumb on C, your middle finger on 3 which is E, and your pinkie on 5 which is G. Push down all of the keys together. You have just played a C major chord.
You can invert the C major chord for a slightly different sound. All you have to do is to use the same three notes – C, E, G – and play them in different positions. For example, you can play the E and G in the positions they are on in the home keys, but use the C above middle C with them instead of middle C. Try this and make up any variation of the C, E, G combination you can.
You can make chords from any scale. Just remember the sequence of the scale and choose the first, third, and fifth tone in that scale. There are two other major chords that can be played all on the white keys. They are the F major chord and the G major chord. Now try these chords. Use the one-three-five sequence to make up each chord.
If you analyze the D, E, and A chords, you will see that their simple major chords are not much more difficult. You just have to put the middle finger on the black key for the third tone in the scale. Remember that D flat is the same as C sharp, and so on. This gives you several more chords to choose.
The next three basic major chords are the opposite of the previous three. The D flat, E flat, and A flat chords are such that you put your fingers on the black keys for the one and five positions and on a white key for the third position. When you invert the chord, you will have to remember which keys were originally one, three, and five, just as always.
It is easy to remember that the G flat, also called the F sharp, chord occurs all on the black keys. You will have to work to memorize the B major chord and the B flat major chord, as they are a little different. B goes white for one, black for three, and black for five. B flat is just the opposite, with black for one, and white for three and five.
While learning piano chords, you’ll discover that minor chords, the serious or gloomy-sounding chords, are easy to make as well. For basic minor chords, you only have to lower the third note one half step. You would end up with a C-E flat-G for a minor chord. This goes back to the scale set-up. When you count your steps and half steps, you need to account for the third step being a half step lower. Therefore, you would have beginning note-step-half step-step-step for the first five notes.
You can continue learning piano chords with all the different variations for a long time before you will have mastered them all. Learning chords gives you a way to add fresh new material to your practice and playing. The more you know, the easier it will become for you to play without written music.