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This is a bit of a leading question as everyone has their own idea of what piano can do for them. Some people play the piano quite seriously and do not think of piano chords so much as they think of playing the music in front of them. If you are learning to play jazz music, you are often given a set of chords to play with little to no prompting.

If you play rock music, you might play chords at the piano with a few extra notes thrown in. Since all these situations are different, we will cover a few techniques that will help you play effective and fun piano chords.

Signing up for piano lessons in Greenville is just the start because you can learn several other things along the way that might help you determine your path as a pianist. Not everyone can solo at Carnegie Hall, and you need to make decisions that are best for your personal musical journey.

Know Your Chords

Before you can learn to play chords, you need to know your chords. Most of the time, you are dealing with major chords. What is a major chord? The first, third, and fifth note of the scale. So, if you are just learning, the C Major scale is C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. The first note is C, the third is E, and the fifth is G. That is a chord when you put them all together.

You can also top the chord with the C at the end of the scale. As you continue to build chords, you need to know:

  • How to get from one chord to another
  • How to build major or minor chords
  • What all the extra tones are for
  • What the root of the chord is
  • The fingerings for the notes

This is a process that you must go through as you learn each new chord. Over time, you will learn how to slide from one chord to the next, change the root to your liking, or even construct the chord in a new way to make it easier to play.

Chord Connections

If you are playing classical piano, you are playing written music that is very specific. You need to make connections between the chords, but you often need to change hand positions to get to where you need to go.

If you are just playing a few chords on piano for something that is not quite so “serious” (jazzers call this legit music,) then you can connect the chords by just moving a few fingers.

Take for example a simple chord progression you are learning for an easy worship song.

In C, you are playing: G C D G



This is just I-IV-V-I in C Major. Unfortunately, these chords are not connected. All the notes are far from one another, and you will spend much of your time jumping around the keyboard. If you, however, move the notes around, you can get a lot of these notes to either be the same from one chord to another (a common tone,) or very close.

If you reconfigure the notes, you can get: C C D E



The notes are close together now, and you can easily reach them even if you are a novice pianist. This is just one way to learn, but it is much easier than jumping all over the keyboard like Bugs Bunny.

What is the Root?

After you do all these chord connections, you need a root note to make the chords make sense. For example, in the progression above, both C Major chords are inverted. You might not want to end on an inverted chord because it does not always sound “final”. Yes, the music resolved, but it is not as if you properly ended. There’s a difference, and you can hear it when playing.

So, the root notes for those chords should be the chord name. In this case, C-F-G-C. You can add a C-F-G-C bass line to the music, and your chords make sense.

Always keep in mind that, if you do not know the root, you do not know the chord.

Do You Know the Fingerings?

When you are playing “traditional” piano music, you can easily find the fingerings in educational editions or through your private instructor. If you are just winging it, you need to know where your fingers will go. For example, will your right hand move through the chords so that your thumb always plays the lowest note or not? You might need to use different fingers while playing that sequence as you transition from one chord to the next.

Since all the notes are close to one another, you might switch out fingers to make the transition easier instead of sliding on the same finger.

Sometimes, sliding on that finger makes sense, but that is what practice is for. Write down the fingerings so that you do not get confused. After you have practiced consistently, you will learn which fingers work best in a given situation.

What is a Minor Chord?

A minor chord simply flattens the third note. Therefore, a C minor chord is C-Eb-G. If you see those strange flatted notes and wonder why they’re there—that’s probably why. You can also hear the difference. Minor chords do not sound quite as chipper as major chords.

What are Flat and Sharp Chord Tones?

Flat and sharp chords tones simply add flavor to the chords. So, if you are looking at chord markings that say something like CM with a “b7” next to it, you add a flattened seventh. So…

C Major is C-E-G. Adding the flattened seventh means you get a Bb on top. So the chord is C-E-G-Bb. You must interpret these symbols for each chord and work in these notes with your fingerings, etc.

Start Practicing Today

Learning a few chord progressions makes music more fun, and you can add an instrument to your arsenal at the same time. Get in touch regarding piano lessons, drum lessons in Greenville, or even violin lessons in Greenville - we would love to hear from you.