Master the Use of Piano Chords By Recognizing Chord Patterns

There are essentially two ways to learn piano – through note reading or through chord pattern recognition. To learn how to play piano music written by other composer’s, you’ll eventually have to learn how to read sheet music although this method takes way longer. If you ever want to learn to write your own music, learn the basic piano chords and how they progress from one to another – it’s far easier than learning how to read sheet music. It somehow brings much more satisfaction and joy to start making music right away than it is to have to learn to read it from a piece of paper first.

It is a fact that many self-taught piano players who design their own piano lessons learn how to operate the piano chords first and then move on to learning advanced theories. Think about how much more enthusiasm you’ll get by playing your favorite pieces quickly and later deciding to learn the boring technical aspects such as music theory. Anyone can learn to play piano relatively comfortably, whether they begin learning by ear or with piano notes.

What are Chords?

In layman’s terms, you create piano chords when you hold down 3-4 notes simultaneously. They are not to be confused with music intervals which are only two notes are played together or one after the other. Piano chords should sound harmonious and aesthetic, unless you’re composing modern music or engaging in a free-form of experimental jazz. The most basic chord that you’re bound to come across in easy piano tutorials, traditional piano music or in beginner piano lessons is the C major chord, as it only plays 3 notes of white keys.

C Major Chord: C-E-G. This is usually the first chord taught universally in piano teaching courses around the world.

It is made up of two intervals – a major third interval (C-E) and a minor third interval (E-G).

Tonic and Gin – Your First Piano Chord Pattern

In a piece of music in C major, this kind of chord would be called the Tonic Chord.

The next most important piano chord is the G major chord or the Dominant chord of a piece of music in C major.G Major Chord: G-B-D…since it functions so well together with the C major Chord. There is a sort of gravitational pull from the so-called Dominant chord of a piece back to the Tonic chord.

Here is a handy reference chart taken from an old, yet authoritative book of the most commonly used piano chords used in piano schools all across the planet. Click on the picture below to view a larger image in paper-size dimensions – 8 1/2 X 11 inches.

chord chart small Piano Chords


This chart may be a little confusing for anyone taking beginner piano lessons since it doesn’t always show the piano chords in root position that is as I have demonstrated above – C-E-G. ‘Root’ means the bottom of the chord has the name of the chord such as ‘C’ major. ‘E’ minor root would have an ‘E’ on the bottom and ‘F’ major would have an ‘F’.

Instead the chart may show the first inversion meaning the bottom of the chord starts with the second note, or an ‘E’ in the case of a C major chord.

So the first inversion of C major is:E-G-CThe second inversion of C major would be:G-C-EThe third inversion of…wait! There are only three notes, so you can’t have a third inversion on a 3-note chord!It’s really easy once you get a hang of it. Jazz pianists have to be especially versatile at managing the inversions of chords quickly.

Coloring the Chords

Many people during piano teaching ask about those funky sixths, seventh and ninth chords, which make jazz piano music especially sound sexy. Sixths and ninths (with or with out the seventh) [ex of stacked up ninth chord: C, E, G, B, D] are usually just utilized as ‘color’ notes, they do not truly alter your harmonic implication in any way. Cautiously utilize a triad containing the sixth nevertheless, as it can be rather unstable, and inverting it will simply result in another type of seventh or minor chord. Learn piano chords used in jazz by getting a set of flash cards with chords displayed on them, and then immediately try the chord in different key signatures so that you have a huge base of tools at your disposition.

The use of seventh piano chords successfully is simply a situation of understanding diatonic relationships, and then experimenting with what sounds best. Usually the actual rule is the fact that triads are steady and also sevenths are unstable (although major sevenths may be regarded as settled, for example at the end of a song).

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