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    C Major Piano Chords

    In this lesson, we’ll be covering the primary types of chords you will find in the key of C Major. First, we’ll go over the C major chord and its inversions, then we’ll explore other common chords you’re likely to find in C Major, and then we’ll put them all together in some simple chord progressions that will help you clearly conceptualize the key of C Major and the chords that are associated with it.

    VIDEO: How to play C Major chords on the piano

    The C major triad and its inversions

    The most fundamental chord in any key is that key’s “triad.” So called because it is made up of three notes, and the three notes which define the key. These are the root, third, and fifth degrees of the scale. In C Major, the notes that make up the triad are C, E, and G. Because there are three notes, there are three combinations of how those notes can be arranged, which we call inversions. So first, let’s go through the C Major triad and its inversions so we can establish and get comfortable with the C Major chord, the main identifier of the key of C Major.

    The C major chord in root position

    In root position, the notes of the C major chord are symmetrically stacked in thirds with C on the bottom. The appearance on the staff is evenly spaced, as is the feeling of the space in between your fingers while playing.

    The C major chord in first inversion

    In first inversion, the third of the chord (E) becomes the bottom note, and the root (C) jumps up to the top.

    The C major chord in second inversion

    In second inversion, the fifth of the chord (G) is on the bottom, and the third of the chord (E) goes to the top.

    C major chord inversions in sequence

    Now that you’re familiar with each of the inversions, you can visualize how they stack when played in sequence. 

    The C major triad inversions in ascending order in the right hand

    The C major triad inversions in ascending order in the left hand

    Other triads in C major

    When a triad is built on other degrees of the scale, we can see the other chords that live in the key of C Major.
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    The primary chords in C major

    The primary chords are the I, IV, and V chords, also called the “tonic,” “subdominant,” and “dominant” of the key. In C major, those chords are C Major, F Major, and G Major chords.

    C major cadence chord progressions

    Cadence chords help establish the key and get your fingers familiar with common patterns.

    Next, try starting the cadence chords on each inversion of the C major triad: 

    click image to enlarge

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