The Complete Guide to Piano Chords
Learn to play and practice chords with our simplified, practical approach
Piano chords are an essential component of piano playing, providing harmonic context, accompaniment textures, and emotional expression. Learning chords will not only enhance your understanding of music theory but also improve your capacity for music reading, technical proficiency, and even composition and improvisation. By mastering the fundamentals of chord construction, you can unlock a world of musical possibilities and take your piano skills to new levels.
What are piano chords?
Piano chords are combinations of notes played simultaneously on the keyboard. They form the harmonic foundation of a piece of music and are vital for creating texture, depth, and emotion in a composition. Chords can consist of as few as three notes (two notes are considered intervals) and typically consist of 3 or 4 different pitches, with some pitches occasionally being doubled or omitted.
Chords play a pivotal role in piano playing, serving various functions such as:
- Establishing harmony: Chords provide the harmonic context for the melody and help to define the tonality or key of a piece.
- Accompanying melodies: In many piano pieces, the left hand plays chords to support and complement the melody played by the right hand.
- Creating texture and interest: The use of chords adds layers and depth to a composition, creating a rich and engaging musical experience.
- Enhancing emotional expression: Different chord combinations and progressions can evoke specific moods and emotions, allowing the pianist to convey a wide range of feelings through their playing.
VIDEO: Introduction to piano chords
How to build chords on the piano
Chords are built using a combination of notes from a particular scale. The most common chords are triads, which consist of three notes.
The anatomy of major chords
Major triads begin with the root note (the first note of the chord), then add the note a major third (four half steps) above the root, and finally, the note a perfect fifth (seven half steps) above the root.
How chords function in major keys
Piano chords in all 12 major keys
Here you can see an overview of all the major scales. You can view a complete lesson on each scale where you’ll learn details about the fingering, scale construction, and performance.
The anatomy of minor chords
Minor triads start with the root note, then add the note a minor third (three half steps) above the root, and finally, the note a perfect fifth (seven half steps) above the root.
Piano chords in all 12 minor keys
In the realm of piano playing, chords are a fundamental aspect of music that cannot be overlooked. As simultaneous combinations of notes, chords provide the harmonic foundation of a composition, supporting melodies and establishing the tonality of a piece. These vital structures significantly influence the emotional resonance and overall structure of musical works, shaping the listener’s experience.
By gaining a deeper understanding of chords and their functions, pianists will be better prepared to navigate the complexities of musical composition and performance.