What Is a Piano Chord?

piano chord

A chord is basically a set of notes played together. The keys played in the chords are chosen distinctively to create balance in harmony. Depending on the level of your skill, the chords can be simple or complicated.

When you push down three or more keys together at the same time, you create a piano chord. The most basic chord to start with is C E G played together. It is also known as a triad chord.

Playing piano chords could be difficult if you are not familiar with the basics, and that is the notes. And to help you with the learning, let us start with an introduction to piano keys.

Black and White Keys

The black and white keys aligned on your piano or keyboard are the notes that will help you form the chords. Every note has a musical letter attached to it. 

You will notice that there are two groups of black keys: the first with two black keys and the second with three. White keys surrounding the black keys determine whether the black keys are sharp (#) or flat (b).

In the first group, the first white note around the two black notes is called C, the next D and followed by E. The black note on the right of D is called D# or Eb. The black note on the left of D is called Db or C#.

Coming to the second group, the first white note around the three black notes is called F, followed by G, A, and B. By applying the same method, we get the black notes, F# or Gb, G# or Ab, and A# or Bb.

The two keys B and C, which do not have any black key in between, also go by the same rule. So, B# is C, and Cb is B.

White keys E and F also do not have black keys in between, and so we get the notes F as E# and E as Fb.

Framing the explanation in one piece, you will get the white keys as C D E F G A B. And, the pattern continues till the last white key of your piano.

The piano notes rise from low to high as you keep playing across the piano.

piano keys layout

Piano fingering

The five fingers on each of your hands are numbered to help you play the piano notes. Your thumb is 1, index finger 2, middle finger 3, ring finger 4, and the little finger 5.

By numbering them, it becomes easy for you to play the notes with the right finger placement.

You will notice that the strength on each of the fingers varies from one another. In order to find the right balance, regular practice is necessary. Regardless of the level you’re at, daily practice will help you achieve dexterity.

How to build a chord?

The first thing you need to learn before building chords is the scale. The notes C D E F G A B, and C form the most basic and easy scale on your keyboard. 

By following the finger numbers, play 1 3 and 5, which is C E, and G. This will form the C major chord on C major scale.

Incorporating the same rule will give you the root chord of every major scale.

Different Types of Piano Chords

There are many kinds of piano chords. The nine common chords are as follows:

  • Major
  • Minor
  • Diminished
  • Augmented
  • Major Seventh
  • Minor Seventh
  • Dominant Seventh
  • Suspended
  • Extended

Initially, this can be quite intimidating. But luckily, there are simple chords with which we can start. 

Every chord has a name after the root note it contains. For instance, the chord C major has three notes C, E, and G. But, the chord is named after the root note C.

We will discuss two main types of chords used time and again.

Major Chords

They are the standard chords that you will come across while playing the piano or any other instruments. They are also known as the three-note chord or the triads. These chords sound neutral and happy.

Some major piano chords are as follows:

  1. D major (D). D – F# – A
  2. C# major (C#). C# – E# – G#
  3. F# major (F#). F# – A# – C#
  4. Bb major (Bb). Bb – D – E
  5. G major (G). G – B – D
  6. C major (C). C – E – G
  7. B major (B). B – D# – F#
  8. Eb major (Eb). Eb – G – Bb
  9. E major (E). E – G# – Bb 
  10. F major (F). F – A – C
  11. Ab major (Ab). Ab – C – Eb 
  12. A major (A). A – C# – E

Minor Chords

Minor Chords also consists of three notes like that of major chords: the root note, the minor third, and the perfect fifth. In comparison to the major chords, they usually sound sad and darker.

  1. C minor (Cm). C – Eb – G
  2. B minor (Bm). B – D – F#
  3. F# minor (F#m). F# – A – C#
  4. C# minor (C#m). C# – E – G#
  5. Ab minor (Abm). Ab – Cb – Eb
  6. F minor (Fm). F – Ab – C
  7. D minor (Dm). D – F – A
  8. Eb minor (Ebm). Eb – Gb – Bb
  9. E minor (Em). E – G – B
  10. G minor (Gm). G – Bb – D
  11. Bb minor (Bbm). Bb – Db – F
  12. A minor (Am). A – C – E

As you practice and polish these two types of chords, the others will be relatively easy to grasp and build.

Conclusion

You can play a chord with any note on your piano, given that you study the scales with which you form your desired chords. What makes different chords so special is that they all create their own unique moods.

Playing the right chord will help you project your emotions to the listeners. This in turn will help create a relationship between the pianist and the audience.

The good thing about chords is that once you learn just a handful of them, you can quickly start sounding like a professional. I highly recommend checking out Pianoforall – it takes this approach to the next level.

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