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The first key to remember when trying to make sense of the piano chord is that they’re based on…you guessed it…piano scales! In our examples, we will use the key of “C” but the formula applies to all keys.

Remember that the major piano scale for the key of C is C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C – where the first “C” is the root of all chords in the key of “C”.

Click Here To Learn What A Piano Chord Looks Like And How It Works!

One more thing: We use the terms lowered or raised a lot below.

  • “lowered” means shifted down one-half step or made flat (flat).
  • “raised” means shifted up one-half step or made sharp (sharp).

We will reference this scale in our examples below.

There are Four Main Piano Chord Types each are further distinguished by what’s often referred to as their quality (Major, Minor, Augmented, Diminished, Suspended):

  • Triad
  • Seventh
  • Extended
  • Other

Let’s explore the construction of the triad chords…


Remember triads are the simplest chord pattern consisting of only three notes.

triad piano chord

Further, these three-note (triad) chords can be one of the following:


Symbol: M or maj, implied if no symbol is present

This the probably the most basic and familiar chord form.

It consist of the 1st, 3rd and 5th note in a major piano scale.

Example: Cmaj or CM = C E G


Symbol: m

This the probably the second most basic chord form.

It consist of the 1st, lowered 3rd and 5th notes in the scale.


Cm = C Eb G


Symbol: dim or o

Just like the name suggest, a diminished triad chord is a minor triad chord with the last note diminished or lowered one-half step.

It consist of the 1st, lowered 3rd and lowered 5th notes in the scale.

Example: Cdim or Co = C Eb Gb


Symbol: aug or +

Just like the name suggest, an augmented triad chord will last note in the chord augmented or raised one-half step.

It consist of the 1st, 3rd and raised 5th notes in the scale.

Example: Caug or C+ = C E G#

Suspended or Suspended Fourth:

Symbol: sus or sus4

Just like the name suggest, a suspended chord is a chord that when played doesn’t sound “resolved” The listener is sort left “hanging” or suspended, waiting for another note or chord to finish the sequence. It’s like the following incomplete sentence: “Once you play a chord…”

It ends without giving you what you need to complete the thought.

In a suspended chord the 3rd note is typically replaced by the 4th note.

It consist of the 1st, 4th and 5th notes (sometimes the 3rd note is also played)

Example: Csus or Csus4 = C F G



Click Here To Learn What A Piano Chord Looks Like And How It Works!


Piano Chord Chart – A Gentle Introduction

by Erik Thiede on October 26, 2015

To make learning chords a little easier, you might want to try using a piano chord chart. This handy reference tool gives you immediate and visual access to some of the most commonly played chords. And although they can be quite complicated for the beginning pianist, this article will describe their fundamentals.

Acknowledging that a chord is a combination of three or more notes played together, a piano chord chart displays the keys that should be played in order to achieve a particular harmony or chord. The note that begins a chord is called the root and in order to use a piano chord chart effectively, you’ll need to start with a root key. Common roots are the “C” “F” or “G” keys. So selecting a root is a simple matter of deciding which key or note will start the chord. The subsequent keys or notes that follow contribute to the chord and build a harmonious sound.

So how does one use a piano chord chart? Well if you wanted to start a major chord with the “C” key, you would need to play the “C, E, G” keys simultaneously. That’s how chords are built on a piano. On a chord chart however, you would need to select your root key (in our case, “C”) and then select the name of the chord that you want to play (in this case, “major”). The chart would then highlight the “C, E, G” keys of a model piano keyboard to indicate that they should be played together.

Pretty easy, right? Let’s try another one.

If you wanted to start a minor chord with the “C” key, you would need to play the “C, Eb, G” keys simultaneously. On a piano chord chart, you would select your root key (the “C” key) and then select the name of the chord that you want to play (in this case, “minor”). The chart would then highlight the ” C, Eb, G ” keys to indicate that they should be played together.

There are approximately 12 different root keys that you can experiment with and about 600 chords that you can learn to play by using a chord chart. As you experiment and practice, you’ll discover some interesting patterns. For example, the C Major chord skips a single white key between each note. The C Minor chord however, skips three white keys between the first and last note, but plays the second black key in-between! The C Major, E/F# Major, G Major chords remain pretty faithful to the pattern exhibited by the C Major chord.

As complicated as chords can get, you’ll really benefit from using this visual reference. Once you get started with one, you’ll be ready to tackle some of the more complicated pieces of music that you’ve always wanted to play. There simply is no rhyme or reason to frustrate yourself any longer because even the most basic piano chord chart removes the most prevalent obstacle to playing harmonious music. And that’s “figuring out where the fingers go!”


Top Five Ways To Play Piano By Ear

October 25, 2015

Learn scales and try to pick them out in the music you hear. One of the top five ways to play piano by ear is by learning (at the very least) what scales are and what they sound like. Scales are a series of octave-specific notes that are played in a particular pattern or order. […]

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Free Piano Chords – They’re The Path To Beautiful Music

October 10, 2015

Piano music is much more beautiful when it’s played with free piano chords because chords create harmony. Built from single notes starting with the first note or root of the simple major triad chords are the result of playing a root note (also called the tonic or degree I), a third tone above the first […]

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Looking for a Chord Chart for the Piano?

October 6, 2015

Instant Piano Chord Chart Finder Need a Quick and Convenient way to find piano chords and voicings? The construction of a piano chord chart can be easy once you understand the formula for each chord. It all follows from the intervals of the respective scales. For example, the major scale for the key of C […]

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Seventh Piano Chords In It’s Many Forms

October 3, 2015

Seventh piano chords are just like the triad chords PLUS the 7th note in the scale. It’s used a lot in jazz, gospel and blues piano music. Just like with the triads, seventh piano chords can have several forms: Click Here To Get The Lowdown On Seventh Piano Chords! Dominant Seventh: Symbol: 7 The dominant […]

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Top 10 Ways To Effectively Practice Piano

September 20, 2015

Let us start by admitting piano practice isn’t always fun. At times, it can be as grueling a task as mopping the floor or teaching your York Terrier to roll over (even when he hasn’t done it for the hundredth time). The key thing about piano practice however, is that it isn’t really supposed to […]

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F Sharp Chords Chart for Piano

September 14, 2015

Using the piano chord chart table, Here are the F# Chords: F Sharp Chord Name Symbols Chords Notes* F# Major (implied if without notation) F#M or F#maj or F# F# A# C# F# Minor F#m F# A C# F# Augmented F#aug or F#+ F# A# D F# Diminished F#dim or F#o F# A C F# […]

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Top 10 Ways To Improvise On The Piano

September 9, 2015

1. Use fake books. Fake books, as one of the top 10 ways to improvise on the piano, are gentle introductions to what could be interpreted as the Wild West of improvisation. Improvisation is largely based on freedom of expression. Without having a good foundation of the basics, beginners may feel intimidated by the possibilities. […]

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Piano Chords – More Than Just a Group of Notes

September 5, 2015

At their most basic, piano chords are formed by playing three or more notes simultaneously. The combinations that result set the mood of a musical piece – happy, sad, powerful, soulful, etc. Historically, major chords have always evoked positive emotions while minor piano chords evoke the opposite. That’s a fairly simplistic observation, but it gives […]

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