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Piano Chords

Piano Chords – More Than Just a Group of Notes

by Erik Thiede on August 14, 2014

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 you an idea of one of the most primary effects chords have on music.

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It’s a good idea to understand the various chord types. Each has a formula that creates a specific musical effect no matter which key you are playing in. Here are some examples and, bear in mind, these explanations only cover the most basic of each chord type:

  • Triad – three notes consisting of the root (the key you are playing in), the third and the fifth.
  • Sixth – a fourth note added one full step above a triad’s fifth position.
  • Seventh – a fourth note is added to a triad at the seventh position above the root note.
  • Extended – a note is added to a triad chord above the seventh position, such as a ninth for example. Since a scale has only seven notes, it doesn’t seem to make sense that you could have a ninth. However, a second and a ninth are the same note.
  • Added Tone – a chord that includes an added note, such as a sixth, but doesn’t include the basic triad’s third.
  • Suspended – a chord that substitutes the third with either a second or fourth note from the scale. This is an interesting chord type since, when it is heard, the listener generally anticipates the next chord being the standard triad containing the root, third and fifth.

Piano chords are said to “color” music from various genres.

For example, country music tends to utilize sevenths, and jazz/blues tend to incorporate ninths or thirteenths. Rock, especially hard rock, favors “power chords” that are made up of the root note and the fifth, often with the octave serving as a third note at the top of the chord.

Most chords are further distinguished by what’s often referred to as their quality.

  • A major chord, which tends to evoke pleasant emotions, features a major third in the triad. In a C chord, this would be C, E, and G.
  • A minor chord, which most often appears in somber music, has a minor third in the triad. In a C chord, the notes would be C, E flat, and G.
  • An augmented chord raises the fifth position one-half step, common in blues, country and jazz. You might be interested to know how different augmented piano chords are related; for example, the augmented chords for C, E, and G sharp all contain the same notes.
  • A diminished chord features a minor third and a “diminished” fifth. More specifically, you lower the third and fifth of a major triad by one-half step. These are common in classical, jazz and gospel.

Chords are further designated by their scale degree, and the two most essential examples are the tonic and dominant chords. Appropriately, a tonic chord begins with the tonic note, which is the first note of the scale in which you are playing. If the song you are playing is in the key of C, your tonic chord has a C as its bass note and it is, naturally, a C chord. The dominant chord is a chord in the key of your scale’s fifth note. In our example, the dominant chord is the G chord and begins with G as the bass note.

The final element of chords we will learn about here is an inversion. The number of inversions available to a chord is the number of notes in a chord minus one. A triad has two inversions; start with the tonic chord, also called the root when discussing inversions, which is not an inversion. Then there is a first inversion, which is the same chord but it begins on the third note in the scale. You may have already guessed this next one; the second inversion is the same chord, only it begins on the fifth note in the scale.

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this discussion on chords. If you who already have a basic playing ability will no doubt begin to vary your chord construction to add personality, effect and emotion to your performances. Good luck!

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Beginner Piano Lessons

by Tania Gleaves on August 10, 2014

Welcome to what I believe is one of the easiest beginner piano lessons you will find anywhere. I’ve built this introduction to piano based on the experiences I’ve had successfully teaching countless others. My method is to keep it simple, make everything make sense, and move at a pace that keeps things interesting.

When you look at the piano keyboard, you see white keys and black keys. Each key represents a note. Notice there’s a pattern; the black keys are arranged in groups of two and three. Everywhere you see the group of three, the white key positioned between the second and third black key is called “A.” If you play an A and read off alphabetically as you play each white key after the A, you will notice that the note after G is also between the second and third black key. It is another A. Notice how the tune of both A’s is identical; one is just higher than the other.

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We call the distance between one A and the next A an octave. “Oct,” the root of octave, means eight. There are eight notes from A to A. The distance from B to B is an octave also, and the same is true for all the notes on the piano.

Find the note “C” on the keyboard. To locate it, you can either count up from A, or I’ll give you a hint: somewhere in the middle of the keyboard, locate a group of two black keys (not three); C is the white key just to the left of the first black key. Now, play the C and each white note to the right of it, reading off the names of the notes – C, D, E, F, G, A, B – until you land on the next C. Congratulations, you’ve played a scale in the key of C!

The scale is the most basic building block for everything we do on the piano. The first note of the scale you played was C. Your scale, therefore, was in the key of C.

You build chords – melodic groups of notes played simultaneously – from the notes in the scale. To play a C chord, you would play a C, E and G together. Go ahead and place your thumb over the C, your middle finger over the E, and your pinky over the G. Press down on all three notes together. That’s a C chord.

While your thumb stays over the C, locate a C two octaves down to the left and play it with your left thumb. Play that note together with the C chord. You’ve just combined bass with your chord. Here comes the tricky part. Counting from the C, move your left thumb to the right until it is over the F. With your right fingers positioned over the C chord, move them to the right until your thumb is over the F, your middle finger is over the A, and your pinky is over the C. Play the left and right hand parts together. That’s an F chord with F for the bass. Finally, move everything one more position to the right – left thumb over G and right thumb over G, middle finger over the B and pinky over the D. Play it all together and you’ve played a G chord with a G bass.

Believe it or not, you’ve just played the basic three-chord pattern of most of the rock songs written over the last six decades!

Get comfortable playing notes and chords and combining them with bass. From here, you can learn to play real songs. Check out the links section to decide where you personally want to go next!

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Top 10 Ways To Improvise On The Piano

August 6, 2014

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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How Popular Chord Progression Works – A Simple Guide

June 24, 2014

What is a popular chord progression? Chord progressions are actually series of chords which are played one after the other to produce a harmonious tune. By now you have learned the different piano chords and may have memorized them a bit. The knowledge you have about chords will help you a lot in playing the […]

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Seventh Piano Chords In It’s Many Forms

June 22, 2014

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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Extended Piano Chords

June 22, 2014

As the name suggest, extended piano chords extend beyond the range of the major scale. Recall that chords are created with respect to there corresponding scales. For example, the major scale of “G” has this 8-note sequence: G,A,B,C,D,E,F#,G. Chords that require notes beyond the 8th note (e.g. the last “G”) are extended piano chords. The […]

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The Piano Chord – Making Sense of This Versatile Music Concept

June 21, 2014

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 […]

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Chord Progressions – The Basic DNA of Music

June 12, 2014

Many things in life have a pattern. In music, we refer to those patterns as chord progressions. They are simply a sequence of chords that tends to repeat throughout the song. Have you ever noticed how easy it can be to learn a new song you hear on the radio? Sometimes it only takes hearing […]

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The Many Benefits of Taking Piano Lessons Online

June 5, 2014

If you’ve ever wanted to play the piano but think that you don’t have time now that you are a working adult, think again! Piano lessons online make it easy to pick up your old hobby or learn a new one. When most of us think about taking piano lessons, we think about having a […]

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Piano for Beginners – Different Ways of Learning

May 30, 2014

There is a bit of a mini-revolution going on in the world of piano teachers. And it all has to do with teaching piano for beginners. You see, there’s the old way of teaching piano. This way focuses on learning notes, learning to site read music, and learning where each individual note is on the […]

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