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How To Play Piano Chords

There’s more to playing piano than simply playing single notes or series of notes – you’ll often be faced with playing piano chords. A chord is simply a collection of notes played at the same time and held for the same interval. There are several different types of chords to play on piano, but to understand them you have to understand how chords are constructed, and you have to know the basic notes on a piano keyboard. 

A chord has a root note and its accompanying notes. The root note is the lowest note of the chord, and what the othernotes accompany. Chords are based on scales, so to really know chords, you have to know basic scales. For example, a C major chord is based on the standard C scale. A common major chord on any scale contains the root note, its third, fifth and/or the octave. So what are these?  

Piano chords are based on the standard major scale, and the notes of the chord are denoted by intervals of the scale. Using C as the standard example, C is the root note of the piano chord. Each step in the scale corresponds to second, third, fourth, fifth, all the way to octave, which is the next iteration of that note letter. So, because major scales contain the root, third, fifth and/or the octave, the actual notes for a C chord are C, E, G and the octave of C. This is also called an arpeggio. You don’t have to include the octave, but it adds a fuller sound to the chord. 

To play a standard major chord on the piano keyboard, place your hands on the keys so they correspond with the right notes. For reference, C is the white key immediately to the left of two black keys. E is to the right of two black keys, and G is two white keys to the right of E. For our purposes, we’ll omit the octave. 

C isn’t the only chord you’ll be playing on the piano, though. Other common chords are G, D, E and F. Since you know where G is, you can either go two white keys to the right to find B or remember that B is always immediately to the right of three black keys. D is between two black keys. For a D chord, you’ll being using the black keys – these are your accidentals. The D scale contains F sharp, so find D, then to play F sharp, play the leftmost of three black keys. A is positioned directly to the left of B. To play an F chord, you’ll be using A, which is immediately to the left of the rightmost of three black keys, and you already know where D is. The E chord contains an accidental as well – G sharp, which is the middle of three black keys. The other two notes are B and E. 

For reference, a C chord is C, E, and G. A G chord is G, B, and D. An E chord is E, G sharp, and B, and an F chord is F, A, and C.

These are basic piano chords to practice playing. Once you know these, practice shifting between them, and remember the guides to where each individual note is.

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