As simple as this may sound, I get disappointed when I meet pianist who has spent years playing the piano and yet they lack the basic fundamentals of chords. In this post we’re going to explore the foundation of piano chords
“Notes create scales, scales create chords, chords create progressions, and progressions create songs.”
I don’t want to assume you know all the notes on the piano. Below is a diagram
The piano uses the first 7 letters of the alphabet: A, B, C, D, E, F, and G.
These are shown on the white keys.
But each note can also be sharped (raised) or flatted (lowered).
Sharp = ♯ = Raise
Flat = ♭ = Lower
NB: A lot of musicians think sharps and flats are only designated to black keys. Sure, if you lower D, you get Db (pronounced “D flat”), the black key directly to the left of D. And if you raise F, you get F# (pronounced “F sharp”), the black key directly to the right of F. But you can also raise and lower white keys that do not have black keys directly in front or back of them. For example, lowering F is called “Fb” (“F flat”), even though to the beginner, it’s the same as playing “E.” Likewise, raising E is called “E#” (“E sharp”), even though it uses the key most people know as “F.”
This is called “Enharmonic.”
An “interval” in music is simply distance – or the difference between two tones, just like inches, feet, yards, and meters describe distance in physical spaces.
To know more about intervals, check out my post on intervals
There are two types of interval that describe distance in music.
- Half steps (semitone)
- Whole steps (tone)
If you do not know about them.. please do read them here https://musicalcrib.com/understanding-intervals/
After mastering what half step and whole step. You are ready to learn what chords are made of.
There are three basic ways of building piano chords. Which are:
- Using scales
- Using Intervals
- Combination of chords to form bigger ones
In this post, we will be discussing the first way. The remaining shall be discussed in subsequent posts.
You don’t have to be a musician to know the sound of a major scale. We’ve all heard them.
There are 12 primary major scales in total – one for each unique key of the piano.
A major scale has 7 unique notes in it.
The easiest to remember is the C major scale.
The C major scale has all white keys and no black keys. But the others aren’t like that. For example…
So how are this chords formed? With Tones and Semitones also known as whole steps and half steps
Here is the formula: Tone Tone Semitone Tone Tone Tone Semitone indicating the solfa notes re mi fa so la ti do.
Confused right? Where is the root solfa note do?
The root doesn’t have an interval because you start the scale from the root.
USING THE FORMULA: Start from your root(lets pick F….do)
move a tone forward(whole step), you get to G. (re)
move a tone forward(whole step), you get to A. (mi)
move a semitone forward(half step), you get to A#. (fa)
move a tone forward(whole step), you get to C . (so)
move a tone forward(whole step), you get to D. (la)
move a tone forward(whole step), you get to E. (ti)
move a semitone forward(half step), you get to F. (do)
Piano Chords – Using major scales to learn chords
With major scales under your belt, learning chords will become a cinch.
Let’s go back to C major and let’s number this scale
C is 1 D is 2 E is 3 F is 4 G is 5 A is 6 B is 7
With these numbers, you can learn almost any chord out there!
Major Triad Piano Chord
Chord Type:Major triad
Notes in C:C + E + G
Just as it looks, we took the 1st, 3rd, and 5th tones of the C major scale, played them together, and produced our first chord – C major. Make sure this is practiced on all keys. Questions can be asked in the comment box or in the forum.
Minor Triad Piano Chord
Chord Type:Minor triad
Formula:1 +♭3 +5
*With minor chords, you’ll be putting what you learned about “flats” (♭) into good use. A ♭3 means to take whatever the third tone of the scale is and lower it by a halfstep.
As a reminder, never change the letter when you “flat” it. To flat a “C” does not give you “B” (even though it may seem like it). Instead, it gives you a C flat. NEVER CHANGE THE LETTER when you flat it.More on that topic here.
Notes in C:C + Eb + G
Please make sure all these are practiced on all keys.. if you have any questions, you can drop it int he comment box below or ask in the forum….In the next lesson of PIANO CHORDS, we will look at the Diminished Triads, Augmented Triads and then Forming Chords from Intervals.