Basic Piano Chords – Major and Minor
The Building Blocks of Piano Music
Where do you start when learning piano? After learning the notes, it is time to combine them to make chords. This article will go over the basic major and minor chords that make up the vast majority of recorded and performed music.
A Few Basic Concepts
We are going to keep things very simple here. We ask that you visualize starting at middle C on the keyboard. The purpose here is to get you acquainted with the construction of each chord. There are numerous ways to play a chosen chord; we suggest you use the most basic. We are also going to use chords made up of only three notes. Chords can be more complex, and you may want to learn the more complex variations at some point, but for now we will be keeping it simple. We are going to make our way up the keyboard to keep this as easy as possible.
When a piece is written or performed in a chosen key, it means that the first chord played (and usually the last one) corresponds with it. In other words, the first chord of a song in the key of D minor is a D minor chord, and so on.
The Major Chords
These chords are the most basic chords in the musical lexicon. They make up a large portion of music. A major chord is named after its first, or root note. For example, the example of the C chord we will be using begins with middle C.
C Chord – C, E, and G
C Sharp Chord – C Sharp, F, G Sharp (same as D Flat Chord)
D Chord – D, F Sharp, A
D Sharp Chord – D sharp, G, A Sharp (same as E Flat Chord)
E Chord – E, G Sharp, B
F Chord – F, A, C
F Sharp Chord – F Sharp, A Sharp, C Sharp (same as G Flat Chord)
G Chord – G, B, D
G Sharp Chord – G Sharp, C, D Sharp (same as A Flat Chord)
A Chord – A, C Sharp, E
A Sharp Chord – A Sharp, D, F (same as B Flat Chord)
B Chord – B, D Sharp, F Sharp
The astute beginner will have noticed that going from one chord to the next in succession is simply a matter of moving each finger to the next available key. It’s really just that simple.
Minor Chords are critical for providing musical contrast. They are used heavily in classical, blues, and rock. (There are many variations in minor chords; what we are displaying and discussing here are commonly referred to as natural minor chords, which are the common ones.)
C Minor Chord – C, D Sharp, G
C Sharp Minor Chord – C Sharp, E, G Sharp (Same as D Flat Minor Chord)
D Minor Chord – D, F, A
D Sharp Minor Chord – D Sharp, F Sharp, A Sharp (same as E Flat Minor Chord)
E Minor Chord – E, G, B
F Minor Chord – F, G Sharp, C
F Sharp Minor Chord – F Sharp, A, C Sharp (Same as G Flat Minor Chord)
G Minor Chord – G, A Sharp, D
G Sharp Minor Chord – G Sharp, B, D Sharp (same as A Flat Minor Chord)
A Minor Chord – A, C, E
A Sharp Minor Chord – A Sharp, C Sharp, F (Same as B Flat Minor Chord)
B Minor Chord – B, D, F Sharp
What you probably noticed was that in the minor chords, the first and last notes stayed the same as their major chord counterparts. The only difference was that the middle note was one key behind. Truly amazing what a difference one note can make!
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Once you have mastered these chords, you can then progress to more complex, less common ones. But these chords are the ones you will be coming back to over and over again.