When you start to learn piano chords, I recommend that you get yourself a “Fake
book” with great songs to practice playing chords and making (faking ) your own accompaniments.
How to Use a Piano Chords Chart
First pick a piece with chord markings and melody, or just lyrics and chords as in the famous "Yellow Submarine" by Beatles (print PDF above). You can use anything you like for guitar with chord tabs too- since chords for piano are the same.
Highlight the different
chords that are used- it might seem like there are a lot, but usually
there are only a few chords. Or write them on a piece of paper to
practice only the different chords used first a few times.
Look at the piano chords chart and learn the pattern on the piano keys of those chords.
Practice the chords first, and then sing or hum the melody of the piece you picked, adding the chords at the right words!
The free piano chord chart above shows how to play the most common basic chords in all 12
keys in root position: Major, minor, diminished, seventh chord and
major seventh chord.
How Music Chords are Built
A chord consists of three or more notes played together.
The notes of a chord in root position are all spaced an interval of a third apart.
You actually “build” chords by stacking thirds on top of each other.
Depending on if the thirds are major (big) or minor (small)
and in what order they are stacked, you get different types of chords.
A Major Chord
is a triad (a three note chord) made of a major third and on top a
minor third. This creates the specific sound of “major”; a “happier”,
“lighter” sound. It is written for ex.: E (Root=E, major chord)
A Minor Chord
is built with a minor third and on top a major third. This gives the
sound of “minor” a more “sad”, “darker” sound. It is written for ex.: Am (Root=A, minor chord).
A Diminished Chord
is made from only minor thirds. This gives the chord a sound like it
really wants to go somewhere, to be resolved somehow. That is why it is
often referred to as a Dominant 7th chord with no root. It is written
for ex.: D dim(Root=D, diminished chord).
An Augmented Chord is built from only major thirds; it also has a very “unresolved” sound.
The 7th chord is a four note chord. It has a root, a third, a fifth and a seventh. Starting from the root:
A “regular” 7th chord,
also called a Dominant 7th chord, for example C7, is made from a major
chord plus a minor third on top. That would make the thirds stacked like
this (from the bottom and up): major third, minor third, minor third.
A Major 7th chord, for example Cmaj7, is a major chord plus a major third on top. The thirds are stacked like this: major, minor, major.
How to Play Chord Piano
When using for example a “Fake book” you play chords and melody
following a lead sheet. A lead sheet has only the melody written with
notes (or only lyrics), and above it the chords are written as chord
symbols, like Cmaj7, Eb dim. or Bm for example.
If you already know the
melody, you only need the lyrics and the chords.
either sing the melody of the song (or have someone else sing it!) and
make up your own accompaniment, or pick out the melody in one hand and
play the chords in the other.
Have a look at the piano chords
chart above when you need to remind yourself how to play the chords!
However- the chords in the above chart are only in root position. Make sure to
check out the beginner piano lesson about how to
play piano chord inversions
to learn how you can change the position of the chord for smooth transitions from one chord to the next!