How To Guides

Learn How to Play Piano with Basic Chords

Posted on July 21, 2019

Learning to play piano is a rewarding journey all around – physically, mentally and emotionally. Like playing sports, the more you play, the stronger your muscle memory becomes that gives you more strength to challenge your new limit. Learning how to play piano with chords equips you with a powerful knowledge skill, so you can play virtually any songs you want as long as there is a chord chart available. You’ll not only be able to play more songs but will also gain a solid sense of gratification from feeling connected with the songs while playing that you didn’t even know you could play.

So, what are Piano Chords?

A chord typically consists of three distinct notes that are made up of a first note (root), a third note and a fifth note, where the “degree” of notes is referring to a musical distance from the root note. For example, C Major chord is referring to note C (root), note E (third), and note G (fifth). When these distinct notes are played together simultaneously, it is referred to as a solid chord. If these notes are played individually as a group, it is referred to as a broken chord. To keep things simple, let’s focus on solid chords.

C Major Piano Chord Chart

What’s the Difference Between Reading Music Notes vs. Reading Chords?

While learning to play piano by reading notes is a great way to master your music reading skills, it also calls for some patience as you learn to become more familiar with being able to execute reading to playing with ease. On the other hand, being able to read chords allows you to be able to approach piano playing with much more flexibility as you don’t necessarily have to be familiar with songs you come across. Yousician’s Songs Library is made up of songs that can help you improve reading music notation as well as reading chords.

How to Play Chords on Piano

Some of the most memorable songs are written with surprisingly simple chords. While it is true that there are many types of chords, understanding the major and minor chords will already prepare you with enough skills to start playing the songs you already enjoy listening to.

Let’s recall the C Major chord that was described earlier and take a deeper look at the C Major scale to understand the relationship between the scale and chords.

C Major Piano Scale

When the third note and fifth note are built on top of every note within the C major scale, a pattern of chord type can be learned: the first, fourth and fifth chord built within every major scale will always be major chords. Also, every second, third, and sixth chord built on every major scale will always be minor chords.

I’m Yours by Jason Mraz (in C), is made up of C major – G major – A minor – F major chords in a repeating pattern. While this chord progression is true for this particular song, there are thousands of other popular songs that are made up of this identical chord progression pattern.

Inversions: Chords beyond the Root Position

While playing the C major chord in C-E-G order is perfectly valid, chords can also be played in varying note order to make transitions between chord playing as flexible as possible.

C Major Chord: root position

C Major Chord Root Position
C major chord in root position refers to having the root note C as the lowest note that the chord is built from.

C Major Chord: first inversion

C Major Chord First Inversion
While keeping the notes that belong to the C chord, it is also possible to have the lowest note as note E, which would push the initial root note C as the most upper note.
This is also considered C Major chord, in first inversion.

C Major Chord: second inversion

C Major Chord Second Inversion
Similarly, note G can take the position as the lowest note that the chord is built from, which would move note C and note E as the notes built on top of note E. This is also considered the C major chord in second inversion.

How to Play Songs with Basic Chords on Piano

You’re already ready to start playing hundreds of songs with chords that are already available on Yousician. Start searching for the songs you like and experience what it’s like to be able to jam along with the sound track. Stay tuned for more posts on playing songs with more advanced chords!