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How To Read Piano Chords

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Piano chords are combinations of three or more notes being played at the same time. Theoretically, there are thousands of them. Most are not really usable in a song, but still.

Trying to memorize piano chords is not a very good plan. Instead, you should try to understand them.

Once you learn the symbols and understand how they are formed, you'll see that they are not so complicated.

On this page we'll go through the basics of reading piano chords. We'll focus on triads, especially major and minor triads, which are the most common chords. As the name implies, triads consist of three notes.

Reading Piano Chords

In order to learn how to read piano chords, you must learn what all the letters, numbers and symbols mean. You must also understand how chords are made. Chords are closely related to scales. If you know the scale, you should be able to learn any chord.

Please note: this is only a brief explanation of how chords work. If you're interested in more practical understanding of the subject, I recommend Learn & Master Piano with Will Barrow.

Major Chords

First, let's take a look at the major chords. Major chords are made of the 1st, 3rd and 5th note of the major scale. C major scale consists of the following notes: C,D,E,F,G,A,B, and C. All these are white keys on the keyboard(natural notes); there are no flats or sharps in a C major scale.

To make the C major chord, you take the first note of the C major scale (C), the third note (E), and the fifth note (G). The C-major chord is - C E G.

Remember, major chords are written as the uppercase letter of the root note. So C major is written as C.

Minor Chords

Minor chords are very similar. They are written with the letter name of the root note, plus a lower case m. Minor chords are made of the 1st, lowered 3rd, and 5th note of the scale. To get from major to minor all you need to do is move the middle note down half a step.

Basic Piano Chords

Here is a list of the most basic major and minor chords. The symbol # indicates a sharp note, while the b indicates a flat note.

Major chords

C - C E G
D - D F# A
E - E G# B
F - F A C
G - G B D
A - A C# E
Minor Chords

Cm - C Eb G
Dm - D F A
Em - E G B
Fm - F,Ab,C
Gm - G,Bb,D
Am - A, C, E

And here is a graphical representation:

Basic piano chords image

There is, of course, much more to be learned here, but for starters this will do. Go easy on yourself and don't rush it. When you're ready for more, take a look at this course.

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