One of the easiest way to get started for those who wish to learn how to play piano is to practice playing piano chords to songs. Most sheet music you are likely to have seen will print the chords, usually above the melody line. There are literally hundreds of possible chord combinations that can be played on piano, but most songs are made up of a main group of important chords.
If you’re looking for a quick piano chord reference, then feel free to check out our chord charts that we offer for free:
You can either learn chords as part of a structured piano course like the Pianoforall course which builds up your knowledge of chords over a structured series of exercises, or you can find some sheet music to a song you like and play the chords along with the song. We’ve provided some examples of songs for beginners on our page of easy songs to learn on pian and we will add fresh new piano songs that are easy to play to the category of the same name, found here from time to time, but you can basically play along to any sheet music you like that has the chords printed on it.
Some of the main chords are major, minor, diminished and augmented chords and there are useful chord inversions to wrap your head around too. It is quite possible that you are overwhelmed by all the possible chord combinations to learn, but just because there are so many should not discourage you from getting started on them right away.
Learning the major chords is the easiest place for most beginners to start. Chords are based on scales and so the major chords are all based on major scales. C-Major is arguably the easiest of the majors because all of the C-Scale notes are white keys. The major scale pattern (use Piano Chords and Scales Explained as a reference for scales) is W-W-H-W-W-W-W-H (where W = whole step and H = half step). A major chord can have more than three notes in it, but most of the time only three notes are played in chords. The root position for C-major is then: C (root=thumb), E (middle=third), G (end=fifth). You play the beginning note, which is “C”, skip a step and play the next step, skip a half step and play the next step.
While the “inverted” version of this chord may be a bit advanced if you are a beginner,I will briefly explain it for clarity. It is possible to play the C-major chord differently to this. You could say start with E, play the note G with your 3rd and the note C, the next octave up with your fifth finger. Chord inversions are convenient for chord transitions where it’s desirable for your hand to be close to the previous chord. They will sound slightly different, but will “work” just as well as the chord played in the root position in a song. This is why it is useful to learn and practice chord inversions for all the major chords, but don’t worry about that yet. Just stick to the basics for now.
It is possible to make up chords from any scale. If you know the sequence of the notes in the scale then you can easily make up a corresponding chord. Two other major chords that use all white keys are F and G. They are easy like the C Major chord using the one-three-five sequence.
Chords D, E and A are also fairly straight forward if you remember that your middle (3rd) finger plays a black key on the keyboard. The root (1st) and 5th play white notes like C, F and G. The next three major chords are opposite to the previous group. The Db, Eb and Ab chords require you to put your fingers on black keys for the 1st and 5th positions, while the 3rd is a white note. The chords Gb (or F#) is a chord that is played using only black keys, while the B major and Bb major are a bit trickier. B is white for its root, black for the 3rd and black for it’s 5th. Bb is the exact opposite, it’s root is black, while it’s 3rd and 5th are white.
The next most important group of chords are the minors. These are gloomier sounding chords, which are played the same way as major chords except the middle note played a half-step down. So for C minor you play C-Eb-G instead of C-E-G. If you know the minor scale you can derive this chord pattern from the scale. When counting steps and half steps, you need to remember that for a minor scale, the third step is a half step lower, so the chord is: the beginning note, W, H, W, W, W for the first five notes.
It will likely take you a long time before you have mastered all of the important chords on the piano, but by expanding your chord repetoir you will be able to add additional material to the list of songs you have the ability to play. It becomes much easier the more you learn too, so don’t be put off if it all seems too overwhelming at first.