What are Piano Chords? – Best Explained 2023

Piano Chords are not just a term in geometry but refer to piano notes as well. A chord gets created in a piano when more than one note is played at once. Piano chords are a conjunction of two or more individual notes and to achieve a chord in a piano, the pianist is required to push down more than a key at the same time.

The basic chord in the piano will have 2 to 3 notes, whereas the advanced chords will have more notes. When we consider a piano chord, each of them possesses a root note and the note after which the chord has been named. And the common type of chord in a piano is a triad or a three-note chord.

When looking at the piano and its notes, even the most inexperienced musician will notice an array of keys – some black and some white – that produce different sounds or notes when struck. A chord on a piano is a combination of those notes that consists of at least three notes played together, and sometimes more. To delve a little deeper into what the chord is, it is made up of a triad of a root note (the bass or chord’s “name”), a third interval note, and a fifth interval note. That is a basic three-note major chord. 


Chords define a song’s harmony and are formed by having played over one note at a time. They can be simple or complex, but even novice piano chords can produce enjoyable and exciting music. In fact, very few songs, especially in rock music, do not use chords in some way! When more than one note is played at the same time, a chord is formed that includes two, three, or even more individual notes. This means pressing more than one key at the same time on the piano. All piano chords have a root note (the note after which the chord is named) and one or even more additional notes.

Basic piano chords are frequently composed of only two or three notes, whereas advanced chords incorporate even more notes. A triad, or three-note chord, is the most popular type of keyboard or piano chord. A triad consists of a root note and two other notes, the most common notes that produce third and fifth intervals above the root note. Place your finger and fingers on neighboring white keys and push them down with the thumb, middle finger, and pinky to get the basic shape of a triad. This technique will prepare you to play a variety of basic piano chords with convenience.

The basic types of Piano Chords

There are two major types of piano chords, namely the major chords and the minor chords. To play the major chord, the players have to start by playing a root note, which can be any of the keyboard notes from the root note and we have to count up to two whole steps.

The major chord is the most prevalent triad or three-note chord. Because of their popularity and versatility, they are excellent piano chords for novices to learn first. Major chords are the same as the basic root, third, and fifth interval chords described above for the Major C chord. Major chords, on the other hand, have a “complete” sound that is always the decision to name for the root note. An E Major chord has an E as the root note, a G Major chord would have a G, and so on.

The major chord progressions are the simplest to learn first. That is because the amount of half steps in between notes is always the same, so the sound is always the same.  A major third is a distance from the root note to the third interval in a major chord, and a perfect fifth is a distance from the root to the fifth. We counted the stages from the root to the third, then to the fifth. Count three and a half steps, or seven half-steps, to discover the interval of a perfect fifth just above the root note.

Such a note is referred to as the third note. From the third note, we have to count up to one and a half steps or three-half steps. This is called the fifth note and when we play these three keyboard notes together; we hear a major triad. The major keyboard chords are a part of some of the major pop and rock songs. Some examples of the major piano chords are the C major (C- E-G), D major (D) D-F #-A, and E major (E). E-G#-B etc.

  • A minor chord is constructed in the same way as a major chord but in the opposite order. So, your root note stays the same, but the third and fifth notes change – minor ends up going on the bottom, major goes on top, and the fifth stays the same.
  • Minor chords are also commonly used in rock and pop music. A rock song that begins with a minor chord is “Comfortably Numb.” Most rock and pop songs employ a mix of major and minor piano chords.
  • A “minor third” is the 3rd interval in a minor chord. The fifth interval inside a minor chord is identical to the interval of a “perfect fifth” in a major chord.  

The Minor chords in piano are comprised of three basic keyboard notes namely a root note, a third, and a fifth. To play a minor chord, it is required to select a root note and count three and a half steps up to the third. From the third, count for two whole steps to find the fifth. These cords also play an integral part in pop and rock songs and some examples of minor Piano chords are, C minor (Cm). C-Eb-G, D minor (Dm). D-F-A. etc.,             

There is also another type of piano chord, namely the diminished piano chords that are used in rock songs. These piano chords make use of a minor 3rd note, lowered 5th note, and a diminished 5th note. In augmented piano chords, the pianist makes use of a major 3rd, and a raised or an augmented 5th note. The interval of the augmented fifth comprises four whole steps or eight half steps starting from the root note. These augmented chords are highly beneficial in creating a distinct and unusual sound to most people’s ears. 

A minor third as well as a lowered fifth, known as a “diminished fifth,” is used in the diminished triad. A diminished fifth is three pretty much the entire steps or six-half steps higher than the root note. To discover the notes of a diminished chord, add up a half step from the root to the third, then another half step from the third to the fifth. 

Piano Chords

Augmented Piano chords are formed by combining a major third and a brought up, or “augmented fifth.” An augmented fifth seems to be four whole steps or eight half steps above the root note. To most people’s ears, augmented chords have such a distinct, unusual sound. In rock and pop music, augmented chords, like diminished chords, are commonly used to transition between the more stable sounds. One example is Roy Orbison’s song “Crying,” in which an augmented chord is used in the pre-chorus.

Basic Piano Chords Progression –

A chord progression is a series of Piano chords in a musical composition. From the common practice era of Classical music to the twenty-first century, chord progressions have been the basis of harmony in Western musical tradition. Piano Chords progressions form the basis of Western popular music styles, traditional music, and genres such as blues and jazz. Harmonic progressions are the defining characteristic of these genres, upon which melody and rhythm have been built. 

Any note of a musical scale can be used to build a chord. As a result, a seven-note diatonic scale allows for seven basic diatonic triads, with each degree of the scale serving as the root of its own chord. An E chord of some kind is one that is built on the note E.   Chords in a progression can also have more than three notes, such as a seventh chord (V7) is especially common or an extended chord. The harmonic function of any given chord is determined by the context of the chord progression in which it is found. 

Three piano chord progressions are more common because a melody can then ruminate on any note of the scale. They are frequently presented as four-chord successions in order to generate a binary harmonic rhythm, but two of the four chords are identical.

  • I – IV – V – V
  • I – I – IV – V
  • I – IV – I – V
  • I – IV – V – IV – IV

Often, the chords are chosen to fit a well-before melody, but as often, the progression itself generates the melody.

In African popular music, similar progressions abound. They can be changed by adding sevenths to any chord or by replacing the relative minor of the IV chord with, for example, I-ii-V. This sequence, which uses the ii chord, is also used essentially in a prevalent jazz harmony chord progression known as the ii-V-I turnaround.

Three-chord progressions form the harmonic groundwork of much African and American popular music and infrequently appear in classical music. 

If a simple sequence does not really represent an entire harmonic framework of a piece, it can easily be extended for more variety. An opening phrase with the progression I-IV-V-V, which ends on an unresolved dominant, is frequently “responded” by a similar term that settles back onto the tonic chord, resulting in a structure twice the length:



Furthermore, such a passage can be alternated with another progression to produce a simple binary or ternary form, such as the popular 32-bar form. 

How do you read these Piano chords in the music sheet?

The Piano chords get notated in the music sheet in different ways and the most predominant method is that the chords get notated in the form of symbols. These symbols are shorthand methods that indicate a particular chord and are notated above the area where the music is notated. If you had to play your favorite song, you may have played a million chords, but you don’t have to keep them all in your memory. Most of the songs will comprise only a few simple chords and you can play them by following the instructions and the notes given in the music sheet.

There is also something called the chord chart which is the shorthand method of notating music. These charts are used by musicians and they are used to communicate the song progression quickly. Several online apps help us to find the chord that we need to find and will come in handy if we tend to forget these cords on the way.

Also Read: Best Digital Pianos for Advanced Pianists

Why should we learn the piano chords?

Any pianist needs to learn the piano chords and get versed in them, as these are the building blocks of any music. Any piano tune is based on these chords as every single piece of music can be broken down into chords. In music, the chords can be differentiated into two types, namely the blocked and the broken chords.

The blocked cords are played at once, whereas the broken cords are played one by one in consequence. These chords are the basis of a piano and by learning to read the piano chords, the pianist can play the keyboard right away. It also helps them in their music composition endeavors and helps them to improvise on the music. 

Learning the piano chords is indeed a great brain exercise as before playing the piano, it becomes mandatory for the pianist to learn, understand and organize the chords in the mind. The fingers tend to play what the brain says. Thus it is beneficial to learn the music in the form of chords, rather than as separate notes. Memorizing the chords also serves as a shortcut to playing the piano and once we learn the chords, it becomes practically easy to play almost any song. 

As you memorize the cords and get to know the nook and corner of music, it becomes easy to build one’s music. Composing music becomes easy when the pianist learns the chords and improvises to keep them in different patterns. Learning the chords is thus important as it helps the pianist to know the why and how of music.   

Bottom Line

The piano music sheet could be a lot overwhelming when we start practicing music, but it is not rocket science or something that we cannot handle. The key to playing the instrument is to know what its chords are, the different variations of chords used in the music, and memorize them to play the song fluently.

When we start learning the piano scales and the chords, we can notice that the chords are generally played by the left hand, and the right-hand focus predominantly on the melody. They are easy to remember and play and if you can number by skip counting, then you can learn and recognize the piano chords as well.

How To Make Piano Chords?

To make a chord, begin with the first note of a scale and work your way up in thirds, skipping every alternating note. Simply continue adding thirds on top to get more notes for the chord. 

Here is how it works: 

  1. A triad is a simple three-note chord formed by starting on the first scale degree, adding the third scale degree, and afterward adding the fifth scale degree.
  2. A seventh chord is formed by adding the seventh scale degree on top.
  3. The ninth note of the scale is then reached, which is in fact the second note an octave higher. Adding it results in a ninth chord.
  4. The eleventh note of the scale is then reached, which is the 4th note an octave up. Adding it results in an eleventh chord.
  5. Finally, you reach the thirteenth note of the scale, which is an octave higher than the sixth note. Adding it results in a thirteenth chord. 
  6. The third after the thirteenth is simply the scale’s root. You have now used every note in the chord. 

Notation Of Piano Chords

Just above the top staff of written music, chord symbols are written. A chord symbol consists of two basic components: the chord’s root note and the chord quality. The root note is the primary note upon which the chord is constructed. The chord type is indicated by the quality. Sometimes while reading chord symbols, you’ll notice that a bar (or several bars) lacks a chord symbol. This is not to say that there are no chords to be played. 

Also check: Best Beginner Digital Pianos & Keyboards 2023

Final Words About Piano Chords

This model – Kawai ES100 – Lightest Digital Piano features 88 keys and 192 notes of polyphony. The unit, however, does not have a display screen. The delivered sound appears to be above expectations, and the damper pedal’s half-damper capability will be useful. The split and dual-mode options are available on the piano.

The former divides two keyboard sides, while the latter allows users to play two sounds simultaneously. You can also save your settings in memory and register up to three songs. By practicing and mastering your skills, you will appreciate the metronome and 100 different drum rhythms. You can link it to portable drives via MIDI jacks. 

Related Guides:


What are standard piano notes? 

The notes on the piano follow the pattern of black and white keys, with two black keys close around each other followed by three black keys close together. We use this pattern to identify the notes because it repeats across the keyboard. Each white key has a letter name ranging from A to G, and each black key is labeled as sharp or flat. 

What are flat and sharp notes? 

Sharp and flat piano notes are named after the letter name they are directly above (to the right on the keyboard) or even below (to the left on the keyboard) (to the left). 

What are the most used piano chords? 

Every chord has a purpose in musical composition. However, some chords are used more frequently than others. Piano chords with only white keys are often more famous than chords with black keys due to the characteristics of the instrument. 

What is an arpeggio?  

A broken chord is another name for an arpeggio. Consider it a chord in which all of the notes are off every rather than all at once. The term “arpeggio” is derived from the Italian word arpeggiate, which implies “to play on a harp.” 

Which are the three most predominant chords? 

The three most common and arguably the most significant harmonic elements in the musical world are the I, IV, and V chords.

Being in love with music, Larry started this website to help piano lovers get the most detailed and accurate information with his 5 Years of experience of working in a music store.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.