A chord is actually a combination of notes played together forming chord. Number of notes are usually 2 or more. Although a chord can include any number of notes that a pianist can play at the same time using his hands. All the modern form of music including rock and pop is based on these chords. The letters and numbers in a chord are there to tell pianist which notes he is supposed to play for a specific chord type. A piece of melody is based on use of these chords for a particular track or piece. Chords basically form the basis of all the musical tracks and are act as a soul for each piece played over piano. Most common and basic type of chords are called triads that include three notes.
Why you need to learn chord?
Different musicians have their own way of practicing and performing. Some musicians love to play piano or any other instrument for that purpose with the help of sheet music. They look at the musical sheets and play the instrument according to notes written on those sheets. Many musicians use chord method too. For practicing with sheet reading, you may not need to know chords but if you have knowledge of chords, reading and practicing a piece becomes much simpler.
Some benefits of learning about chords include:
- Chords prove to be a basic foundation for all the different types of music. So no matter which genre of music you are interested in, learning about chords would prove helpful for you.
- You gain more awareness of your piano keyboard and it helps you in getting better with regular keyboard practice.
- It aids you in memorization, composition and improvisation of piano skills.
- You can make variations with your performance by experimenting different voicing of chords and their inversions.
- Once learnt, you can use these chords in your melodies to add color to your performance.
- You can analyze and manipulate chords to create unique patterns with them.
- It makes learning piano pieces much easier.
Types of Chords:
So now that we know how learning and understanding of chords help us with piano practice and performances, so which chords to use? That truly depends upon the type of tone you are looking for. There are different types of chords each one with a different function and all of these types are different in their own way.
Here we will be describing most common types of chords that a pianist should know and these are the most commonly used ones.
- Major Chord: The simplest chord that a pianist can build is the major chord that gives you a simple and happy sound. Not only these chords are simple to construct but they would fit in the piece no matter what scale you are using for that track. A major chord is constructed with the use of 1st, 3rd and 5th For example if you are building C Major Chord, your root note would be C followed by E and G. This is called a simple C Major Triad Chord. Thus formula for building any major chord would be 1+3+5. Major 7th would be C, E, G and B meaning 1+3+5+7.
- Minor Chord: When we talk about minor triad chords, you will be adding flats that would be used with 3rd note of your chord. You don’t need to change the letter but just add b to it. For example for a Minor C Chord, your notes would be 1st, b3rd and 5th. So formula would be like 1+b3+5 and in letters it would be C, Eb and G. These chords are a lot moody. If for example you are doing a Minor seventh chord, it would be similar to the earlier one with thus a 7th degree flat added to the scale. Then your chord would look like C, Eb, G and Bb meaning 1+b3+5+b7.
- Dominant Chord: These are powerful chords that gives strong effects to your musical piece. These chords are much similar to the minor chords (7th) but the only difference is that the second note is not flat as it is in case of minor. So Dominant seventh would be C, E, G and Bb and the formula would be like 1+3+5+b7.
- Suspended Chord: Suspended are confident chords in nature and they are a little different in the sense that they do not carry any minor or major chord patterns. For suspending a chord, you take a major chord but instead of playing the 3rd note you will be playing 4th So a suspended chord would be 1+4+5 meaning C, F and G. When you relieve the 3rd note and play 4th the chord will become suspended.
- Diminished Chord: Diminished chords are edgy chords where root note is used and the notes to follow would be flat 3rd and flat 5th of your major scale. For example C diminished chord would look like C, Eb and Gb. This is similar to a minor C chord but the only difference is that the 5th note is also flat. So we use Gb instead of G. Diminished chord is formed by lowering highest note of a minor chord. Diminished 7 would be 1+b3+b5+bb7.
- Augmented Chord: Augmented chords are filled with suspense and for building an augmented chord, a pianist just needs to use root followed by 3rdand sharp 5th To build an augmented chord, you need to raise the lowered note and in case of Augmented C it would be raising G to G#. So the chord would look like C, E and G#. Formula would be 1+3+#5.
How to recognize what chord is being used?
As we just defined so many different types of chords and the possibilities and variations are just endless so it surely would not be easy to determine which chord is just played or used within a musical piece. There can be different ways for training a pianist to learn to recognize chords. Although there are some basic principles that must be kept in mind while training your ears for chord recognition.
Basically most common are the four types of chords including major, minor, diminished and augmented. Here we are defining some tips that would prove helpful in recognizing these chords:
- Learn to recognize triads of these chords by training your ears. Listen to them repeatedly in varied formats and intervals and soon with practice you will develop your ears for these triad chords.
- Listen to the bass line and chords with their inversions in different forms. By listening to the bass line and chord inversions, you will be able to construct your recognition for chords.
- Listen to notes and practice different major and minor chords to analyze difference between the two types. Both major and minor have different tones so listening and practicing them would let you distinguish between the two chords. Although a lot of practice and hearing would be needed. Major chords are usually natural and simple however minor chords have a bit odd tone.
- Simply consider one major chord and repeatedly play that chord on piano. Practice it really slow so that you can hear each and every note clearly. Practice it several times and do it with other different major chords When you have practiced a few major chords, try playing those chords harmonically and you will be able to memorize and recognize notes used for each chord. This in turn would help you in recognition of chords when played.
Recognition of chords would enable you to have better ears for playing piano and it would improve your practice and performances. This skill can be gained well with practice and it will enhance your piano playing skills.
Easy songs with simple chords for beginners:
For beginners it is best to begin with simple piano songs that have simple chords. Using songs that are simple would enable pianist to move from chord to another quite easily. Here we are sharing some simple piano songs with simple chords for beginners to practice.
Happy Birthday Song:
- Happy birthday to you: F F F F C
- Happy birthday to you: C C C C F
- Happy birthday my dear: F F F F Bb Bb
- Happy birthday to you: Bb F F C F
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star:
- Twinkle Twinkle Little Star: D D G D
- How I wonder what you are: Em D A D
- Up above the world so high: D G D A
- Like a diamond in the sky: D G D A
- Jingle Bells: E E E
- Jingle Bells: E E E
- Jingle all the way: E G C D E
- Oh what fun it: F F F F
- Is to ride: F E E
- In a one horse open sleigh: E D D E D G
All the chords are different and unique in their own way. Some chords may be common and simpler to play in comparison to others but it is all about experience with practice. It is best to begin practicing with simple chords and try to recognize those simple ones before moving to more complicated ones. Learn to practice basic chords and it will improve your capability and skill of playing piano. You will not only find reading musical sheet easier but will gain more understanding of music. So get your hands on your chords to become a better pianist.