"Have A Ball With Major Chords
Sign up to gain access to our FREE PIANO LESSONS and more!
(We do not give out your email address)
Major chords, I suggest, should be the first of the four basic chords you learn. Once you have a little bit of a handle on them, the minor, diminished, and augmented chords will be a cinch. So, let's take a look at the major triad...
Here's what it looks like on the piano keyboard:
(Notice the gray key which represents middle C. You can play the chords in any range, but I chose these two positions for now since most playing is done in the middle of the piano, generally speaking)
I'm illustrating the C Major chord in two octaves here, since you will be playing the chord in two hands.
Notice how the lowest key (furthest to the left) is C.
Okay, if we are to look at the distance between that C and the next key, E, we would notice that they are four half steps away from each other. In other words, if you hold down C, and then count four keys up from that, without missing any, you'd climb to C#, then D, then D#, and finally you would land on E.
Now, from that E, what's the distance to the next key, G? Three half steps, right!
So, we can simplify this by saying from C to E is four half steps, from E to G is three half steps.
Note: even if you have arrived at this page with a curiosity of how to play basic chords on the piano and don't know what "#" means, or what a half step is, don't worry at all. Just know that you are moving up (or to the right) four keys to arrive at E and three keys to arrive at G. Just make sure you don't skip any keys while counting.
Let's look at this very simple formula:
1) Choose the name of the major chord you wish to play and play that key (C Major ... play C)
2) Move up four half steps to the next note in the chord (from C to E is four half steps)
3) From that point, move up three half steps to the next note in the chord (from E to G is three half steps)
4) Play all three keys at the same time and you have your major chord!
So, how do we play this chord on the piano? What fingers do we use? Good question, easy answer:
We will play the chord with the left hand as well as the right hand...
Look at each hand - specifically, your thumbs, middle fingers, and pinkies. Those are the ones we will use in each hand. We have three notes in the chord to play, and we have three fingers to play the chord. Maintain a nice rounded form with your hand, and make sure it's relaxed, not tight at all.
Okay, place the fingers of each hand on the correct keys for the C Major triad...
In the right hand, you have C played with the thumb, E played with the middle finger, and G played with the pinkie. The left hand uses the same fingers, but in reversed order, of course: C is played with the pinkie, E is played with the middle finger, and G is played with the thumb.
(unless, of course, you want to play it with your hand upside down! Haha, no, just kidding)
Now, we could focus on playing the chord with one hand at a time until you get used to it, but I actually see no problem with trying to use both, since you will make quicker progress. Awkwardness is totally normal here at this point, so don't worry about it. Just stay aware of how your hand feels when you're playing these chords.
Notice when you sense your hands starting to tighten up. When you do, immediately respond with relaxing them. This is really important. "No pain, no gain" does not apply here! Easy does it. For starters, just placing the fingers on the correct notes is a good thing.
Now, when you make the effort to play the three notes in each hand at the same time, what happens?
Things are normal if:
*The fingers won't work completely independently. For example, when you play the keys under the pinkies, the finger next to each of them wants to go down as well (that's just one example)...
*You have a challenge playing all three notes in each hand simultaneously, and without accidentally hitting the keys in between them...
*You start to feel as though playing chords is quite a challenge, in general!
Dooooon't worry! It's all good! You are progressing. Things will improve. And here's how you can start making that happen:
Play the keys one at a time while maintaining the position over both chords. Go ahead:
Play left hand C, left hand E, left hand G, right hand C, right hand E, right hand G. Yes, just one finger at a time. This is good.
Here's a helpful tip: avoid pressing down with the entire hand. That's a common thing people try to do without even thinking about it. Don't play as if your hand is a hammer.
For example, if you were typing on your computer keyboard, you would allow the fingers to do their individual work, right? Otherwise, you would have a pretty awkward time with it. The same applies on the piano keyboard. Let each finger do its work.
Okay? Now, play this little "exercise" backwards, from the pinkie of the right hand down to the pinkie of the left hand.
Here is a sample of the above, going both forward and backwards (up and down):
You know you are making progress when you are aware that you are playing one key at a time while making an honest effort to allow the other fingers to maintain their position over the keys that are not yet being played.
As an example, while you are playing a C with your right hand, keep the middle finger above the E and the pinkie above the G, and the left hand fingers above the correct keys in the chord.
When you can play each key with its corresponding finger and not "distort" the position of the rest of your fingers, then give yourself a pat on the back! Give yourself a pat on the back anyway, because you're having fun while doing all this, right?)
Please remember: it's not important how long it takes you to feel comfortable with this, just keep playing with it. And it's really important that you are nice to yourself and give yourself credit for any tiny bit of progress you make.
It won't be long before you start to feel at easy playing the full chord. Here's a sample of the C Major triad being played, first in the left hand, then the right hand, then both together, one octave away as the illustration at the top shows:
Let's take what we've learned and add a little interest to this whole game with...
Piano boxing? Haaaa? What's that?
Glad you asked. Here's how it works:
It's Left Hand VS Right Hand. Ready?
(We're not fighting here - it's just a game!)
With your hands on the piano keyboard in good form, play any given key in the C Major chord with one of your hands. Let's say you played E with your right hand (middle finger). Immediately after playing that, play the E in your left hand (same finger). Do it as quickly as you can while maintaining good hand form.
Keep your hands relaxed, not as if this was real boxing! Okay, left hand plays G. Right hand immediately counters with its G. Left hand plays C, right hand delivers a C... see? Fun!
Listen to a short sample of this Piano Boxing:
Keep going! Starting to get comfortable?
Apply Piano Boxing to the full chords as well! Play the full chord in your left hand immediately followed by the full chord in your right. Reverse... keep trading off... box!
How many rounds of Piano Boxing should you put yourself through? Continue with Piano Boxing until you feel you've laughed enough. Yes, this whole thing really should be approached that way.
You now have you all the knowledge you need to start building other major chords. There are 12 altogether!
Just pick a note on the piano keyboard...
You've got 12 different ones to choose from (we played 1 of the 12)
Let's say... G. Okay, so we are going to play the G Major chord...
Play a G, then follow the formula above:
From G, move up four half steps to the next note. There you find, B, right?
Now, from the B, move up three half steps. What's there? Right, D.
So we have G, B, D... play them together. It's G Major! Applause! Applause!
Time for some Piano Boxing with the G Major chord? Absolutely!
Here's an audio sample of doing everything we've talked about above with the G Major triad, all wrapped up into one short session:
You know, you really do have to make a habit of giving yourself credit for every single git of progress you experience. I cannot overestimate the importance of this, so just take my word for it, okay? Thanks!
I encourage you to play other major chords and become familiar with a few. Do it with F... then A. Once you really get the hang of this, by all means explore the others, one at a time - minor, diminished, and augmented. Of course, you will have the same kind of fun with those as you are with the majors, agreed?
Review what we've talked about here regarding playing around with the major chords, playing the fingers separately as well as playing the full chords, which will get easier and easier as you work the fingers independently more and more. Play with Piano Boxing for all the triads you learn.
By the way, there's no doubt in my mind that, once you've played with these chords for a while as I've suggested, you will feel more freedom to the point where you're playing two keys at a time...
For example, with the C Major chord, play both C's, the one in the left hand with the C in the right, then mix it up, such as playing the E in the left with the G in the right, etc. There's not limit to the combinations! Play two adjacent keys with your left hand, then with the right. Your imagination and playful attitude will lead you to more.
Enjoy yourself! Hey, you're doing it! You're playing chords! Good for you. No rush getting to the other basic chords, but
start getting involved with them when you feel you want to. I hope you've had half the fun I've had myself putting this approach to playing major chords on the piano together for you!
Return from Major Chords to Basic Chords
Return from Major Chords to Free Easy Piano Lessons home
Sign up to gain access to our FREE PIANO LESSONS and more!
(We do not give out your email address)