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FastPianoLessons.com – Chords 101 - Introductory Course ©2008 by FastPianoLessons.com
FastPianoLessons.com – Chords 101 - Introductory Course
©2008 by FastPianoLessons.com

FastPianoLessons.com – Chords 101 - Introductory Course

©2008 by FastPianoLessons.com

Chords

101

By Chris Marx

FastPianoLessons.com – Chords 101 - Introductory Course ©2008 by FastPianoLessons.com Chords 101 By Chris Marx

FastPianoLessons.com – Chords 101 - Introductory Course

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WHOLE STEPS AND HALF STEPS

Half Steps

Half steps are the smallest interval or unit of measure on the piano. A half step is the distance between two neighboring notes. Make sure to count both white and black notes. Learning how to count half steps will be key to finding chords on the piano.

NOTE:count half steps will be key to finding chords on the piano. A half step is

A half step is the distance between two neighboring notes.

C to C#

C to C#

(White to Black)

B

to C

B to C

(White to White)

Whole Steps

Whole steps are the second smallest interval on the piano. They can be white or black notes.

NOTE:interval on the piano. They can be white or black notes. A whole step is made

A whole step is made up of two half steps back to back. In other words, whole

steps skip one note. See the examples below:

C

to D

C to D

(White to White)

Eb to F

Eb to F

(White to Black)

C# to D#

C# to D#

(Black to Black)

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THE 2 TYPES OF CHORDS:

MAJOR & MINOR TRIADS

Play this chord:

This chord is called CMAJOR. Use your thumb, middle and pinky to play it in
This chord is called
CMAJOR.
Use your thumb,
middle and pinky to
play it in either hand.

Now play this chord:

This chord is called CMINOR. Use your thumb, middle and pinky to play it in
This chord is called
CMINOR.
Use your thumb,
middle and pinky to
play it in either hand.

All we did was change one note and the effect was huge! Play both chords again. You’ll start to realize that you’ll begin to associate imagery with each chord. The major chords are happier sounding, and the minor chords have a sad sound.

LABELING THE CHORDS

On sheet music especially in fake books there are abbreviated symbols for the major and minor chords. The symbol for a C major chord is usually just a capitol C, but it is also labeled Cmaj or Cma. The symbol for a C minor chord is either Cmi, Cmin or C-. This is all the publisher’s preference really and the various spellings of the symbols do not have different meanings. These abbreviations apply to all the chords, not just those in C.

C MAJOR:

“C” or “Cma” or “Cmaj”

C MINOR:

“Cmin” or “Cmi” or “C-”

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12 MOST COMMON CHORDS

THE CHORDS YOU NEED TO LEARN FIRST!

These are the 12 most common chords used on piano. You’ll find them over and over again in song books so it makes sense to practice them, even memorize them! You’ll notice these chords only one sharp or flat key (black key). These chord shapes are a little easier to play than the ones coming up… We will call them triads because they are made up of only the first three notes in the chord.

C major

C major C minor

C minor

C major C minor

aka C or Cma

aka C- or Cmi

D

D D

D

D D

major

minor

E

E E

E

E E

major

minor

F

F F

F

F F

major

minor

G

G G

G

G G

major

minor

A

A A

A

A A

major

minor

G G major minor A A major minor Practice Goals: • Play all 12 chords in

Practice Goals:

Play all 12 chords in 30 seconds in your RIGHT hand.

Play all 12 chords in 30 seconds in your LEFT hand.

Memorize all 12 chords!

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MEMORIZING THE CHORDS

PATTERNS MAKE IT EASIER

As you make your fingers play the chords from the pictures above you’ll notice a few patterns. Patterns are great because they are a shortcut for helping us learn and remember the music faster.

NOTE:shortcut for helping us learn and remember the music faster. Chords of the same type are

Chords of the same type are all constructed in the same way. The notes of a

major chord are always the same distance apart: 4 & 3. The notes of a minor chord are

always the same distance apart: 3 & 4.

It doesn’t matter if it’s C major or E major or Ab major, the distance will be 4 half steps & 3 half steps. Minor chords are reversed and the distance is 3 half steps & then 4 half steps.

We’ll use C major again as an example. Look at the red numbers in the picture below. They are counting each white AND black note from “C” up to the next chord tone “E”. From C to E there are 4 half steps. From E to G there are 3 half steps.

C MAJOR: C to E is 4 half steps E to G is 3 half
C
MAJOR:
C
to E is 4 half steps
E
to G is 3 half steps
C MINOR: C to Eb is 3 half steps Eb to G is 4 half
C
MINOR:
C to Eb is 3 half steps
Eb to G is 4 half steps

PRACTICE IDEA:C MINOR: C to Eb is 3 half steps Eb to G is 4 half steps

Try counting up 4 & 3 for other major chords. Start with Fmajor and A major.

Try counting up 3 & 4 for other minor chords. Start with A minor and F minor.

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THE MISSING CHORDS

Here are the missing chords. Altogether we have 12 major chords and 12 minor chords, one for each black and white note. They still have the same construction as the first chords we learned. The major chords are still 4 & 3 half steps apart, while the minor chords are still 3 & 4 half steps apart.

Ab

Ab Ab

Ab

Ab Ab

major

Minor

B

B B

B

B B

major

Minor

Bb

Bb Bb

Bb

Bb Bb

major

Minor

Db / C# major

Db / C# major Db / C# Minor

Db / C# Minor

Db / C# major Db / C# Minor

Eb / D# Major

Eb / D# Major Eb / D# Minor

Eb / D# Minor

Eb / D# Major Eb / D# Minor

Gb / F# major

Gb / F# major Gb / F# Minor

Gb / F# Minor

Gb / F# major Gb / F# Minor
D# Major Eb / D# Minor Gb / F# major Gb / F# Minor Practice Goals:

Practice Goals:

Play all 12 chords in 30 seconds in your RIGHT hand.

Play all 12 chords in 30 seconds in your LEFT hand.

Play all 12 major chords in 30 seconds.

Play all 12 minor chords in 30 seconds.

Memorize all 12 chords! Just remember 4&3 for major and 3&4 for minors.

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CHORD TONES

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Chord tones are the individual notes that, when played at the same time, create a chord. In other words, the chord tones are the notes that make up a chord.

words, the chord tones are the notes that make up a chord. NOTE: Each major and

NOTE:

Each major and minor triad has a root, a third and a fifth. (Minor triads have a

flat third). Remember that for each major or minor triad, the root, third and fifth are the same distance apart. Remember counting up 4&3 for the major chords and 3&4 for the minor chords?

C MAJOR CHORD TONES C is the root E is the third G is the
C MAJOR
CHORD TONES
C
is the root
E is the third
G
is the fifth

The Root:

chord. For example, the root of the C major chord is the note C.

The root is the foundation of the chord. It is the same as the name of the

The Third:

third helps determine if the chord is major or minor. In the diagram, the third of the chord is E. If the chord would were C minor, then the third would be Eb. It would be correct to call it a flat or minor third.

The third is the second most important chord tone after the third. The

The Fifth:

and still determine if the chord the root of the chord and if it were major or minor. In the diagram, G is the fifth of the chord.

The fifth is the least important note. This is because we could leave it out

Chords & Scales:

from the root on its related major scale. For example the third of the C major chord is 3 notes away on the C major scale. The fifth is 5 notes away from the root on the major scale. And the root is at the beginning of the major scale.

Each chord tone has a name that refers to its distance away

The pink dots represent the notes of the C major scale. The 3 rd is
The pink dots represent the notes
of the C major scale.
The 3 rd is 3 notes up the major scale.
The 5 th is 5 notes up the major scale.
The 7 th is 7 th notes up etc…

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POWER CHORDS!

Power chords take away the middle note from the major and minor triads you just learned to only two outside notes, the root and the fifth. They are also not muddy on lower ranges of the keyboard because the notes are spaced out more.

of the keyboard because the notes are spaced out more. NOTE: Power chords are labeled with

NOTE: Power chords are labeled with a letter and the number 5. If you see the chord symbol “C5” or “Bb5,” that means to play a power chord.

It has a 5 in the symbol because C and G are a perfect 5th interval apart. If that sounds confusing, don't worry! All that means is that there are 7 half steps between C and G.

HOW TO PLAY POWER CHORDS

This is really easy if you practiced your major triads! Start with a major triad and take away the middle note. For example, Cmajor (CEG) turns into C5 (CG). You can double any of the notes, playing as many C’s or G’s as you can get your hands on.

C5

Notice these notes are 7 half steps apart!

G5

C5 Notice these notes are 7 half steps apart! G5
C5 Notice these notes are 7 half steps apart! G5
C5 Notice these notes are 7 half steps apart! G5

Good to know:

These chords are used primarily on rock songs and pop songs.

These are a guitarist’s favorite chord, because they are VERY simple to play on the guitar.

Because we have removed the middle note from the chord, power chords can’t be major or minor. They are ambiguous.

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HOW TO FIND THE FLAT 7 TH NOTE FOR ANY CHORD

After you learn how to play your major and minor triads, the next step will be to practice finding 7 th chords like Cma7, C7 & Cmi7. Having a 7 in the chord symbol only means that there is a fourth note added to the triad and it is a 7 th away from the root.

The three types of 7 th chords are major 7 th , minor 7 th and dominant 7 th chords. Minor and dominant 7ths both have a b7 (flat7). Here is how to find that note:

both have a b7 ( flat7 ). Here is how to find that note: NOTE: chord.

NOTE:

chord. It is easier to count a whole step to the left to find the 7 th rather than ten half steps to the right. It doesn’t mean you always have to play the root and the 7 th next to eachother

in your chords, this is just the easiest way to find the 7 th .

The b7 is always whole step down (left) from the root or first note of the

THE FAST WAY: Shown here is the root and b7 of a C7 chord. To
THE FAST WAY:
Shown here is the root and b7 of a C7
chord. To find it, count down 1 whole
step (2half steps) from C.
THE SLOW WAY: DO NOT COUNT UP 10 HALF STEPS! It is too confusing especially
THE SLOW WAY:
DO NOT COUNT UP 10 HALF STEPS!
It is too confusing especially in other
keys. (The dark red dots are the root and
b7 of C7 chord, the lighter red dots are
the other notes in the chord).
Find the b7 for G7 Here is an example of how to find the b7th
Find the b7 for G7
Here is an example of how to find the
b7th for the G7 chord. Count down two
half steps from the root (G) and you
should land on the b7th (F).

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HOW TO FIND THE MAJOR 7 TH NOTE FOR ANY CHORD

After you learn how to play your major and minor triads, the next step will be to practice finding 7 th chords like Cma7, C7 & Cmi7. Having a 7 in the chord symbol only means that there is a fourth note added to the triad and it is a 7 th away from the root.

The three types of 7 th chords are major 7 th , minor 7 th and dominant 7 th chords. Major 7 th chords have a major 7 th in them. Here is how to find that note:

a major 7 t h in them. Here is how to find that note: NOTE: of

NOTE:

of the chord. It is easier to count a half step left to find the 7 th rather than 11 half steps to the right. It doesn’t mean you always have to play the root and the 7 th next to eachother in

your chords, this is just the easiest way to find the 7 th .

The major 7th note is always half step down (left) from the root or first note

The Fast Way: Shown here is the root and major 7 th of a Cmajor7
The Fast Way:
Shown here is the root and major 7 th of a
Cmajor7 chord. To find it, count down 1
half step from C.
The Slow Way: DO NOT COUNT UP 11 HALF STEPS! It is too confusing especially
The Slow Way:
DO NOT COUNT UP 11 HALF STEPS!
It is too confusing especially in other
keys. (The dark red dots are the root and
major 7th of Cmaj7 chord, the lighter red
dots are the other notes in the chord).
Find the major 7 th for Gmaj7 Here is an example of how to find
Find the major 7 th for Gmaj7
Here is an example of how to find the
major7 th for the Gmaj7 chord. Count
down one half step from the root (G) and
you should land on the major7 th (F#).

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SHELL VOICINGS

Shell voicings strip down chords with many notes down to only two notes. Usually the most important notes, the root and/or the 3 rd or 7 th . Because 2 notes are easier to find than 4, Shell voicings are quick and fast to learn.

Shell voicings are also great because they let you play your chords lower on the keyboard without the muddiness. Keep in mind, the lower you go, the wider the notes need to be spread out.

SHELL VOICINGS FOR DOMINANT 7 TH CHORDS

There are 3 dominant chord shell voicings for the chords shown in the example below. Dominants are chords with a 7 attached to the symbol. For example, C7 is sometimes called “C dominant” and sometimes called “C7”. Both are correct!

Dominant 7 th chords normally have 4 notes. See the first chord example where C7 is spelled: C E G Bb. To play C7 as a shell voicing, only play the dark red notes C and Bb in your left hand.

C7

F7

G7

C7 F7 G7
C7 F7 G7
C7 F7 G7
dark red notes C and Bb in your left hand. C7 F7 G7 NOTE: The b7

NOTE: The b7 (flat7) note is always whole step down from the root, (the first note of the chord). Take a look at the last chord shown, G7. The dot on the left is on the root G. To find the b7 note, go up to the high G (labeled root) and count down 2 half steps. You should arrive at the second dot on F.

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BONUS COURSE!

(You’re Welcome!)

Course ©2008 by FastPianoLessons.com BONUS COURSE! (You’re Welcome!) READ MUSIC FASTER F OR T RADITIONAL N

READ MUSIC FASTER

FOR TRADITIONAL NOTATION

Course ©2008 by FastPianoLessons.com BONUS COURSE! (You’re Welcome!) READ MUSIC FASTER F OR T RADITIONAL N

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NOTE: Reading music is an essential part of learning to play piano! It does take time, but the effort you put in pays off. If you can read music, then not only can you learn any song ever written, but you can communicate with other musicians! Music is a language and playing it is only one half, reading it is the other half! If you don’t learn to read, you are limiting the ways I can explain musical concepts to you.

THE KEYBOARD & THE GRAND STAFF

concepts to you. T HE K EYBOARD & T HE G RAND S TAFF This diagram

This diagram is the most important if you’re just learning how to read music. Keep it handy! It shows you how the keys on the piano relate to the music notes on the page.

the keys on the piano relate to the music notes on the page. NOTE: As you

NOTE: As you go from left to right on the keyboard, the notes on the page slowly climb higher and higher. Also notice, on the notes on the staff are alternating between a line and a space each time as they climb higher to each neighbor note. For example, notice the keys C and D are neighbor keys on the piano. On the page they are written as two dots, C is on a space and D is on the line that borders that space.

JUST WHAT IS THE GRAND STAFF?! These two squiggly designs are each called clefs. Together

JUST WHAT IS THE GRAND STAFF?!

These two squiggly designs are each called clefs. Together they make up the grand staff, which is common in traditional music but not fake books! It is use mainly for piano and harp music.

The top clef is the treble clef and the bottom is called the bass clef. The treble clef handles the high notes, and the bass clef is for writing the low notes. Using both the treble and bass clef allows the grand staff to cover a wider range of notes.

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READ MUSIC FASTER!

One of the biggest reasons people are slow readers is because it takes your brain a few seconds to realize where each note is. You probably know a few notes on the grand staff, but not all of them, so you end up slowly counting each line.

If you use these mnemonic devices or memorization tricks, your reading will become much quicker. You won’t have to be counting up single lines all the time! This works great for students of all ages!

all the time! This works great for students of all ages! In the treble cleff (the

In the treble cleff (the top 5 lines) use:

“FACE is for the Space” (This rhymes)

“Every Good Boy Does Fine is on the line” (This rhymes too!)

In the bass cleff (the lower 5 lines) use:

“All Cows Eat Grass”

“Good Burritos Don’t Falls Apart”

Are you getting mixed up? Most piano students have a hard time keeping these straight. They forget which ones are Most piano students have a hard time keeping these straight. They forget which ones are for the lines and which are for the spaces. Rhyming will help you remember that FACE is for the space, and EVERY GOOD BOY DOES FINE is on the line.

Another tip to keep them straight! You should notice that there are only 4 SPACES and 5 LINES. Think to yourself You should notice that there are only 4 SPACES and 5 LINES. Think to yourself All Cows Eat Grass has only four words, therefore it must be for the spaces because there are only 4 of them. Good Burritos Don’t Fall Apart has 5 words, therefore it must be for the lines.

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PLEASE PRINT THE LAST PAGE AND KEEP IT BY YOUR PIANO!

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THE KEYBOARD & GRAND STAFF

Introductory Course ©2008 by FastPianoLessons.com T HE K EYBOARD & G RAND S TAFF N OTESPELLERS

NOTESPELLERS ~ MEMORY TOOLS

Introductory Course ©2008 by FastPianoLessons.com T HE K EYBOARD & G RAND S TAFF N OTESPELLERS
Introductory Course ©2008 by FastPianoLessons.com T HE K EYBOARD & G RAND S TAFF N OTESPELLERS