An Introduction to the Piano Chords Chart

You can play 73 different songs by only using 4 simple chords [1].

Piano chords are powerful tools but there’s way more than just 4 of them. In total there are over 8,000 different possible chord combinations on the piano. Many musicians reference a chart rather than trying to memorize every individual chord.

Read on to find out what a piano chords chart is and how it works.

Piano Chords Chart

Chords are a combination of 3 or more notes played at the same time. In special circumstances, the chord can consist of only 2 notes but 3 notes are more common.

Depending on what key you’re in, piano notes typically go from A all the way up to G. The standard chords your left hand will play include diminished, augmented, major and minor chords.

  • Diminished
  • Augmented
  • Major
  • Minor

A capitalized Roman numeral will represent the major chords. The Roman numeral tells you the chords position in relation to the scale. The minor, diminished or augmented chord numbers will appear in lower case numerals.

Major and minor chords are considered to be the foundation other chords are built from. For this reason, we consider them both to be basic types of chords. Most major or basic chords are a triad that consists of 3 different notes.

Your left hand is traditionally responsible for playing chords allowing your right hand to remain free for the melody. When you are playing a basic chord you need to use 3 fingers on your left hand.

The three fingers you’ll use are your first, middle and pinky finger. The notes these 3 fingers play will be alternating, meaning not next to each other. Alternating notes have a specific amount of space between them.

How Notes Alternate

One way to understand how notes alternate is to master the concept of steps. Every note on the piano is laid out with full steps and half steps. Look at a piano and put your finger on the key for A.

Immediately to the right of A is a black key option that can either be A# or Bb. The distance from the A key up to A# (or Bb) is the one-half step. The distance from the A key to B (or Cb) is a full step.

Every chord will have a different amount of steps needed to complete your triad. Certain chords are considered extended because they’ll require you to use 4 notes instead of 3.

C Major Chord Chart

The key of C is always a great place to build your understanding of chords. This is because the key of C major doesn’t have any flats or sharps. Here are all of the notes included in C major:

  • C
  • D
  • E
  • F
  • G
  • A
  • B
  • C

In music, a pattern occurs when you’re naming the major chords for every major key. The repeating pattern you’ll see a lot is:

  • Major
  • Minor
  • Major
  • Minor
  • Major
  • DIminished

Here’s an example of what this pattern looks like in C major:

  • I C major
  • ii D minor
  • iii E minor
  • IV F major
  • V G major
  • vi A minor
  • vii B diminished

C major D minor E minor F major G major A minor and B diminished make up the basic chords for the key of C major. The numbers all indicate the position of the chord you’re playing. C is #1 because C occurs first in the C major scale.

Also, C is the root note the rest of the chord is built from.

Identify the Root

First, you have to identify the root note of your chord [2]. The root note will be a capital letter so for the key of c it would be a C. Next you’ll want to understand the letters and numbers following the chord root.

Any letter or number that follows a chord root is there to tell you the chord type. Major chords don’t have any type of suffix, instead, they stand alone, just like the C chord.

Whenever you see a capital letter standing by itself you’ll be playing a major triad. Remember for playing the triads you just need to use your pinky, middle and first finger (root, third, and fifth).

Reading Seventh Chords on the Chart

The chords with a #7 next to them say for you to include the key 7 notes from the root.

A C seven chord would end up being C E G and B-flat. You would play the traditional triad and also add the seventh note, B-flat. On the majority of piano chords chart, you’ll see a C seven written as C maj7 or C7.

If you were looking at a chart and saw a number 6 you would add a 6th interval. Pretend you saw the wording “C6” can you guess what it would mean? The capital C lets you know it’s a major chord, but what does the 6 mean?

The 6 is telling you to play the 6th note from the root in addition to playing a major C chord. For a C6 you would end up playing a chord that consisted of C, E, G (your triad) and you would add A (6th interval).

You will also see suspension chords on your chord chart. A suspension chord replaces one tone in the chord with another different tone. C sus 4 is a type of suspension chord in the key of C major.

C sus 4 means you’ll alter your triad to include the 4th tone above the root, not the third. If a chart tells you to play a C sus 4 you’ll play C, F, G, instead of C, E, G. In this example the F note (4th from the root) replaces the E tone (third from the root).

Where to Continue Your Music Journey

Now you’re ready to get hands-on experience and practice reading piano chords chart. Don’t forget to also learn about the primary chords.

Music Advisor has quality resources to help you find answers to your musical questions. Visit our blog for more helpful tricks on how to play the piano like a pro!

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Stephanie Su

Started learning music when she was four years old, Stephanie is a music teacher and a music therapist who is highly proficient in Piano, Violin, Guitar, and Ukulele. She likes to learn, teach, and share her music playing experiences.

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