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ACompleteGuidetoPianoChords

by
JERMAINEGRIGGS

Pianochordsarelikebloodtothehumanbody.Withoutthem,yoursongswonthavelife.
Notescreatescales,scalescreatechords,chordscreateprogressions,andprogressionscreate
songs.
Ifchordsareblood,chordprogressionsrepresenttheflowofblood.
Inthispost,weregoingtoexploreallthedifferenttypesofpianochordsyouneedtoknowinorder
toplaymostoftodayssongs.

PianoChordsNotes
Idontwanttoassumeyouknowallthenotesofthepiano,soheresahandydiagramillustrating
themall:

Thepianousesthefirst7lettersofthealphabet:
A,B,C,D,E,F,andG.
Theseareshownonthewhitekeys.
Buteachnotecanalsobesharped(raised)orflatted(lowered).

Sharp==Raise
Flat==Lower
*Justrememberaflattirelowersthecar.

Lower
meansgoingdeeperinpitchtotheleftonthe
piano.
Raise
meansgoinghigherinpitchtotherightonthepiano.
#1Mistakewithsharpsandflats

Alotofmusiciansthinksharpsandflatsareonlydesignatedtoblackkeys.Sure,ifyoulowerD,you

getDb(pronouncedDflat),theblackkeydirectlytotheleftofD.AndifyouraiseF,yougetF#
(pronouncedFsharp),theblackkeydirectlytotherightofF.
Butyoucanalsoraiseandlowerwhitekeysthatdonothaveblackkeysdirectlyinfrontorbackof
them.Forexample,loweringFiscalledFb(Fflat),eventhoughtothebeginner,itsthesameas
playingE.Likewise,raisingEiscalledE#(Esharp),eventhoughitusesthekeymostpeople
knowasF.
Thefancynameforthedifferentspellingsofthesametoneis
Enharmonic
.
Thesemayseemlikeadvancedtopics,butgettingthisclarificationEARLYwillensurethatyounot
onlyplaypianochordswell,butspellthenotescorrectly.

PianoChordsIntervals
Anintervalinmusicissimply
distance
orthedifferencebetweentwotones.
Justlikeinches,feet,yards,andmetersdescribedistanceinphysicalspaces,intervalslikehalf
stepsandwholestepsdescribedistanceinmusic.
Heresapoem:
Halfstepsarefromkeytokeywithnokeysinbetween,
WholestepsalwaysskipakeywithONEkeyinbetween.
Intheprevioussection,whenwetalkedabouthowflattinganotelowersitandsharpinganote
raisesit,wewerereferencinghalfsteps.
Thesetonesareallhalfstepsapartbecausethereare
NO
keysinbetween:

Thesetonesareawholestepapartbecausethereare
ONE
keyinbetweenthem:

Withamasteryofhalfandwholesteps,yourereadytolearnwhatchordsaremadeof.

PianoChordsThreeMethodsToBuildThem
Wellcoverthreewaystobuildpianochords.Oneusing
scales
,oneusing
intervals
,andoneusing
the
combiningofchords
toproducebiggerones.

Majorscales
Youdonthavetobeamusiciantoknowthesoundofamajorscale.Weveallheardthem.
Thereare12primarymajorscalesintotaloneforeachuniquekeyofthepiano.
Amajorscalehas7uniquenotesinit.
TheeasiesttorememberistheCmajorscale.
Cmajor:

*TheCmajorscalehasallwhitekeysandnoblackkeys.
Buttheotherscalesarentsoeasytoremember.Forexample
Dbmajor:


Sohowdidweformthesescales?
Withyourfriends,thehalfstepandwholestep.
HeresacoolmnemonicdeviceImadeupover10yearsagotohelpyouremembertheformulafor
majorscales:

W
hy
W
ont
H
e
W
ear
W
hite
W
hen
H
ot
(Illspareyouthefullstorybutitstemsfrommywifemakingfunofmeforwearingreallyhotand
darkclothesduring95degreesummerweather.WhyWontHeWearWhiteWhenHot?she
asked.)
Justtakethefirstletterofeverywordandthattellsyouwhethertouseawholesteporahalfstep.
Aloteasierthanhavingtoremember:

WWHWWWH
YoucanformANYmajorscaleyouwantbystartingonanytoneandusingtheaboveWWHWWWH
formula.
Forexample,formingtheFmajorscaleisaseasyasstartingonF:

AddingawholestepbecausethefirstwordofourformulaisWhy.
GisawholestepupfromF.
FG
Wontisthenextwordsoweneedtoaddanotherwholesteptothisscale.ThatgivesusA.
FGA
Heisthenextwordsoweneedtoswitchthingsupandaddahalfsteptothemix.ThatgivesusBb
(Bflat).
FGABb
(IfyouweretemptedtouseBinsteadofBb,youprobablygotcarriedawaywiththetwowholesteps
inthebeginning.Dontforgettoswitchtothehalfstep!)
Wearisthenextwordsowerebacktoneedingawholestep.ThatsC.
FGABbC
Whiteisupnext,whichcallsforanotherwholestep.ThatsD.
FGABbCD
Whengivesusanotherwholestep,E.
FGABbCDE
Hotgivesusourfinalhalfstep,whichwillalwaysbringusbackhometothesamenotethatstarted
ourscale(butjusthigher).

Fmajor:

Homework:
YougotCmajorandFmajordown.Canyoufigureouttheother10majorscales?

PianoChordsUsingmajorscalestolearnchords
Withmajorscalesunderyourbelt,learningchordswillbecomeacinch.
LetsgobacktoCmajorandletsnumberthisscale:

Cis1
Dis2

Eis3
Fis4
Gis5
Ais6
Bis7
Withthesenumbers,youcanlearnalmostanychordoutthere!

MajorTriadPianoChord
ChordType:
Majortriad
Formula:
1+3+5
NotesinC:
C+E+G

Justasitlooks,wetookthe1st,3rd,and5thtonesoftheCmajorscale,playedthemtogether,and
producedourfirstchord
Cmajor.

MinorTriadPianoChord
ChordType:
Minortriad
Formula:
1+3+5
*Withminorchords,youllbeputtingwhatyoulearnedaboutflats()intogooduse.A3means
totakewhateverthethirdtoneofthescaleisandloweritbyahalfstep.
Asareminder,
neverchangetheletter
whenyouflatit.ToflataCdoesnotgiveyouB(even
thoughitmayseemlikeit).Instead,itgivesyouaCflat.
NEVERCHANGETHELETTERwhenyou
flatit.
Moreonthattopic
here
.
NotesinC:
C+Eb+G

DiminishedTriadPianoChord
ChordType:
Diminishedtriad
Formula:
1+3+5
*Doyouseeapatternhere?Mostchordswillusesomeversionofthe1,3,and5thtones(later,well
addinthe7thtone,whichisHUGEinmusic).Diminishedchordstakethesadandserioussoundof

minorchordsevenfurtherbyflattingyetanothertone(the5th).Thisgivesyouascarysounding
chord,butisusedintonsofsituations.
NotesinC:
C+Eb+Gb

AugmentedTriadPianoChord
ChordType:
Augmentedtriad
Formula:
1+3+5
*Theaugmentedchordalmostdoestheoppositeoftheminoranddiminished.Wetaketheregular
majortriadandraisethe5thtone.
NotesinC:
C+E+G#

Diminished
meanstomakesmaller.

Augmented
meanstomakelarger.

Isntthatexactlywhatthesechordshavedone?

ConsonanceandDissonance
Thesearetheoppositeofeachother.
Whatisconsonantisnotdissonantandwhatisdissonantisnotconsonant.
Iknow,soundsconfusing.
Accordingto
wikipedia
,
Consonanceanddissonancedefinealevelofsweetness/harshness,
pleasantness/unpleasantness,acceptability/unacceptability,ofthesoundsorintervalsunder
consideration.
Inotherwords,consonantchordsandintervalssoundgoodandharmonioustous.Dissonantones
soundlessharmoniousandhavemoretension.
Majorandminorchordshavemoreconsonancethandiminishedandaugmentedchords.
IfIhadtorankthembyconsonance,itdbe:
Majorchords
Minorchords
Diminishedchords

Augmentedchords
THISDOESNTMEANDISSONANCEISABADTHING.
Infact,atonepoint(hundredsofyearsago),dissonantchordsandintervalslikediminishedchords
and
tritones
(anothertopic)were
banned
fromthechurch!Theywerecalledthedevilsinterval.
Thisisnotthecasetoday.Infact,mostmodernmusiciansaggressivelysearchforwaysto
add
flavorfuldissonance
totheirplaying.Itisdissonancethatcreatestheunpredictabilityandsound
thatcharacterizesmuchoftodayscontemporarygospel,soul,R&B,andsimilargenres.

Icallthesefourchordsmajor,minor,diminished,augmentedtheFANTASTICFOUR.
Theseareyourfourfoundationalchords.Withthesefourchordtypes,youcanlearnpracticallyall
others(Illproveittoyouinasecond).
PianoChordsUsingintervalstolearnchords
YouvealreadylearnedthefoundationalchordsbutIwanttocoverthesecondwaytobuildthem.
Thismethodtakesanintervallicapproach(fancywordforintervalordistance).
Whereasthemajorscaleapproachsimplygaveyouthenumbersofthescaletocombinetogether,
thisonewillusedistancetodeterminethechord.

IntroducingMajorandMinorThirds
Whenitcomestointervals,majorandminorthirdsmaketheworldgoroundnround.
Andthegreatpartisyoualreadyhavewhatittakestocreatethirds.

AQuickCrashCourseOnIntervals
Therearetwoclassesofintervals:
Generic
and
Specific
.
Genericintervals
wonttellyouspecificallywhattoplaybutitllmakesureyourereferencingthe
notescorrectly.
Specificintervals
thentellyouexactlywhatnotestoplay.
Letmeexplain.
Intervalsaredescribedwithnumbers:
first,seconds,thirds,fourths,fifths,sixths,andsevenths.
(Wecouldtakeitastepfurtherandmoveintoextendedintervalslike
ninths,tenths,elevenths,and
thirteenths
butwellleavetheseoutfornow).
Sinceanintervalisthedistancebetweentwonotes,ifyouwanttofigureoutanyinterval,justcount
upthenumberofalphabetlettersencompassedbetweenthenotes.
WhatyouredoingwhenyourecountingalphabetlettersistryingtofigureouttheGENERIC
INTERVALatworkfirst.
Youretryingtofigureoutiftheintervalisathirdvsfourth,orasixthvsseventh(manymusiciansget
thiswrong).
Andatthispoint,sharpsandflatsdontevenmatter.Wereonlycountingalphabetletterssodropthe
sharpsandtheflats.Wellcomebacktothemwhenweretryingtofigureoutthespecificinterval
(whetheritsmajor,minor,diminished,augmented,orperfect).
Letsdoafew:
DbtoGb


Whatgenericintervalisthis?
Answer&Explanation:
Thefirstthingyoudoisdropthesharpsand/orflats.Wedontneedthemrightnow.Wellbringthem
backlater.
Sowereleftwith:
D
and
G
Now,takeitbacktoKindergartenandsimplycountthealphabetlettersencompassedinthisinterval.
Includethestartingandendingletters(DandG).
D
E
F
G

*EventhoughtheEandFarentplayed,theyareinside,orencompassedintheinterval.
Becausethishasfourletters,itsdefinitelyaFOURTH.
Whattypeoffourthdependsonwhatwefigureoutinthespecificintervalstep(butthatsnot
importantrightnowthisexamplewassolelyaboutunderstanding
genericintervals
).
Knowingaboutgenericintervalsisimportantbecauseaspecificintervalcanneverbedifferentfrom
itsgenericinterval.
Forexample,sincenotescanberaisedandlowered,sometimesmusiciansgetconfusedover
whethertocallsomething,forexample,aminorthirdoraugmentedsecondsincethoseboth
producethesamesound.Oranaugmentedfourthanddiminishedfifthsincethose,too,producethe
samesound.
Countupthealphabetlettersandthatllgiveyoutheanswer!
MajorandMinorThirdsConstructed
(SpecificIntervals)
Withwhatyouknowalready,howmanylettersdomajorandminorthirdsencompass?
Theansweris:
Three
Wheremajorandminorthirdswilldifferisbyhowmanyhalfstepsittakestoconstructthem.

Majorthirds=4halfsteps

Minorthirds=3halfsteps
Thereyouhaveit

Specific
thirdintervalsandthedifferencebetweenmajorandminorthirds.

Letstryafew:
MajorthirdonD:
StartonD.
Moveuponehalfstep(D#)
Moveupanotherhalfstep(E)
Moveupanotherhalfstep(F)
Moveupanotherhalfstep(F#)thats4halfsteps.
MajorthirdonD:D+F#

Doesitalsopassthegenericintervaltest?Inotherwords,doesitencompassthreealphabetletters?
Letsdropthesharpsandflats:
D
E
F

Lookslike3alphabetletterstome.
Checkoutthisinterval:D+Gb

Eventhoughthisintervalsoundslikeamajorthird,isitreally?
BecausewechosetouseGbasthehighestnoteinsteadofF#,thistotallychangesthetypeof
interval.Whiletherearestill4halfstepsatwork,itfailsthegenericintervaltest:
D
E
F
G
Thereare4alphabetletters.Thatmeansthisintervalisafourth.ItsjustaSMALLfourthorwhat
wecalladiminishedfourth.
Major,minor,diminished,augmented,andmostotherchordsyoulllearnuseTHIRDS.
Andnowthatyouknowhowtocorrectlycreatethemandwhatletterstouse,youshouldneverspell
achordwrongagainevenbig,fancychords.

Letsturnourcorrectmajorthird(D+F#)intoaminorthird.Sinceaminorthirdhasonly3halfsteps,
simplylowertheF#toFandnowyoureplayingaminorthirdinterval:

Notice,wehaventchangedletters.Werestillencompassing3alphabetlettersbetweenDandF:
D
E
F
Generictest?
Pass.
Specifictest?
Pass.

FantasticFourPianoChordsUsingIntervals

MajorTriadPianoChord
ChordType:
Majortriad
Formula:
Majorthird+minorthird

NotesinC:
C+E+G
C+(majorthird)=C+E

E+(minorthird)=E+G

Combinebothintervals:C+[E]+G

ChordType:
Minortriad
Formula:
Minorthird+majorthird
NotesinC:
C+Eb+G
C+(minorthird)=C+Eb

Eb+(majorthird)=Eb+G

Combinebothintervals:C+[Eb]+G


ChordType:
Diminishedtriad
Formula:
Minorthird+minorthird
NotesinC:
C+Eb+Gb
C+(minorthird)=C+Eb

Eb+(minorthird)=Eb+Gb


Combinebothintervals:C+[Eb]+G

ChordType:
Augmentedtriad
Formula:
Majorthird+majorthird
NotesinC:
C+E+G#
C+(majorthird)=C+E


E+(majorthird)=E+G#

Combinebothintervals:C+[E]+G#

SeventhPianoChordsMajorScale&IntervallicMethod

Nowthatyouvegottenacomprehensivelookathowtoformintervals,scales,andfoundational
chords,letstakeitastepfurtherbyexpandingourchords.
Letslearn:

Majorseventhchord
Minorseventhchord
Diminishedseventhchord
Augmentedmajorseventhchord
HalfDiminishedseventhchord
Dominantseventhchord
Augmentedseventhchord
Minormajorseventhchord

ChordType:
Majorseventhchord
ScaleFormula:
1+3+5+7
IntervalFormula:
majorthird+minorthird+majorthird
NotesinC:
C+E+G+B
C+(majorthird)=C+E

E+(minorthird)=E+G


G+(majorthird)=G+B

Combineallintervals:C+E+G+B

ChordType:
Minorseventhchord
ScaleFormula:
1+3+5+7

IntervalFormula:
minorthird+majorthird+minorthird
NotesinC:
C+Eb+G+Bb
C+(minorthird)=C+Eb

Eb+(majorthird)=Eb+G

G+(minorthird)=G+Bb


Combineallintervals:C+Eb+G+Bb

ChordType:
Diminishedseventhchord
ScaleFormula:
1+3+5+7
IntervalFormula:
minorthird+minorthird+minorthird
NotesinC:
C+Eb+Gb+Bbb
*Dontletthe(doubleflat)throwyouoff.Ifonemeanstolowerbyonehalfstep,then
mustmeantolowerbyhowmanyhalfsteps?Yougotit,2.(Andbecause2halfstepsareequalto1
wholestep,youcanthinkofthisasonewholestepaswell).Inotherwords,thisformulacouldreally
be1+3+b5+6(althoughsayingAinsteadofBbbwouldnotbecorrectforgenericinterval
purposes).

C+(minorthird)=C+Eb

Eb+(minorthird)=Eb+Gb

Gb+(minorthird)=Gb+Bbb(akaA)

*Asfunnyasitsounds,mypianographicscriptdoesnotdoBbbsoImforcedtoplaceAthere.
Butyouknowthetruth!!!
Combineallintervals:C+Eb+Gb+Bbb(akaA)

*Seenoteabove:)
ChordType:
Augmentedmajorseventhchord
ScaleFormula:
1+3+#5+7
IntervalFormula:
majorthird+majorthird+minorthird
NotesinC:
C+E+G#+B
C+(majorthird)=C+E

E+(majorthird)=E+G#

G#+(minorthird)=G#+B

Combineallintervals:C+E+G#+B

ChordType:
HalfDiminishedseventhchord

ScaleFormula:
1+3+5+7
IntervalFormula:
minorthird+minorthird+majorthird
NotesinC:
C+Eb+Gb+Bb
*UnliketheDiminishedseventhchord,thehalfdiminishedchordisalittlemorewatereddownand
getsamajorthirduptop(givingusaregularBbinsteadofBbb).
C+(minorthird)=C+Eb

Eb+(minorthird)=Eb+Gb

Gb+(majorthird)=Gb+Bb


Combineallintervals:C+Eb+Gb+Bb

ChordType:
Dominantseventhchord
ScaleFormula:
1+3+5+b7
IntervalFormula:
majorthird+minorthird+minorthird
NotesinC:
C+E+G+Bb
C+(majorthird)=C+E


E+(minorthird)=E+G

G+(minorthird)=G+Bb

Combineallintervals:C+E+G+Bb


ChordType:
Augmentedseventhchord(akaAugmenteddominantseventhchord)
ScaleFormula:
1+3+#5+b7
IntervalFormula:
majorthird+majorthird+diminishedthird
NotesinC:
C+E+G#+Bb
*Thisoneisverysimilartothedominantseventhchord,exceptthe5thdegreeisraised.Thischord
isnottobeconfusedwiththemajoraugmentedseventhchord.Adiminishedthirdtakesaminor
thirdandlowersitonceagain.Thisiswhereunderstandinggenericintervalsreallyhelpsyou.
C+(majorthird)=C+E

E+(majorthird)=E+G#


G#+(diminishedthird)=G#+Bb

Combineallintervals:C+E+G#+Bb

Forabonus,letscoverthisrarechord:
ChordType:
Minormajorseventhchord

ScaleFormula:
1+3+5+7
IntervalFormula:
minorthird+majorthird+majorthird
NotesinC:
C+Eb+G+B
*Thischordgivesyouthebeginningofaminortriad(C+Eb)buttheendingofamajorseventhchord
(G+B).
C+(minorthird)=C+Eb

Eb+(majorthird)=Eb+G

G+(majorthird)=G+B


Combineallintervals:C+Eb+G+B

PianoChordsMethod#3Polychords
Whilewewontcoverextendedchords(ninths,elevenths,thirteenthsSeemy
4StepstoNextLevel
Growth
course),itsimportanttounderstandwhat
polychords
are.
Thisiswhenyoucombinesmallerchordstocreatebiggerchords.
Forexample,sincewevealreadyexploredmajor,minor,augmented,diminished,anddominant
seventhchordsabove,heresanotherapproach.
RememberwhenIsaidthefantasticfourchords(majortriads,minortriads,diminishedtriads,
augmentedtriads)canbeusedtolearnjustaboutanyotherchord?

Thatstillholdsabsolutelytrue.Ijusthadtoshowyouthemajorscaleandintervallicapproaches
FIRST.
Keepinmind:
ThisapproachrequiresthatyouknowALLfourfoundationalchordsinALL12keys.
Thats48chords(4x12keys)butonceyouknowthem,youhavethekeytoplayliterallyhundreds
ofotherchords.
Sohereareotherwaystogetthesamechords:
ChordType:
Majorseventhchord
Polychordformula:
1+3minortriad
NotesinC:
C+Eminor=C+[E+G+B]
*Whatthismeansis:
Playthe1toneinyourbass(the1toneisthetitleorkeynoteofthechord,in
thiscaseC).Then,gotothethirdtoneandplaythattonesminorchord.SowedsimplyhitCinour
lefthandandanEminortriad(E+G+B)inourright.

ChordType:
Minorseventhchord
Polychordformula:
1+3majortriad
NotesinC:
C+Emajor=C+[Eb+G+Bb]

*Whatthismeansis:
Playthe1toneinyourbass(the1toneisthetitleorkeynoteofthechord,in
thiscaseC).Then,gototheflatthirdtone(Eb)andplaythattonesmajorchord.Sowedsimplyhit
CinourlefthandandanEbmajortriad(Eb+G+Bb)inourright.

ChordType:
Diminishedseventhchord
Polychordformula:
1+3diminishedtriad
NotesinC:
C+Ediminished=C+[Eb+Gb+Bbb]
*Whatthismeansis:
Playthe1toneinyourbass.Then,gototheflatthirdtone(Eb)andplaythat
tonesdiminishedchord.SowedsimplyhitCinourlefthandandanEbdiminishedtriad
(Eb+G+Bbb)inourright.

*Bbbis
enharmonic
with(makesthesamesoundas)Abutmygraphicsprogramwontillustrate
Bbb.

ChordType:
Augmentedmajorseventhchord
Polychordformula:
1+3majortriad
NotesinC:
C+Emajor=C+[E+G#+B]
*Whatthismeansis:
Playthe1toneinyourbass.Then,gotothethirdtone(E)andplaythattones
majorchord.SowedsimplyhitCinourlefthandandanEmajortriad(E+G#+B)inourright.

ChordType:
Dominantseventhchord
Polychordformula:
1+3diminishedtriad
NotesinC:
C+Ediminished=C+[E+G+Bb]
*Whatthismeansis:
Playthe1toneinyourbass.Then,gotothethirdtoneandplaythattones
diminishedchord.SowedsimplyhitCinourlefthandandanEdiminishedtriad(E+G+Bb)inour
right.

TakingYourPianoChordsStudiesAStepFurther
Wow,youvelearnedalotinthisblogguide(andIhopeyouveenjoyedit).Butifyoureserious
aboutlearningevenmore(plusextendedchords,progressions/patterns,howtofindthekeyofa
song,etc),youllwanttoconsidermy
4StepsToNextLevelPlaying
workbook.


Thereyouhaveit.Acompleteguidetopianochordsfromyourstruly.
Untilnexttime.