How To Play Piano Chords

Piano Chord Basics

Piano chords are made from scales.  For this discussion we will use the major scale.  For those who may not be familiar with the formula for making the major scale it is a series of whole steps and half steps starting on the root or first note of the scale.  In this example we will use the C major scale, the most familiar and commonly used scale for explaining music fundamentals.  The formula is; whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step, resulting in the notes C_D_E_F_G_A_B_C.  To form a triad you would ship notes.  For example a C triad would be C-E-G and a D triad would be D-F-A.  Following this formula you can create a triad based on each note of the scale.  However, the triads will not have the same function.  The triad function can be major, minor, or diminished based on its position or scale tone number.  Scale tone numbers are a discussion for a different post.  This post will discuss the C major triad and how to form 7 different chords demonstrating the magic of triad chords.

The Magic of Triads

You can play the notes of the C major scale starting and ending on the same note.  For example, starting on G the notes you play would be G_A_B_C_D_E_F_G.  This series of notes is called a mode of the C major scale.  For this discussion, all you need to understand about modes is that you can create a mode on each note of the major scale.  Notice that the G mode contains the C major triad within that series of notes.  All of the modes of the C major scale contain a C major triad.  However, the notes within each mode have a different function.  That is what creates the magic.  If you play a C major chord you can form 7 other chords using the scale tones as base notes along with their 3rd and 7th chord tones.  For some of the chords the 3rd and 7th are one of the notes of the C major triad.  Applying this concept to the modes of the C major scale you would create the following chords: Cmajor7, Dminor11, Emin7#5, Fmaj9, G13, Amin7, and Bdim7b13.  The table below illustrates the modes of the C major scale and the function of the notes of the C triad for each mode.  Function refers to the note number, is it the 9th, 3rd, 5th etc., and to its interval, is it major, minor or augmented in relation to the root.  This is an overview of how the same triad can be used to make different chords.  There are components of this post that deserve their own discussion which I will be presenting in future posts and videos. Modes Table

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