Chords are what make music interesting and give it character. They are some of the most basic and important things for every pianist to know, and they're really easy to learn! There are just a few simple rules to know, plus a bit of practice. We'll show you the rules, and then let you go practice!
Understand what a major chord is. A chord is three or more notes. Complex chords can have many notes, but you need a minimum of three.
A major chord has a very specific set of notes: the tonic, or root of the chord (0). This is the note that the chord is named after; the major third, which gives the chord its character (4 semitones above the root); and the fifth, which anchors the chord and makes it complete—7 semitones above the root.
Every major chord has all three of those. In their most basic form, they are arranged as 0-4-7. For a C major chord, for example C is the tonic (0). Four semitones up from that is the major third: E. Three semitones up from that (or seven up from the root) is G.
major chord in any key. Start with the first note of the scale, called the tonic in music theory. Find the major third by proceeding up four half-steps. Find the fifth (also called the dominant) by counting seven half-steps up from the tonic (or three semitones up from the major third.
Understand that there are often at least two ways to spell a chord. For example, the notes Eb, G, Bb create an Eb chord. The notes D#, F𝄪, A# create a D# Major chord, which sounds exactly like an Eb chord, but is more complex than needs to be addressed here. We will stick to more common chord spellings for the balance of this article, and save enharmonic equivalents for a future article.
3. Practice the following chords. They are the major ones on the piano. Notice that you will only use fingers 1,3 and 5 (thumb, middle, pinky) to play the three notes of each chord. Your index and ring fingers may rest on, but not press down any keys.
Notice that your fingers advance one half-step (one key) up the keyboard each time you change chords.
C Major : C, E, G. Remember, C= tonic (0), E=Major third (4), G=fifth (7)
Practice playing all the notes together, at once. Then practice playingarpeggios, where each note is struck in sequence from lowest to highest.
Practice playing the major chords in different inversions. Inversions of a chord use the same notes, but place a different note in the bass. For example, a C major chord is C, E, G. The first inversion of the C-major chord is E, G, C. The second inversion is G, C, E.
Try this by making a major chord with every note on the scale, in every inversion.