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How To Play Rhythm Piano (Why should guitarists have all the fun?)

Updated on March 10, 2014

Lesson in Progress

1/18/14 I will be updating this several times in the next few week to include video and other things

Let's Play!

The chordal style of playing the piano is the way to go if you want play with others. For this you don't need endless hours of scales and other boring exercises.

Eventually as you want to get more elaborate with rhythm piano or play improvised solos then you turn to the classical technique which is fantastic at building these skills.

The chordal way of playing is just one of the myriad ways of approaching piano.

Think of it on a need to know basis. "I need to know these four chords, the order they go in and the rhythm pattern for this song." Done! Now if you have to add in some scale runs then learn them for that song. Talk about practical application.

If You Want To Jam Leave Bach Behind

Classical music and technique is fabulous but...so often students are so caught up in learning the material by rote as well as practicing the technical exercises needed to perform in the classical style that, how I can I say say this nicely?

Nevermind, I can't. To put it bluntly they can't play with others because they don't know their chords independent of the exercises. They have not been taught the simple basics of accompaniment by looking at the chord symbols on a piece of music.

Instead most piano students end up learning how to regurgitate some of the classics of this style (If I hear one more sloppy, herky jerky, dynamicless version of Fur Elise I'm going to scream). So many have had years of piano lessons and all they can remember is how to badly play whatever tunes their teacher mercilessly pounded into them lesson after lesson.

How did that work out? Most quit by the time they are in their teens (you know who you are) and have a bad taste in their mouth regarding music lessons in general. Or worse turned to rock and roll guitar :-) How about that mean teacher, did they beat the love of playing music out of you?

A quick disclaimer here. There are many out there who had lessons from an awesome instructor and who have excelled at all aspects of piano playing. This article is not about them

Learn To Play Now

In this article you will immediately learn how to play the 12 basic major and minor chords in order of ease as well as some of the primary combinations of chords that go together.

Later you can check out some of the theory of they of how they are made. But let's play first and analyze later.

Sharps (#) and Flats (b)

Going from a white key to the black key immediately to the right is called sharp (#)

White key D to black key D#

Going from a white key to the black key immediately to the left is called flat (b)

White key D to black key Db

Going from any white key to the next key to the right (whether black or white) is called sharp.

A-A# B-B# C-C# D-D# E-E# F-F# G-G#

Going from any white key to the next key to the left (whether black or white) is called flat.

G-Gb F-Fb E-Eb D-Db C-Cb B-Bb A-Ab

Notes with two names ex. D# = Eb are called Enharmonic Notes or Enharmonic Pitches

Chords can also have enharmonic names

F# = Gb

Fingering

Thumb through pinky on both hands are numbered 1-2-3-4-5

All of the the major and minor chords are fingered

  • left hand 5-3-1
  • right hand 1-3-5.

Major Chords Group 1

Key Combination
Chord Name
Notes in Chord
white-white-white
C Major
C E G
white-white-white
F Major
F A C
white-white-white
G Major
G B D

C F and G work together. No matter which combination you play them in they always sound good. Count out an even 1 2 3 4 and play each chord 4 times at the tempo you are counting. Experiment with different rhythms and orders.

Example 1

C C C C F F F F C C C C G G G G

Example 2

C C C C F F F F G G G G F F F F.

Major Chords Group 2

Key Combination
Chord Name
Notes in Chord
white-black-white
A Major
A C# E
white-black-white
D Major
D F# A
white-black-white
E Major
E G# B

A, D and E work together. No matter which combination you play them in they always sound good. Count out an even 1 2 3 4 and play each chord 4 times at the tempo you are counting. Experiment with different rhythms and orders.

Example 1

AAAA/DDDD/AAAA/EEEE

Example 2

AAAA/DDDD/EEEE/DDDD.

Major Chords Group 3

Key Combination
Chord Name
Notes in Chord
black-white-black
Ab
Ab C Eb
black-white-black
Db
Db F Ab
black-white-black
Eb
Eb G Bb

Ab, Db and Eb work together. No matter which combination you play them in they always sound good. Count out an even 1 2 3 4 and play each chord 4 times at the tempo you are counting. Experiment with different rhythms and orders.

Example 1

AbAbAbAb / DbDbDbDb / AbAbAbAb / EbEbEbEb

Example 2

AbAbAbAb / DbDbDbDb / EbEbEbEb / DbDbDbDb

Major Chords Group 4

Key Combination
Chord Name
Notes in Chord
black-white-white
Bb Major
Bb D F
white-black-black
B Major
B D# F#
black-black-black
Gb Major
GB Bb Db

These 3 don't go together as well but they are in other keys.

Minor Chords Group 1

Key Combination
Chord Name
Notes in Chord
white-white-white
A minor
A C E
white-white-white
D minor
D F A
white-white-white
E minor
E G B

Minor Chords Group 2

Key Combination
Chord Name
Notes in Chord
white-black-white
C minor
C Eb G
white-black-white
F minor
F Ab C
white-black-white
G minor
G Bb D

Minor Chords Group 3

Key Combination
Chord Name
Notes in Chord
black-white-black
C# minor
C# E G#
black-white-black
F# minor
F# A C#
black-white-black
G# minor
G# B D#

Minor Chords Group 4

Key Combination
Chord Name
Notes in Chord
white-white-black
B minor
B D F#
black-black-white
Bb minor
Bb Db F
black-black-black
Eb minor
Eb Gb Bb

Chords & Keys

The combinations demonstrated earlier were in the same key and were presented from a visual point of view. Chords that look the same.

The reality is:

  • There is a total of 15 keys
  • Each key has 7 chords
  • 3 keys have the same chords named differently
  • Only the key of C has the same pattern (W-W-W) on all 7 chords
  • Each chord in a key is numbered with a Roman Numeral

There are 3 types of chords in a key.

  • Major
  • Minor
  • Diminished

Key of C

C major D minor E minor F major Gmajor A minor B diminished

Abbreviated & Romans:

C - I Dmi - ii Emi - iii F - IV G - V Ami - vi Bdim -vii


Learning To Read

Reading Rhythms

Why Did You Quit Piano?

See results

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