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Keyboard Chords for beginners
Beginner's Piano and keyboard
It's that time of year again, when the shopping malls are full of good intentions - some of which result in the purchase of a nice new keyboard, but not necessarily the ability to play it properly!
Firstly, I think it's a great thing to do - because playing piano will increase your appreciation of music, give you a good understanding of musical theory, improve your general co-ordination skills and reward you with many hours of enjoyment where your worries are banished completely - mainly because you have no spare mental capacity to think about anything else!
If you work through this material, you will get a basic understanding of music, even if you haven't played an instrument before, in less than 30 mins.
My new hub Piano keyboard chords with photos expands on this material, so you may find it helpful to look at that - there are lots of photos showing chords and explaining more music theory.
Understanding piano keyboard - the basics.
The piano keyboard can seem a bit intimidating to a beginner - but if you think of it as a section of notes that repeats the same pattern from left to right it can help.Your keyboard may have 88 keys, but only 12 of them are relevant for note naming purposes. First, look at the black notes, which all have flat or sharp names. There are 2 black notes together, then after a gap there are 3 together. This section of the keyboard repeats again and again, but you only have to remember the notes in this section of the keyboard to understand the whole thing.
The keyboard diagram shows the note names (letters), and also the intervals between the notes, which are the numbers. The note C is to the left of the 2 black notes - learn this one first.
In the chord pictures I have tried to make the chord shape clear, but it's not the best fingering - try using your little finger for the top note of each chord.
- The chords in the key of C ( all 7 of them) can be played with just one shape. The pattern is play one, miss one.This is shown in the first picture - you could just use this one shape to play all the chords in the key of C, by moving it to the right one step or one note at a time.
- I've shown a second and alternative shape too, because it's a useful thing to know.
- If you look at the piano keyboard diagram, we are using the notes C, E and G - which could also be described in intervals, as 1, 3, 5.
Intervals on the keyboard
Chord of C major (C)
Chords - basic theory
The first picture is a C chord, also known as C major. Your thumb is on a C note, in the middle of the piano, then it's play one, miss one - you are using the notes C E G.
F Chord - keep the C with your thumb, slide the other two fingers up the keyboard to the right.
G chord - now move the whole shape up one note, you should have the notes D, G, B.
When this gets a little easier, after maybe 10 mins practice, use your left hand too and play a bass note for each chord - a low C for the C chord, low F for the F chord, low G for the G chord.
Chord of F
Chord of G
OK - now we can play C, F, and G - the chord is in the right hand, and we also have a bass note in the left hand. You may wish to have a break here,or go back and revise it all again. As many songs use only these three chords, you could sing or hum a tune over the top - some ideas would be
Twist and Shout
When The Saints Go Marchin' In
D minor (Dm)
E minor (Em)
Am (A minor)
Am is the notes A, C, E - same shape as C, but starting two notes down, to the left.
Dm is the same shape as C, moved up one note to the right.
Em is the same shape again, but moved up two notes to the right from the C chord.
The shape we're using is the play-one-miss-one-shape.
If you can play C, Am, F, and G you can play the chords to Stand By Me.
A minor (Am)
G (another voicing)
F (another voicing)
All the white notes of the piano keyboard will fit with these chords, which are after all made up from those notes!
The notes are
C D E F G A B C
These are also called the diatonic notes in the key of C, meaning that you only use the notes of the C major scale, and no black notes. If you start to improvise over the chords, my advice would be leave out notes B and F, as they are harder to get to fit.
These leaves you with a pentatonic or 5- note scale with the notes A C D E G A.
Probably the most widely used scale in world music.
Making it fun
Really, if you can't make this fun it's not going to happen. Mac users will have a free software called Garageband, which is very simple to use, but sounds great. If you have an electronic keyboard or piano, you can connect it to your Mac with a MIDI to USB lead - see my hub which explains how to do this. It's not technical, it's very easy to do. When you bought that Mac, you bought a very well equipped recording studio, but a lot of people don't even know they've got it!
Then you can play along with drum loops and different sounds, which is a lot of fun.
The table below shows all the chords in the key of C. All you do is play the C chord (C,E,G) and move it up the keyboard to your right one step at a time - in other words, slide the same shape up one note for Dm, up another one for Em, up another one for F, etc.
All these chords should be played with a bass note in your left hand, usually one octave below so when you move your hands they move in a parallel motion. Tip: don't take your fingers off the keyboard, just slide the shape along as much as possible.
All of the chords in C
G or G7