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How To Read Piano Chords

Updated on May 9, 2014

At first glance, piano chords may seem confusing and hard to understand, especially for beginners. But chords are not too complicated, they just take a bit of practice and playing around to grasp them.

When learning to play piano, understanding chords is important. For many, they are the easiest way to enhance their playing skills. They will certainly make the process of learning a rewarding and enjoying experience.

Reading Piano Chords

In order to understand chords you must know what they are. So what is a chord? A chord is a combination of three or more notes played together. It's a group of notes - usually 3 or 4.

If you want to read chords, you must understand what all the letters, numbers and symbols mean. You have to understand how chords are constructed and what different types of chords there are.

Chords have to do with scales. You can learn any chord, if you know the scale. The letters and numbers that the chords are labelled with tell you what notes to play.

All chords have roots in a specific note. The first letter in the chord is always the root note. What comes next (a letter or a number - or both) tells you what notes to build on top of the root note.

Let us look at an example. We will use the key of C. Here are some of the most common chords:

  • C = A major chord. Notes: C E G (the 1st, 3rd, and 5th note of the scale)
  • cm = A minor chord. Notes: C Eb G (the 1st, lowered 3rd, and 5th note of the scale). The small "m" means it's a minor chord.
  • C7 = A seventh chord. Notes: C E G Bb
  • CM7 or Cmaj7 = A major 7th chord. Notes: C E G B
  • Cm7 or Cmin7 = A minor 7th chord. Notes: C Eb G Bb
  • C4 or Csus = A suspended chord. Notes: C F G

There are more, but we'll stop here for now. For beginners it's best to start learning major and minor chords. They are easy and will get you far. They are built from triads which consist of a root, a third and a fifth. The root being the root note, the third being the note a third above it, and the fifth being the note that is a fifth above the root. In general, to build a major chord take the 1st, 3rd, and 5th note of the major scale that starts on the root of the chord.

Here is a list of the most basic major and minor chords:

Basic major and minor piano chords
Basic major and minor piano chords


To become a complete, all-around pianist, check out Learn & Master Piano:


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    • profile image

      Ghost Producer 

      9 years ago

      This is a really good hub thank you very much

      Please make more on music theory if you can

    • KevCC profile image


      11 years ago

      Very helpful ,thanks.


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