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An Introduction to Piano Chords

piano chordsWhat exactly is a chord? If you’re a beginner and extremely overtired, your answer may be: “I couldn’t care less! Can’t this wait until tomorrow”? Pianolessons101 cares and wants you to know now, even if you’ve had a rough day. Once you understand chords, you will find that your tiredness melts away.

A chord is a combination of notes struck at the same time. If you strike three notes simultaneously, with the three notes being a particular distance apart from each other, you have a triad. The distance between the three notes will determine if the triad sounds happy (major chords), sad (minor chords) suspenseful (diminished) or mysterious (augmented). Of course, if you have manic depressive tendencies, all of the triads will either sound very happy or very sad (depending on the time of day and the last input of medication). One final note: the distance between notes is called an interval.

Piano chords supply harmony and texture to a piece of music. These subsidiary elements enhance and support the main melody. Seventh chords are four note chords that can be formed from any degree of a scale. A seventh chord is simply a triad with an added forth note overtop. The highest note (the one overtop the others) has the interval distance of a seventh in relation to the bottom note of the four note chord. That’s why the chord is called a seventh chord. A dominant seventh chord is a seventh chord starting on the fifth note or degree of a major or minor scale (dominant means the fifth degree of a major or minor scale).

Well, if you were tired before, that last paragraph probably has you seeing spots in front of your eyes. Breathe deeply, remain seated and take comfort in the fact that we’re not going to go into great detail about different types of intervals and seventh chords. This is, after all, a humble introduction, not a theory torture and brainwashing session.

Chords can be flipped, tossed and turned like pancakes. Another way of saying flipped in music is inverted. Triads have two inversions and seventh chords have three. A simple interval only has one inversion, just like a pancake.


Major Chords

Minor Chords

Dominant Chords

Diminished Chords


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