When learning to play the keyboard, you will notice that a lot of musical pieces and predominantly songs are based around certain chords. So if you do know some basic chords you can already play most pop songs. In fact, most popular songs are based around 4 simple chords that are often exactly the same as you can find out in the video below:

I have put together some basic chord theory for you, so that you can start playing along to your favourite songs and improvise further on these. I do hope this is helpful for a beginner; however, feel free to comment below if anything seems confusing or if you would like me to provide any additional information.

Scale

Most chords are based on a scale. A scale is an 8-note sequence that starts on the root note and ends on a root note. For example, if your scale starts on a C it would on end the C above etc. Basic scales are further divided into majors and minors. Majors have a bright, cheerful tone, whereas minors would have a more sombre, melancholic character. You can view all the notes on the keyboard and the scales they all fit into the chart below:

(Click on the picture to enlarge it)

Untitled design

Try to play a few of these scales by using the highlighted notes on your keyboard to try and understand how they work and the difference in sound between major and minor scales.

Building major and minor chords

When you are comfortable with your scales you can start building your basic chords. Typically, chords consist of three notes that include a root note, third and fifth. Let’s start with C major. The C major chord will consist of C, E and G which are 1st, 3rd and 5th notes on the C major scale. Your chord should look as pictured below:

C Major

You can always swap these notes around. This is known as inversion. For example of the first and second inversion of the C major chords see the below illustration:

C-Major-Chord-Inversions

The same principal applies for

All Major Chords:

all-major-chords

And All Minor Chords:

all-minor-chords

Similar to major and minor scales, major chords would again have a more uplifting character whereas minor chords would have a more sombre tone. All of this may seem confusing at first so I would recommend having a good play around with the variety of scales and chords. You will soon get used to them and recognise what notes each chord consists of and the way they sound so that you are able to play them without even thinking about it.

Adding extra notes to your chords

While a chord is by definition a group of at least 3 notes played simultaneously, you do not have to limit your chords to just those 3. You can always add an extra note to make your chords sound more complex. Typically, a 7th is the most popular 4-note chord, mostly used in jazz which always makes the piece sound a little more special and captivating. A good example of a piece that uses 7th chords is Hoagy Carmichael’s Star Dust:

So, how do you create a 7th chord? It’s very simple – take any of your basic chords and add a 7th note from the relevant scale. For example, in C major you would add a B to your C major chord which would look like this:

Cmaj7-chord

And the same again applies on the rest of your major and minor chords so there are plenty of options for you to get creative!

Of course, there are many more variations to chords and scales and you will of course pick all of that up slowly as you develop your playing skills. For a start, I do hope this blog helps you – just drop a comment below if you have any questions or feedback!

You may also be interested in:

Top 10 Online Piano Tutors

Top 5 Starter Keyboards of 2014

Buying A Keyboard: a Complete Guide

10 Reasons Why You Should Learn to Play a Musical Instrument 

About the author

Diana was Normans Piano & Strings specialist for a number of years. She is a singer songwriter, plays piano and speaks 3 languages. In her spare time, she enjoys travelling as well as blogging about anything.

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Comments

  • geoffrey ballance 03/09/2015 at 1:32 pm

    Hi Diana can you tell me what are the 4 chords

    Reply
    • Diana Stone 03/09/2015 at 2:46 pm

      Hi Geoffrey,

      Thanks for your comment. The 4 chords are C major, G major, A minor and F major – very simple and easy to play. 🙂

      Kind regards,

      Diana

      Reply