How To Learn & Play Piano Chords Quicker - Step-by-step Guide
Posted on June 4, 2018
Do you feel a little overwhelmed when learning piano chords? Remembering all those chords, names, fingerings and ways to play them? If you have ever been stuck in front of those allegedly quick guides to piano chords with hundreds of chord illustrations (like this one), you know the pain.
Wouldn't it be great to have a simple way to quickly learn chords and easily remember them?
Yes, it would be. This is why with Dodeka Music chords are easy to remember, quick to learn and simple to replicate in every tonality.
How come? It’s because with our innovative linear piano keyboard and alternative music notation, you learn your chords once and you know them in every tonality.
What do we mean by that? Let’s show it to you. But first things first. Let’s start with some basics about piano chords.
What’s a chord?
According to Wikipedia a chord is:
“any harmonic set of pitches consisting of two or more notes that are heard as if sounding simultaneously”
In other (more simple) words, a chord is a group of notes that is played simultaneously to produce a pleasing sound. There are many different chords, from two-note chords to seven-note chords, the most popular being the triads, that is, the ones including three notes.
So now that we know what a chord is, what about learning how to play one.
How to play a piano chord
As a rule of thumb, the left hand is usually in charge of playing chords, while the right one is busy with the melody. Yet, for some advanced musical accompaniment it’s not uncommon to see chords played with two hands. But, for now let’s keep it simple and say that you should play your chords with your left hand only.
Enough theory… let’s get serious and learn how to build the most common piano chord that every pianist should know: C major (usually indicated as C maj).
Free Piano Chords Chart
Learn all major and minor piano chords with our free pdf piano chords chart.
C Major Chord
A C major chord is a set of three notes: C, E, and G.
C Major Chord with Dodeka Music.
Not that difficult, right? Now thanks to the linear layout of the Dodeka keyboard, we can instantly play every major chord without much thinking. What do you have to do? Well, you only have to move all your fingers from one key and reproduce the same chord. Ta-da! You’ve got a K (C#) major chord. If you move them from two keys, you will play a D major chord and so on.
K (C#) major chord
You can play a D major chord by starting on the D key and reproducing the same fingering as the C major chord.
With this trick, you can virtually build and play all major chords. You’ve only got to learn one chord to know it in every tonality. But this is not only for major chords, it works with every single chord.
Want a proof? Let’s take another example: minor chords.
C Minor Chord
Not very different from the C major one, the C minor chord consists of the following three notes: C, T (D#), and G.
C Minor Chord on the Dodeka keyboard.
Now, if we want to play the A minor chord, what keys do we press? As shown with the C minor chord example, we know that we have to press the A note, then leave two empty keys, press the next key, leave three empty notes and then press the next key.
So, starting from the A key, here’s how it looks like. We've basically built an A minor chord without even knowing (or learning) the notes composing it.
A Minor Chord on the Dodeka keyboard.
As you can see it’s actually a combination of the notes A, C, and E. But, you don’t quite need to know that. When learning chords with Dodeka Music, you learn the chord structure and replicate it in every tonality using visual clues. Don't you think it's definitely much easier and quicker than learning twelve different combinations by heart?
Some real examples
To go a bit further, here’s a quick video of some more chords played on the Dodeka keyboard.
Unveiling the structure of music
Another great advantage of the Dodeka notation and its piano keyboard is the fact that they highlight the physical structure of music and harmony. Let us explain.
As we’ve just seen, major chords consist of three notes spaced by sets of four and three notes respectively. The minor chord triads is, in turn, spaced by sets of three and four notes respectively. Put differently, a major chord could therefore be defined as the sequence of 4/3, while the minor chord as 3/4. (Following this observation, we developed a numerical classification of all chords, which defines chords with regards to their notes intervals. Reach out to us if you want to learn more).
C major chord vs C minor chord: reverse structure
In such a light, these two chords are therefore the exact opposite. Nothing really new here, right? Almost every budding musician knows that major chords are the exact reverse of minor chords. The only difference though is this opposition is, for most musicians, only theoretical. Both the piano keyboard and the notation unintentionally hides such information, by either featuring an irregular keyboard layout or hiding a few notes on the staves.
On the opposite, with Dodeka the structure of chords - and by extrapolation the structure of music - is visually highlighted on both the piano keyboard and the notation. Such a property appears to give some insights on harmony and the effect a specific set of sounds produce on the human brain, as well as why we (as human) find it pleasing or not.
To sum up not only does Dodeka offer a quick and simple way to learn piano chords, but it also sheds light on some fascinating and elegant underlying elements about music and harmony. Every musician interested in understanding music at its core might find it useful to explore new facets of harmonics and acoustics.
** We are currently working on the Dodeka Music Library project, which seeks to translate as many sheet music as possible into the Dodeka notation. Check out our progress and get early access to the first ever Dodeka music library. **
Dodeka Music Newsletter
A monthly newsletters including guides, lessons, updates and tips about our alternative music notation and isomorphic keyboard to boost your musical creativity and expression.