When playing major chords, it’s essential to first understand how intervals work. For instance, if your finger is at middle C and the next note up will be B (four half steps).
All major chords are constructed by layering up three notes called triads.
Major and minor keys
A basic major chord comprises three notes in any scale – its first, third and fifth notes – connected by one half step inversion (one black key or two white keys). You can construct this chord in any key by placing your thumb on its root note before moving your fingers up one black key (or two white keys) until reaching its second inversion (half step = one black key/two white keys).
Minor thirds are defined as notes three half steps below the tonic in any scale, making this rule applicable across any scale.
There are triads that add the sixth note of the scale; these are known as major six chords. There are also those which add nineths, known as major thirteenth chords (not to be confused with dominant thirteenths). More unusual categories include chords which blend minor and major scale notes together.
Major triads are the fundamental building block of chords used in many music styles. Although they may take various forms, major triads always contain three notes and their distance between two notes is known as an interval; for instance, between C key and C# there is half step.
Major 7 chords can be created by combining a major triad with the seventh note in any scale, which requires lowering both third and fifth tones by half steps. Augmented triads also exist and can be seen in rock, jazz and classical music pieces like All My Loving by The Beatles or Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel Waltz by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
To create a Major 7th chord, start by playing the root note of the scale, adding its seventh note an octave higher, then playing a C Major 7th chord as an example.
The major third is an interval formed of two notes that are separated by one whole step. It is one of the most widely-used intervals in music and can be found across a wide variety of chords; beginners often start out learning it first when starting piano lessons.
To create a major chord, start from any note in the scale and count up four half steps until reaching your third note – this will become the third chord note – then count three half steps until reaching the fifth note; play all of them together to form your major chord.
On occasion, you might see this chord written as C maj 7. This indicates that instead of using a minor third for topping off your chord, use a major seventh instead.
The perfect fifth (P5) is a musical interval consisting of seven semitones between two notes that is considered consonant; thus making it perfect in medieval music. Additionally, this interval forms part of a 5th chord.
To locate the perfect fifth on piano, start with C and count 1 (C#), 2 (D#), 3 (E), and 4 (G). Practice this technique until you can recognize these intervals by heart.
Use this method to count other intervals, such as major thirds, diminished sevenths and augmented sixths – although these intervals are less popular than perfect fifths; typically in major keys the distance between first and second notes in a scale makes up one perfect fifth.
Inversions are an effective way of making chords simpler to play. For instance, you could take a C Major chord (C-E-G), invert it by swapping out its fifth and third notes to create G minor, or you can invert major and minor chords by switching their third and fourth notes – creating suspension chords like Fadd4 or CminADD4.
As soon as you’ve learned these inversions on the piano, practice using them to memorize them and incorporate them into your songs. Remember that music is all about patterns; learning to recognize them on the keyboard will make playing songs much simpler while creating interesting chord progressions!