As a pianist, it’s essential to develop and master fundamental chords as part of music composition.
Example: the iconic Beatles tune “Let It Be” opens with a C major chord to convey happiness and lightness.
All major chords follow the same formula, simply with different notes arranged differently. Our Chord Poster and Circle of Fifths lesson provides more details.
Triads form the backbone of many chord progressions in Western music. Each major piano chord consists of the first, third and fifth notes from any particular scale (for instance C major is C-E-G). Furthermore, any two of these notes separated by four half steps or two full steps are separated by a major interval.
To practice triads, begin by blocking and descending one octave at a moderate tempo, and eventually work your way up to playing them at their regular speeds.
To create diminished seventh chords, begin by taking a minor triad and lowering its fifth by double-flat (commonly known as flat five). This creates a sound that is dramatic yet unresolved – commonly written as Cdim or Cdeg; there are 12 diminished triad chords altogether that add melancholic layers, often used in jazz settings.
Sus Chords can add extra tension and depth to your piano chords. They consist of major chords with their third replaced with either a 2nd or (more commonly) 4th note; this creates an ethereal, suspended feel to each chord.
Sus4 and sus2 chords are among the most frequently encountered jazz chords, often used as substitutes for V7 chords in order to form 9sus chords.
Formula for sus chords is simple – take any major chord and switch out its third with either its second or fourth inversion of the scale. When written as sus without numbers after it, this usually indicates sus4; otherwise it signifies sus2. Sus chords often delay the final resolution in a progression by delaying its resolution back towards tonic chords – this can create tension or drama, but can become dangerous if they don’t resolve correctly back towards tonic chords as expected.
Major 7th Chord
Are you looking to expand your knowledge beyond basic triads? Major 7th chords could be just what’s needed. These chords are commonplace in advanced music such as jazz and blues pieces; their construction involves adding a major seventh to the root note (Cmaj7(b), for instance). Although more dissonant than dominant seventh chords, major 7ths still offer great jazz sound effects that can enhance melodies nicely.
To locate this chord, look at the letters above the musical staff. Capital letters mean to play the note below it; for instance if it says C/G then play a C chord with G as its bass note. Alternatively you could count semitones to determine your level – four semitones from C equals F-sharp; three more makes B; one more means A.
Minor 7th Chord
By adding the seventh note to a triad, a four-note chord known as a tetrachord can be created. This adds richness while softening the “sad” sound of minor chords to create something more reflective than dark; these types of chords can often be heard in Romantic-era pieces, jazz music and modern piano ballads.
The next chord we will explore is the half-diminished seventh. While this chord can sound dissonant when used incorrectly, when used effectively it can add tension and drama to your harmonies. To create this chord simply take a minor 7th chord and flatten out its fifth by half steps for Cm7b5 or -Cm7 chord. You’ll often see this chord used in blues music as well as jazz. Although difficult to learn it can add characterful flourishes to songs!