This guide has everything you need to know about piano chords.
For those who are new to piano, I will show you the essential chords and 2 simple rhythm patterns so that you can perform an actual piano accompaniment (Joy to Ode) in no time.
For those of intermediate level, I will help you learn the formulas to build advanced chords as well as provide exercises to master what you have learned here.
So, without further ado, let’s get started…
If you’re already know the basic, skip straight to the Chapter you want to learn by using the links in the table of content below.
By Neil Nguyen - Updated Sep. 10, 2020
This guide has over 5000 words.
Save these PDFs for later reference or practice.
This package has:
Piano Chords 101
Piano Chords 102
and Rhythm Pattern
With Practical Exercise
In this chapter, we will learn the basic of piano chords:
Let’s dive right in…
When listening to a song, you will recognize that underneath the singing words, there is a background instrumental. This background instrumental has several instruments which are primarily playing chords.
A chord is any harmonic set of pitches consisting of at least two (usually three or more) notes (also called "pitches") that are heard as if played simultaneously.
Chords are the basic building blocks of any song.
So, by learning chords first, you will be able to:
To know these 4 benefits clearly above, you can move to Chapter 3.
For now, just keep scrolling down and read to the end of this article to have sufficient understanding of chords.
For beginners, we need to learn how to build 2 types of chords:
Major Chord and Minor Chord
Just by knowing 2 types above, you will be able to play and accompany thousands of songs. Since almost
99-percent of popular songs use these 2 chords and their variations.
Neil's note: If you’re completely new to piano, I suggest you learn how to read piano notes and keys first. Then come back to this guide later.
Major chords are triad chords, which consist of 3 tones:
The Root - The Third - The Fifth
These 3 tones (pitches) above are picked from the major scale.
To memorize easily, we use the 4-3 rule to build a major chord.
The distance between the root and the third is 4 half steps. It’s an interval as called as a major third.
The distance between the third and the fifth is 3 half steps. It’s an interval as called as a minor third.
Now let’s assume that we are building C major chord.
First, we choose one C key on the keyboard as the root.
Then, from C, we count 4 half steps from the left to the right. It’s the third tone, E key.
Similarly, from E, we count 3 half steps from the left to the right. It’s the fifth tone, G key.
Combine together, we have the identity of C major chord is: C E G
Major chords tend to sound happy and cheerful.
A major chord is written on the sheet music by its root.
For example, C major is represented as C, G major is G.
Major Piano Chord List
Major Chord (Symbol): The Root - The Third - The Fifth
C major (C): C - E - G
C sharp major (C#): C# - E# - G#
D flat major (D♭): D♭- F - A♭
D major (D): D - F# - A
D sharp major (D#): D# - G - A#
E flat major (E♭): E♭ - G - B♭
E major (E): E - G# - B
F major (F): F - A - C
F sharp major (F#): F# - A# - C#
G flat major (G♭): G♭ - B♭ - D♭
G major (G): G - B - D
G sharp major (G#): G# - B# - D#
A flat major (A♭): A♭ - C - E♭
A major (A): A - C# - E
A sharp major (A#): A# - D - F
B flat major (B♭): B♭ - D - F
B major (B): B - D# - F#
B sharp major (B#): B# - E - G
Major Piano Chord Chart
Minor chords are also triad chords and have 3 tones:
The Root - The ♭Third - The Fifth
These 3 tones of a minor chord are picked from the minor scale.
To build a minor chord, we use the 3-4 rule which is like an up-side-down of a major chord.
Similarly, it means:
The distance between the root and the third is 3 half steps, as called as a minor third.
The distance between the third and the fifth is 4 half steps, as called as a major third.
Let’s give an example on how to build A minor chord:
First, we choose one A key on the keyboard as the root.
Then, from A, we count 3 half steps from the left to the right, we get the third tone, C key.
From C, we count 4 half steps from the left to the right, we have the fifth tone, E key.
Then we have the identity of A major chord is: A C E
Minor chords tend to sound sad and cool.
A minor chord is represented by its root and a letter “m” next to it.
For example: On the sheet music, A minor’s symbol is Am.
Sometimes, it is also represented by A min or A-
Minor Piano Chord List
Minor Chord (Symbol): The Root - The ♭Third - The Fifth
C minor (Cm): C - E♭ - G
C sharp minor (C#m): C# - E - G#
D flat minor (D♭m): D♭- E - A♭
D minor (Dm): D - F - A
D sharp minor (D#m): D# - F# - A#
E flat minor (E♭m): E♭ - G♭ - B♭
E minor (Em): E - G - B
F minor (Fm): F - A♭ - C
F sharp minor (F#m): F# - A - C#
G flat minor (G♭m): G♭ - A - D♭
G minor (Gm): G - B♭ - D
G sharp minor (G#m): G# - B - D#
A flat minor (A♭m): A♭ - B - E♭
A minor (Am): A - C - E
A sharp minor (A#m): A# - C# - F
B flat minor (B♭m): B♭ - D♭ - F
B minor (Bm): B - D - F#
B sharp minor (B#m): B#(C) - D# - G
Minor Piano Chord Chart
Inversion is just the different notes order of a chord.
We already know the identity of C major chord is: C – E – G (It’s also called as the root position)
C is the lowest note, E is the middle, and G is the highest.
To form the 1st inversion, we change the order:
E is the lowest note, G is the middle, and C is the highest.
So, the 1st inversion will be: E – G – C
Similarly, the order of the 2nd inversion will be: G – C – E
Inversion helps you change chords smoothly (which will be discussed in the exercise section)
Now, you know the formula to build major and minor chords. You also know the notes in a chord too.
So which hand to play chords and which finger to play specific keys on the piano keyboard?
The Answer: “It depends.”
Usually, if you accompany a song for a singer, you can choose to play chords either by only one hand or both. It depends on your skill and the complexity you want to play.
Otherwise, if you play solo, your right hand will play the melody and your left hand will play the chords.
Fingerings is about using the right fingers to press a key or a specific set of keys.
It’s crucial, especially for beginners!
If you use the right fingerings, you will have a solid foundation for the development of good technique. Thus, speeds up your process of learning any song.
So, keep in mind that you have to follow the required fingerings precisely in the beginning.
Below is a chart showing how each finger is labeled:
There is a rule of fingerings for beginners: Always try to place your fingers on the keyboard in the natural position.
The natural position of fingers placement on the keyboard
As you can see, each finger is placed on a white key, consecutively.
From the natural position, we have the common fingerings while playing triads:
Left hand: 5-3-1
Right hand: 1-3-5
We will learn how to use fingerings flexibly in the chapter 3.
In this chapter, we will learn how to build advanced chords.
An advanced chord is built from its corresponding major or minor chord by either adding or moving one or more tones.
So if you’re familiar with major and minor chords, you will learn and remember advanced chords with ease.
By applying new chords, the sound will have more flavor and color, thus, more sophisticated.
If you’re a beginner, you should click here to jump to chapter 3. Since there’s no need to learn advanced chords at this stage.
Seventh Chords are four-note chords, which are commonly used and have 6 variants.
The 3 most common are:
The 3 less common variants are:
A dominant seventh chord is a four-note chord, which consists of 4 tones:
The Root - The Third - The Fifth – The ♭Seventh
4-3-3 rule or: major chord + minor third
If we add the ♭7th tone to the major chord, we will have the corresponding dominant seventh chord.
“The root” + “7”
Example: G dominant seventh chord: G7
Dominant Seventh Piano Chord List
Dominant Seventh Chord (Symbol): The Root - The Third - The Fifth - The ♭Seventh
C dominant seventh (C7): C - E - G - B♭
C sharp dominant seventh (C#7): C# - E# - G# - B
D flat dominant seventh (D♭7): D♭- F - A♭ - B
D dominant seventh (D7): D - F# - A - C
D sharp dominant seventh (D#7): D# - G - A# - C#
E flat dominant seventh (E♭7): E♭ - G - B♭ - D♭
E dominant seventh (E7): E - G# - B - D
F dominant seventh (F7): F - A - C - E♭
F sharp dominant seventh (F#7): F# - A# - C# - E
G flat dominant seventh (G♭7): G♭ - B♭ - D♭ - E
G dominant seventh (G7): G - B - D - F
G sharp dominant seventh (G#7): G# - B# - D# - F#
A flat dominant seventh (A♭7): A♭ - C - E♭ - G♭
A dominant seventh (A7): A - C# - E - G
A sharp dominant seventh (A#7): A# - D - F - G#
B flat dominant seventh (B♭7): B♭ - D - F - A♭
B dominant seventh (B7): B - D# - F# - A
B sharp dominant seventh (B#7): B# - E - G - A#
Dominant Seventh Piano Chord Chart
A major seventh chord consist of 4 tones:
The Root - The Third - The Fifth – The Seventh
4-3-4 rule or: major chord + major third
If we add the 7th tone to the major chord, we will get the corresponding major seventh chord.
“The root” + “M7” or “The root” + “ma7” or “The root” + “maj7”
Example: F major seventh chord: FM7 or Fma7 or Fmaj7
Major Seventh Piano Chord List
Major Seventh Chord (Symbol): The Root - The Third - The Fifth - The Seventh
C major seventh (Cmaj7): C - E - G - B
C sharp major seventh (C#maj7): C# - F - G# - C
D flat major seventh (D♭maj7): D♭- F - A♭ - C
D major seventh (Dmaj7): D - F# - A - C#
D sharp major seventh (D#maj7): D# - G - A# - D
E flat major seventh (E♭maj7): E♭ - G - B♭ - D
E major seventh (Emaj7): E - G# - B - D#
F major seventh (Fmaj7): F - A - C - E
F sharp major seventh (F#maj7): F# - A# - C# - F
G flat major seventh (G♭maj7): G♭ - B♭ - D♭ - F
G major seventh (Gmaj7): G - B - D - F#
G sharp major seventh (G#maj7): G# - B# - D# - G
A flat major seventh (A♭maj7): A♭ - C - E♭ - G
A major seventh (Amaj7): A - C# - E - G#
A sharp major seventh (A#maj7): A# - D - F - A
B flat major seventh (B♭maj7): B♭ - D - F - A
B major seventh (Bmaj7): B - D# - F# - A#
B sharp major seventh (B#maj7): B# - E - G - B
Major Seventh Piano Chord Chart
A major seventh chord consist of 4 tones:
The Root - The Third♭ - The Fifth – The ♭Seventh
3-4-3 rule or: minor chord + minor third
From the minor chord, we add the ♭7th tone, we will get the corresponding minor seventh chord.
“The root” + “m7”
Example: A minor seventh chord: Am7
Minor Seventh Piano Chord List
Minor Seventh Chord (Symbol): The Root - The ♭Third - The Fifth - The ♭Seventh
C minor seventh (Cm7): C - E♭ - G - B♭
C sharp minor seventh (C#m7): C# - E - G# - B
D flat minor seventh (D♭m7): D♭- E - A♭ - B
D minor seventh (Dm7): D - F - A - C
D sharp minor seventh (D#m7): D# - F# - A# - C#
E flat minor seventh (E♭m7): E♭ - G♭ - B♭ - D♭
E minor seventh (Em7): E - G - B - D
F minor seventh (Fm7): F - A♭ - C - E♭
F sharp minor seventh (F#m7): F# - A - C# - E
G flat minor seventh (G♭m7): G♭ - A - D♭ - E
G minor seventh (Gm7): G - B♭ - D - F
G sharp minor seventh (G#m7): G# - B - D# - F#
A flat minor seventh (A♭m7): A♭ - B - E♭ - G♭
A minor seventh (Am7): A - C - E - G
A sharp minor seventh (A#m7): A# - C# - F - G#
B flat minor seventh (B♭m7): B♭ - D♭ - F - A♭
B minor seventh (Bm7): B - D - F# - A
B sharp minor seventh (B#m7): B#(C) - D# - G - A#
Minor Seventh Piano Chord Chart
“Dim” stands for “diminished”, which means all tones besides the root are flattened.
Dim chords are quite uncommon and are mainly used as a transition between two chords that don't have an obvious connection.
Diminished chords are triad chords, which consist of 3 tones:
The Root - The ♭Third - The ♭Fifth
3-3 rule: Each The distance between each tone is 3 half steps.
“The root” + “dim”
For example, C diminished chord: Cdim or C°
Diminished Piano Chord List
Diminished Chord (Symbol): The Root - The ♭Third - The ♭Fifth
C diminished (Cdim): C - E♭ - G♭
C sharp diminished (C#dim): C# - E - G
D flat diminished (D♭dim): D♭- E - G
D diminished (Ddim): D - F - G#
D sharp diminished (D#dim): D# - F# - A
E flat diminished (E♭dim): E♭ - G♭ - A
E diminished (Edim): E - G - A#
F diminished (Fdim): F - A♭ - B
F sharp diminished (F#dim): F# - A - C
G flat diminished (G♭dim): G♭ - A - C
G diminished (Gdim): G - B♭ - D♭
G sharp diminished (G#dim): G# - B - D
A flat diminished (A♭dim): A♭ - B - D
A diminished (Adim): A - C - D#
A sharp diminished (A#dim): A# - C# - E
B flat diminished (B♭dim): B♭ - D♭ - E
B diminished (Bdim): B - D - F
B sharp diminished (B#dim): B#(C) - D# - F#
Diminished Piano Chord Chart
A dominant seventh chord is a four-note chord, which consists of 4 tones:
The Root - The ♭Third - The ♭Fifth – The ♭♭Seventh
3-3-3 rule: Each The distance between each tone is 3 half steps.
“The root” + “dim7” or “The root”+ “°7”
Example C dim seventh chord: Cdim7 or C°7
Diminished Seventh Piano Chord List
Diminished Seventh Chord (Symbol): The Root - The ♭Third - The ♭Fifth - The ♭♭Seventh
C diminished seventh (Cdim7): C - E♭ - G♭ - A
C sharp diminished seventh (C#dim7): C# - E - G - A#
D flat diminished seventh (D♭dim7): D♭- E - G - B♭
D diminished seventh (Ddim7): D - F - G# - B
D sharp diminished seventh (D#dim7): D# - F# - A - C
E flat diminished seventh (E♭dim7): E♭ - G♭ - A - C
E diminished seventh (Edim7): E - G - A# - C#
F diminished seventh (Fdim7): F - A♭ - B - D
F sharp diminished seventh (F#dim7): F# - A - C - D#
G flat diminished seventh (G♭dim7): G♭ - A - C - E♭
G diminished seventh (Gdim7): G - B♭ - D♭ - E
G sharp diminished seventh (G#dim7): G# - B - D - F
A flat diminished seventh (A♭dim7): A♭ - B - D - F
A diminished seventh (Adim7): A - C - D# - F#
A sharp diminished seventh (A#dim7): A# - C# - E - G
B flat diminished seventh (B♭dim7): B♭ - D♭ - E - G
B diminished seventh (Bdim7): B - D - F - G#
B sharp diminished seventh (B#dim7): B#(C) - D# - F# - A
Diminished Seventh Piano Chord Chart
“Aug” stands for augmented. In a triad augmented, there are the root and 2 major thirds.
Aug chords are quite uncommon and their function is mostly to be placed between two chords that lack a distinct relationship.
Augmented chords are triad chords, which consist of 3 tones:
The Root – The Third – The #Fifth
4-4 rule: Each The distance between each tone is 4 half steps or 2 major thirds.
“The root” + aug or “The root” + “+”
For example, B augmented chord: Baug or B+
Augmented Piano Chord List
Augmented Chord (Symbol): The Root - The Third - The #Fifth
C augmented (Caug): C - E - G#
C sharp augmented (C#aug): C# - E# - A
D flat augmented (D♭aug): D♭- F - A
D augmented (Daug): D - F# - A#
D sharp augmented (D#aug): D# - G - B
E flat augmented (E♭aug): E♭ - G - B
E augmented (Eaug): E - G# - C
F augmented (Faug): F - A - C#
F sharp augmented (F#aug): F# - A# - D
G flat augmented (G♭aug): G♭ - B♭ - D
G augmented (Gaug): G - B - D#
G sharp augmented (G#aug): G# - C - E
A flat augmented (A♭aug): A♭ - C - E
A augmented (Aaug): A - C# - F
A sharp augmented (A#aug): A# - D - F#
B flat augmented (B♭aug): B♭ - D - G♭
B augmented (Baug): B - D# - G
B sharp augmented (B#aug): B# - E - G#
Augmented Piano Chord Chart
An augmented seventh chord is a four-note chord, which consists of 4 tones:
The Root – The Third – The #Fifth – The ♭Seventh
4-4-2 rule: Augmented seventh chord is an augmented chord extended with a minor seventh
“The root” + “aug7” or “The root” + “+7” or “The root” + “7#5”
For example, B augmented chord: Baug or B+
Augmented Seventh Piano Chord List
Augmented Seventh Chord (Symbol): The Root - The Third - The #Fifth - The ♭Seventh
C augmented seventh (Caug7): C - E - G# - B♭
C sharp augmented seventh (C#aug7): C# - F - A - B
D flat augmented seventh (D♭aug7): D♭- F - A - B
D augmented seventh (Daug7): D - F# - A# - C
D sharp augmented seventh (D#aug7): D# - G - B - C#
E flat augmented seventh (E♭aug7): E♭ - G - B - D♭
E augmented seventh (Eaug7): E - G# - C - D
F augmented seventh (Faug7): F - A - C# - D#
F sharp augmented seventh (F#aug7): F# - A# - D - E
G flat augmented seventh (G♭aug7): G♭ - B♭ - D - E
G augmented seventh (Gaug7): G - B - D# - F
G sharp augmented seventh (G#aug7): G# - C - E - F#
A flat augmented seventh (A♭aug7): A♭ - C - E - G♭
A augmented seventh (Aaug7): A - C# - F - G
A sharp augmented seventh (A#aug7): A# - D - F# - G#
B flat augmented seventh (B♭aug7): B♭ - D - G♭ - A♭
B augmented seventh (Baug7): B - D# - G - A
B sharp augmented seventh (B#aug7): B# - E - G# - A#
Augmented Seventh Piano Chord Chart
”Sus” stands for “suspension”.
A sus chord is formed by replacing the third in a major chord by either a major second or a perfect fourth.
If the third is replaced by a major second the chord name is sus2.
Otherwise, if it is replaced by a perfect fourth the chord name is sus4.
There are also extended suspended chords.
Sus2 chords are triad chords, which consist of 3 tones:
The Root – The Second – The Fifth
From the major chord, replaced the third by the major second, we will get the corresponding sus2 chord.
“The root” + “sus2”
For example, C sus2 chord: Csus2
Sus2 Piano Chord Chart
Sus4 chords are triad chords, which consist of 3 tones:
The Root – The Fourth – The Fifth
From the major chord, replaced the third by the perfect fourth, we will get the corresponding sus4 chord.
“The root” + “sus4”
For example, C sus4 chord: Csus4
Sus4 Piano Chord Chart
Click here to download the high-resolution copy of the chord chart above.
Seventh, ninth, eleventh and thirteenth chords are all extended chords.
The most common extended chord is the dominant seventh, that why we put it right in the beginning of this section.
A seventh dominant chord is a four-note chord in which the major triad is added with a minor third (3 half steps):
Major Triad + Minor Third = Seventh Dominant
A seventh dominant chord is extended with a major third to build a ninth chord:
Seventh Dominant + Major Third = Ninth
Major Triad + Minor Third + Major Third = Ninth
A minor third is added to a ninth chord to form an eleventh chord:
Ninth + Minor Third = Eleventh
Major Triad + Minor Third + Major Third + Minor Third = Eleventh
Finally, an eleventh chord is extended with a major third (4 half steps) to build a thirteenth chord:
Eleventh + Major Third = Thirteenth
Major Triad +Minor Third + Major Third + Minor Third + Major Third = Thirteenth
Let’s look at the comparison below of C, C7, C9, C11, and C13:
Add chords are major triads with an extra note added.
There are two main types: add9 and add2
A ninth tone in the scale is added to the major triad to build an add9 chord.
Similarly, an add2 chord is formed by a major triad plus a second tone in the scale.
Below is a comparison between C, Cadd9, and Cadd2:
Cadd9 and Caad2 have the same notes, the only difference is that D is added in other octaves.
We also have add4 and add11 chords, but they are much less common.
The theory is the same as add9 and add2 chords.
An altered chord is formed by altering a tone in it by a flattened or sharpened one.
For example, if we alter the fifth tone of a seventh dominant chord by a flattened one, we will have the corresponding dominant (5♭) seventh altered chord.
Let’s look at the comparison between C7, C7-5 (C7b5), and C7+5 (C7#5) :
The “b“ sometimes replaces “-“ and the “+” can be replaced by “#” as well.
Don’t have enough time and headspace to remember all the chords?
Save these PDFs for quick references.
This package has:
This is the most exciting chapter!
First, we will learn about the chord progression of a song.
Then, we will apply the 2 rhythm patterns to accompany Joy To Ode in no time.
Let’s get started.
A chord progression is a series of specific chords played in a sequence.
Every song has its own chord progression, and it usually repeats all over the song.
So why do we bother with chord progression?
From a practical point of view:
Let’s give an example:
Below is the chord progression of Canon in C:
This chord progression has 8 chords: C – G – Am – Em – F – C – F – G
And they keep repeating all over the song!
No matter the melody is, the chord progression is always the same. It’s the foundation of the song.
So, when learning a new piece, our work will be simple:
Next, we show you some popular chord progressions in jazz, blues, and R&B.
Or you can click here to jump right into the chord progression and rhythm pattern of Joy To Ode.
The rootless ii – V – I Jazz Chord Progression
This chord progression is used in almost every jazz song.
The term “rootless” means that you can choose any key as the root. However, you must keep the degree order if it: ii – V – I.
So, what is the meaning of the Roman numerals above?
Well, it’s a bit complex. You can click here to learn more about it.
For a simple explanation, look at the table below about the major and minor chord in the key of C:
So, in the key of C, we will have Dm7 – G7 – Cmaj7:
This 12 bar-blues is used in every single blues song ever and many Jazz songs.
Its rootless chord progression:
I7 – I7 – I7 – I7
IV7 – IV7 – I7 – I7
V7 – IV7 – I7 – I7
Below is the structure of it, written in the key of C:
#1: C7 C7 C7 C7
#2: F7 F7 C7 C7
#3: G7 F7 C7 C7
The rootless I – IV – V – iii chord progression
Written in the key of C, we will have Cmaj7 - Fmaj7 - Gmaj7 - Em9
Rhythm pattern is how you play notes in each chord.
There are unlimited ways to play chords, so are the number of rhythm patterns.
To keep this guide short and sweet, I will include just 2 rhythm patterns. Please notice that you can apply these 2 types to accompany thousands of songs.
Also, to help you easily comprehend the concepts, I will use the song Joy to Ode as the example. It was written in the key of C with the simplest chord progression:
#1: C G Am C G
#2: C G Am G C
#3: G C G C Dm E D G
#4: C G Am C G
(#4 is the same as #1)
In the video above, I recorded the melody at 100 beats per minute. We will use it as a “singer”.
Now, let’s find out how to accompany that melody.
This is probably the most basic rhythm pattern when it comes to accompaniment.
Your job is just to remember the chord progression and hit the right chord at the right note!
If you use your left hand to play chords, it will be like this:
And here’s how the right hand plays chords:
An experienced player often starts a song by playing chords first like the videos above.
Since the first step is just to remember the chord progression and when to press chords.
After familiarizing with the chord progression and melody, we can use other rhythm patterns.
Let’s discover the second rhythm pattern!
This pattern is a bit more complex than the first one.
Let’s take a look at the video below:
As you can see in the video, your left hand will play the root notes, and your right hand plays triads.
The durations of both hands are equal:
Lots of songs use the exact rhythm pattern!
Click here to download the sheet music of the 4 versions above for later practice.
That’s it for my ultimate piano chords guide.
And now I’d like to hear from you:
Do you have any further questions about piano chords or about this guide?
Or maybe you have a cool tip that I didn’t include here.
Either way, let me know by leaving a comment right below.
Piano Chord Finder
Piano Chord Exercise
Intermediate level: http://pianochordsonline.com/2016/11/16/piano-chord-exercises/
Develop your technique: https://www.true-piano-lessons.com/piano-exercises.html
Chord construction https://www.musictheory.net/exercises/chord-construction
Chord identification: https://www.musictheory.net/exercises/chord
Major chord quiz: https://www.sporcle.com/games/HappyWife/piano-chords-major-keys
Chord diagram quiz (with variant chords): http://www.actionquiz.com/piano-chord-diagrams-1-quiz/