Piano chords, or any chord for that matter, are formed by combining two or more scale tones (notes). You now know the tones (notes) that comprise all 12 major scales and you can play these scales smoothly (not necessarily quickly…yet!). It is now time to apply this knowledge and begin combining the scale tones to form chords. You may also see this referred to as combining two or more intervals (if you are not familiar with this term go to major scales for an explanation). The simplest and most common type of piano chords is called the triad.
As the name implies a triad is composed of 3 notes from the major scale. We shall begin with the major triad. A major triad consists of the 1st, 3rd, and 5th tones (notes) of a major scale. You will also see this referred to as the root (1st), major third (3rd), and perfect fifth (5th). So, based upon this C major chords would consist of the notes C, E, and G of the C major scale. The symbols for a major triad are Major, M, or Maj. Whenever you see these names or symbols following a piano note (C, D, Eb, F#, etc.) you know it is referring to major triad chords. Or if you are just given the note (C, D, etc.) it is inferred to be a major triad.
If you lower the 3rd tone one half step it becomes a minor triad. So, minor triad chords are the 1st, b3rd, and 5th tones (notes) of a major scale. The b3rd is the symbol for “flatted 3rd”. As stated this means the 3rd tone (note) of the major scale is lowered one half step. You will also see this referred to as root (1st), minor third (b3rd), and perfect fifth (5th).
So, based upon this a C minor chord would consist of the notes C, Eb, and G. The symbols for a minor triad are minor, m, min. or -. Whenever you see these names or symbols following a piano note (C, D, Eb, F#, etc.) you know it is referring to minor triad chords.
Now, when you practice these major chords, I recommend you form them using the 1st, 3rd, and 5th fingers of your right hand. Thumb (1st) for the root note, middle finger (3rd) for the major third note, and pinky (5th) for the perfect fifth note. Your left hand will form these chords using the 1st, 3rd, and 5th fingers numbering system also. But the pinky (5th) will play the root note, middle finger (3rd) for the major third note, and thumb (1st) will play the perfect fifth note.
You can view major, minor, and a host of other chords on both the piano keyboard and there corresponding location on sheet music (treble and bass clef) using our virtual piano keyboard below. All you have to do is select the chord name (C, Eb, F, Ab, F#, etc.) and then select type of chord (major,minor, etc.). The chord will be highlighted for you.
Major 7th and minor 7th chords – Rules for combining notes to form major 7th and minor 7th piano chords.
Dominant 7th chords – Rules for combining notes to form dominant 7th piano chords.