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How to work out chords on the piano

There is a simple mathematical trick to work out chords on the piano. This is great for major, minor, sevenths and all the other variations you can think of. It is just a matter of counting. Just follow these simple steps...

Make sure you know the names of all the notes on your keyboard. If you're not sure, take a look at the image below. This will help with the next steps.

octave

Also, it helps to understand what a semitone is. Basically, this is just the gap between two notes including all the black ones. If you find C, then 1 semitone up from C is C# or Db.

Working out a major chord

  1. Decide on the chord you want to play, for example C Major. Then find the key of C. This is the root note of the chord.

C-root

  1. Then count up 4 semitones from C to the next note, which should be E.

root-4

  1. Then count up 3 more semitones from E to the next note of the chord, which should be G.

e-to-g

  1. Play all the notes together. You are playing C Major.

  2. All major chords can be worked out using the same pattern, root + 4 + 3. Try playing D Major by doing the same.


Working out a minor chord

  1. Decide on the chord you want to play, for example C Minor. Then find the key of C. This is the root note of the chord.

C-root

  1. Then count up 3 semitones from C to the next note, which should be Eb.

c-minor-root-3

  1. Then count up 4 more semitones from Eb to the next note of the chord which should be G.

c-minor-eb-to-g

  1. Play all the notes together. You are playing C Minor. Try working out D minor using the same pattern.

  2. All minor chords can be worked out using the same pattern, root + 3 + 4.


As you can see, the major and minor chords are quite simple to work out. Just remember 4 + 3 = Major and 3 + 4 = Minor.

I also have a tutorial about How to work out 7th chords.