5 Minute Piano Lessons: How to Play Chords

Photo by Mike Hulsebus

Remember, chords are made of intervals stacked on top of each other.  Most beautiful chords are intervals of thirds.  Last lesson we learned of what makes a C Major chord.  Now we will learn how to play it properly.

Pesky little 4 finger

Unless you’ve been practicing the C Major scale quite frequently, your 4 finger (ring finger) is still quite weak.  It must be strengthened in order to play your piano well!  Do not get in the habit of avoiding this now.  Practice your scales, strengthen all your fingers.  In order to play a C Major chord you will need to have the 4 finger strong enough so that it doesn’t get in the way.

The C Major chord uses fingers, 1, 3, and 5.  When playing the 5, your 4 finger will want to join in.  Be firm with it now.  You are the boss of your hands!

Perfect fifths

We already discussed how the C Major chord is made of thirds stacked on top of each other (C/E on top of E/G).  The interval that surrounds this chord is called a perfect fifth.  With your right hand in C position play and count up from C to G (C is number one).  Now play C and G at the same time using your 1 and 5 finger.  This is the perfect fifth that surrounds the C Major chord, named such because it is five notes apart.

Exercise 1

Play and hold the C/G perfect fifth (using your 1 and 5 finger) for two slow seconds.  Now add in the 3 finger and hold it out for another two slow seconds. Congratulations you’ve just played a C Major chord.

Play this with both hands in C position.  First do it with your left hand (be sure the 5 finger, pinky, is on C) and than your right (thumb on C), then play both hands together.

C/G held for two seconds, add the 3 finger for another two seconds.

After you have this down, play all three fingers of the chord (1,3,5) on your right hand, then your left (5,3,1).  Now play both C Major chords at the same time.

If you are still having trouble playing the C Major chord don’t fret, move on to exercise 2.  It will be easier to play.

Exercise 2

We are now going to learn the C suspended chord.  It sounds harder than it is… trust me.

With your R.H. in C position play all three of these notes at the same time: C, D, and G.  Check your fingering!  It should be 1,2, and 5.

You have just played what is called the Csus2 chord or the C2 chord (C suspended 2).  The 2 stands for the distance between C and D, which is the interval of a second.

With your L.H. in C position, pinky on C, play all three of these notes at the same time: C, F, and G.  Check your fingering!  It should be 5,2, and 1.

You have just played the Csus4 chord or the C4 chord (C suspended 4).  My, is that explosive!  The 4 stands for the distance between the C and F (fingering is 5 and 2) which is the interval of a fourth.

The sus chords are easier to play than it is to explain.

For practice

Play exercises 1 and 2 for the next five days.  You will be amazed at how well you can play exercise 1 by the end!  Practice makes everything easier!

Other piano lessons to peruse at your leisure

Happy piano playing!

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