Basic Piano Chords

Karen Frazier
Child playing piano

Knowing some basic piano chords can help boost your music theory knowledge and make you a better piano player. If you know chords well you can improvise on the piano or even play chord backups for songs using guitar tablature. Practice playing common chords with a printable chart you can place on the piano like sheet music.

Piano Chord Printable

This printable contains several basic piano chords, including major and minor chords for multiple key signatures, as well as major and minor seventh chords. The printable uses music notes and symbols on a piano staff. It also provides simple fingerings and shows you where each note of the chord is on the piano keys.

How to Print

The printable is a PDF file. In order to open it on your computer, you will need to download a PDF reader if you do not have one already. You can download Adobe's free PDF reader, Acrobat.

Once you have downloaded and installed the PDF reader, you will be able to view this printable using the following steps:

  1. Click on the thumbnail for the printable at the right.
  2. Select File-Print.
  3. The chart will print from your printer.

How to Read the Chords

While the chords are written in whole notes to be played all at once in a single chord, you can also play broken chords (also known as arpeggios) by starting at the root of the chord (the lowest note in the chord), and playing each note one at a time in sixteenth, eighth, or quarter notes. Each note of the chord is named in the "Chord" column.

Once you have learned the basic chords, you can also use them to accompany simple melodies.

Piano Keys

The document shows you a representation of a partial piano keyboard layout that has slightly more than one octave of piano keys, with the required notes to play each chord indicated by black or white dots on each key. You can play the chords with one hand or both, and you can play them in any octave of the piano. As written, the chords are played one octave below middle C and in middle C.

Fingerings

Fingerings are listed on the document in the Chord column next to the notations RH and LH where:

  • RH = right hand
  • LH = left hand

For each hand, number your fingers in successive order with your thumb being 1 and your pinkie being 5. Therefore, if a chord is listed as RH 1,3,5, it means to play the notes shown on the piano keys with your right hand using your thumb, middle finger, and pinkie.

Laying the Foundation

Chords and scales are the foundations of piano music. Practicing chords is fundamental to mastering the art of playing the piano well.

Basic Piano Chords