How to Teach Chords on a Piano

Teaching piano to students can be a rewarding way to spend your time. When it comes time to teach students how to play chords, there are several ways to do this. By following a step-by-step process, you can make sure that the students are not just imitating the teacher, but actually are learning how to play the chords on their own.

Step 1: Teach students the names of the notes on the piano.

Step 2: Show students the location of the middle C, which always is the white key to the left of the two black keys. Middle C is in the center of the piano.

Step 3: Count four half steps from middle C, which is the next note in a major chord.

Step 4: Instruct students to play middle C and the note that is four half-steps from middle C, which is called an interval.

Step 5: Ask students if they know what the name of the note that is four half steps above middle C. Tell them it is an E, if they don't know and can't figure it out.

Step 6: Tell them to play one more note to play a chord. Ask them to find the notes three half steps above E.

Step 7: Instruct them to play the three notes simultaneously, which is a major chord.

Step 8: Tell the students that they can play any major chord on the piano if they follow these steps. All major chords comprise four half steps between the bottom two pitches and three between the top two pitches.

Major chords comprise an interval of four half steps on the bottom and three half steps on the top. Minor chords are the opposite of major chords. To find a minor chord, you must have three half steps on the bottom and four half steps on top. Once they play one chord, ask them to play several others. Give them the starting pitch only, which helps them learn the material. Teach students that a half step is simply the next closest key on the piano, which could be white or black.

Let students figure out the chords as much as possible on their own to increase the level of understanding. Provide instructions, and only show them how to do it if they are too confused to get started.


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