The Magic Of Piano Chords
Updated: May 25, 2021
In a previous story I wrote about the challenges of playing the piano. The main challenge is playing a different sequence with each hand. In this story I will try to explain in more detail how to meet this challenge in a beautiful and effective way.
This story is a practical guide. I will deliberately stay away from deep music theory and confusing terms. The whole goal is to show you how you can produce beautiful music by simply putting together the right melody and chords in a certain way.
Let’s start by listening. If you press on this link (listen here) you can hear a simple rendition of Piano Concerto №21 by Mozart, also familiar as the theme from the 1967 film Elvira Madigan.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could play this with both hands? All you will need is a piano or a keyboard and this story. Now, let’s begin!
We will start by making a few simple notations. It is much easier to mark the piano keys by letters so we will use this notation which is pretty standard:
To play the melody of the beginning of this piece simply play this sequence:
Try to play it at the same rhythm as the audio clip. It takes some practice but you can master it. The little underlines under the letters mark the rhythm, but you can ignore them for now, and simply use the spaces in between the letters as hints to help you play.
This melody is beautiful, but by itself, it may sound too simplistic and not sophisticated enough. This is where the magic of piano chords occurs. The chords are like the clothes which cover the body (the melody).
Chords are the basic method that is used by guitar players. On the piano, they are usually taught by using a combination of 3 keys played together. We will take a totally different approach, which is simple and works really well with almost any song or musical piece.
The beginning of the piece uses only two chords: The F chord and the C chord, and we will play them only with 3 fingers of the left hand: The pinky, the index (pointing) finger and the thumb. The diagram below explains where to play them and in what order.
So how do we put the melody and the chords together? This is where the magic happens. Take a look at the melody from above. This time it is coupled with chords that are added in the right place:
The top line is the melody, exactly as you practiced it before. The bottom line is the background, played simultaneously with chords. When you see the sign F┤ or F┴┤, simply repeat the 3-finger sequence of the chord!
The duration markings, ┤or ┴┤, identify how to match the chords with the melody. In the first 3 occurrences of the F chord, we play the first key of the chord together with the melody key above it and then the other two keys of the chord. On the 4th occurrence, we play the third key of the chord with the melody key above. On the first occurrence of the C chord, we play the first and third keys with the melody keys above, and the second key fits in between them.
One more tweak which is optional, once you master the rest: The @ sign which is attached to some of the chords simply means that after you play the three keys of the chord, as shown above, you go back to the middle key with your index finger. This keeps both the rhythm and the harmony!
Listen to the song a couple of times with the link (here it is again) and try to compare it with the printed sequence above. Then try to repeat it.
If you find this method simpler than sheet music, you may want to learn more about it. It is a new, innovative language called PENTA and it is explained here. By using PENTA, you can play almost any song or classical piece. Anyone who invests, in earnest, a couple of hours a week studying this method, will be able to play easy pieces with both hands within 6 months, and even reach prima-vista (play on first sight) within less than a year! All the learning materials are free, so Come on and join the fun!