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What Is a Piano Chord?

Emily Espinoza
Emily Espinoza

A piano chord is a set of notes that sound harmonious or pleasing when played on the piano together. Piano chords are combined together by composers and song writers to create music for the piano and to give music its characteristic "feeling" or recognizable style. Triads are some of the most common chords and are made by combining three notes of the scale. Chords can be altered by making slight changes to create a chord that is major, minor, or inverted. Seventh chords add a note to the basic triad and result in a different type of sound.

The harmony that is heard in music of all types results from the use of chords, and a piano chord is used to create harmonies in piano music. Each possible key that piano music can be played in has its own 12 note scale. Notes in that scale are combined in different ways to make different types of chords. These combinations consist of at least three notes but can contain several more notes as well. Chords give music its tonality, and most genres have certain chords that are used often and create the recognizable sound of the style.

Piano chords are used to create harmonies in piano music.
Piano chords are used to create harmonies in piano music.

Triads are the most basic chords and contain the first, third, and fifth notes of a scale. This type of piano chord can be played as a major or minor chord, with the third note being flatted to create a minor chord. The first note is usually the lowest of the three notes, but a triad chord can also be inverted by making the third or fifth note the lowest on the piano. For example, a C major chord is made by playing the C, E, and G notes of a key with the C being the lowest note. If the lowest note of the chord, according to position on the piano keys, is E but it is still combined with a C and a G, the chord is an inverted C major chord.

Different types of sound are also created in a piano chord by adding additional notes to the basic triad chord combination. The seventh note of a scale might be added to the notes played in a triad to make a piano chord called a seventh. The addition of each note makes the sound more complex and gives it a slightly different feeling.

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    • Piano chords are used to create harmonies in piano music.
      By: Andrew Hyde
      Piano chords are used to create harmonies in piano music.