How Do You Read Piano Chords?


In order to be able to read piano chords, you need to know what the symbols mean. First though, if you're not sure what piano chords are, read what are piano chords.
If you know what chords are but need to understand them a bit better before learning about the symbols, read understanding piano chords and then come back to this page.


Piano chords are made up of symbols that stand for 3 or more notes. So, to read piano chords, you just need to know the symbols and what notes they stand for.

Most of the time the symbols are written the same way but some can be written differently depending on who’s doing the writing.


Here’s a list of what the chords are called. We’ll use the key of C. (These are the most common chords you’ll come across).

C ... Is a major chord. Notes: C E G.
cm... Is a minor chord. Notes: C Eb G
C7... Is a seventh chord. Notes: C E G Bb
CM7 or Cmaj7 ...Is a major 7th chord. Notes: C E G B
Cm7 ... is a minor 7th chord. Notes: C Eb G Bb
C4 or Csus or Csus4 ... Is a suspended chord. Notes: C F G
Csus7 ... Is a suspended 7th chord. Notes: C F G Bb
C6 ... Is a 6th chord. Notes: C E G A
C2 ... Is a 2nd chord. Notes: C D E G

Now, skip over this next part if you don’t know anything about key signatures. (Start back at “in order to read piano chords ...”)


If you know key signatures and what “raising” and “lowering” a note means, (lowering means to put the note lower by one semi-tone), then you can build a chord. The following list tells you what notes of a scale to play together to make a chord.

Major chord: the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of the scale.
Minor chord: 1st, lowered 3rd, and 5th notes of the scale.
7th chord: 1st, 3rd, 5th, and lowered 7th notes of the scale.
Major 7th chord: 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th notes of the scale.
Minor 7th chord: 1st, lowered 3rd, 5th, and lowered 7th notes of the scale.
Suspended chord: 1st, 4th, and 5th notes of the scale.
Suspended 7th chord: 1st, 4th, 5th, and lowered 7th notes of the scale.
6th chord: 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 6th notes of the scale.
2nd chord: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th notes of the scale.

Here’s an example. You know the key of A has 3 sharps. F#, C#, G#. So, when you make an A chord, the notes are A C# E. An am chord is A C E. We lowered the C# to a C. An A7 chord is A C# E G. (G# has been lowered to G).

Now that you understand a little bit more about chords, check out the video tutorial for a visual explanation.




In order to read piano chords, you can continue on doing 1 of 3 things.

1. Memorize individual chords. (Go the chord charts then).

2. Learn about key signatures so that you can learn more about chord theory.

3. Understand the theory behind the chords so that you know how they are made.

I recommend learning the theory behind chords. That way, you don’t always have to refer to a sheet of chords. You can figure out a chord no matter where you are. And it's not too difficult either. I have a page on chord theory you can check out.


If you really want to be able to play chords well and read piano chords without any problem, take an online course. We recommend Power Piano Chords. It will take you through the basics, advance you, and help you to read piano chords completely. And more importantly, it will teach you some great ways to play chords on the piano.



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