Chords are a good place to start because chords are so applicable to today’s songs. If you want to learn any popular song, you are going to be using chords. One thing I have noticed in my career is that the more you know about chords, the better you can play them.
What I have done here, is listed some tips that you can apply to gain a very thorough knowledge and playing ability of chords. To get the fullness of this post you may have to do some research on your own, but consider this an overview. Here we go:
- Learn how to build triads. One of the greatest things you can do for yourself is to learn about the triad. Now if you want to know a good place to find explanations, you can go to these links (Here) (Here). After you have done your research on what a triad is, it is time to “spell” them. This just means that you are going to take some particular chords and write them out on sheet music. I won’t go into why this important here but you should spend some time doing this. You can download your own staff paper at www.blanksheetmusic.net Try out this chord calculator as well.
- Learn to Play Them With Both Hands. Once you learn how to form triads, it is important to build the coordination with both hands. I will tell you that most of the time, us people who use chords a lot usually play the chord with the right hand and a bass line or pattern with the left. This is not a rule, just typical.
- Learn A Song. One of the easiest ways to learn chords is just to learn a song. A lot of times, you can find free chord charts online. It is also worthwhile to invest in sheet music from a store like www.musicnotes.com. I would also recommend as you are learning your song, go back to step 1 and write out the chords in root position form. (Find out more about Root Position here).
- Roman Numerals. It is really important to be able to associate Roman Numerals to each chord in a key. Let me explain what I mean. Every note in the major scale has a triad chord that goes with it. Each one of these chords has a Roman Numeral that also is assigned to it. What you want to do is to be able to identify the I(one) chord in any song. For example, in the key of C, C is I which would make G the numeral V(Five) and so forth. This is explained in a couple of places. (Here) and (Here).
- Learn Scales. It always comes back to scales for me doesn’t it. Now I have done a lot of posts on scales so I won’t go deep here. Because the scale is the foundation of all chords, it is obviously important to learn your scales so that you can have a background understanding of chords. I would suggest starting with Major Scales. If you are a pianist, I have a great pdf that you can download for free to get you started. (Click Here) Besides being able to play the scales you want to be able to write these out as well.
- Learn Arpeggios. You may not be to sure what an arpeggio is. Well, an arpeggio is a broken chord. This means that using a particular fingering and technique, you play one note of the chord at a time. Typically this happens from bottom to top and then back to the bottom. This will help you understand each chord more fully.
- Construct Chords. There is an exercise at www.teoria.com that allows you to build chords based on the root of the chord. It might ask you to build a G major chord on a G. This will give you lots of practice. Here is the link for the exercise: Click Here If you are new at this, start with the default settings. You can add other chord types and inversions later.
- Inversions. Now I will talk about something that gets overlooked very often. It seems to be unimportant to most people. While understand the reasoning that “inversions” are unimportant I do disagree. I am all about context and how the study on one concept can enlighten you in the broader context. If you want to understand chords and how they work, you should definitely spend some time on inversions. I won’t go deep here because I already have some posts about inversions. So here is a link to a post of mine. Here is a link that to a presentation on inversions: Click Here
- Major or Minor. Understanding the difference between Major Chords and Minor Chords is important. The difference changes the function of the chord as well as the sound. The difference really lies in the third of the chord. There are other types of triads that will be important to learn as well. Here is where you can find a nice explanation of the types of triads.
- Intervals. This one is last but NOT least. You can’t understand chord effectively unless you understand intervals. This one is very related to scales. Again, I have covered intervals in the past so I will simply give you a couple of links. Here is a link to understanding intervals in a generic sense: Click Here Now here is a link to understanding specific intervals: Click Here And finally, here is my post called: Why Every Musician Needs Intervals and How To Find Them