In this article we’re going to be discussing some tips for playing rock piano chords, an essential skill that is needed for all rock pianists. Knowing your rock piano chords helps you to quickly learn songs, transpose songs to new keys, write your own tunes, and find different “spellings” for the same chord. I’ll show you a few important tips for learning to play some essential rock piano chords in all 12 keys, and be sure to check out the full video lesson on rock piano chords, too!
Rock Piano Chords Tip #1: Build Major and Minor Triads
Have you ever heard people talk about how math and music are related? Well, whether you believe that or not there are a few “formulas” in music that are comparable to math. Here, I’ll show you a formula that will help you build a major and minor triad in any key – absolutely essential stuff as this is the bread-and-butter of rock piano chords.
In order to build a major triad, we need to find the first 5 notes of a major scale. Below are the first 5 notes of a C major scale.
Now let’s look at the “formula” for building the first 5 notes of a major scale. We call these notes scale degrees. The 1st scale degree is also called the root. In order to move from the root to the 2nd scale degree (C to D) we move up a whole-step. From the 2nd to 3rd, another whole-step. From the 3rd to 4th, a half-step. And from the 4th to 5th, a whole-step.
In order to build a major triad, simply play the root, 3rd, and 5th all at the same time.
And in order to turn this major triad into a minor triad, simply lower the 3rd degree a half-step.
Rock Piano Chords Tip #2: Learn the Inversions
Using the above formula you’ll be able to build all 12 major and minor triads. But there are other ways to play these chords. When the 1st scale degree (the root) is the lowest note in the chord, it is said that the chord is in root position. But what if we changed the order of these notes? Instead of the root being the lowest note, we could move the root up an octave so that the 3rd is the lowest note. This is called 1st inversion. And we could then move the 3rd up an octave so that the 5th is the lowest note. This is called 2nd inversions.
Rock Piano Chords Tip #3: Adding a 4th Note
This tip will teach you an easy way to beef up the sound of your chords. We’re going to add a 4th note to our triads by doubling the lowest note of the triad up the octave. For example, if we take our C major triad in root position (in which the ‘C’ is the lowest note) and double that ‘C’ an octave higher, we get the following chord:
We can double the lowest note an octave higher on all of our chords, and doing so will result in denser, bigger-sounding rock piano chords.