Learn All The Major Chords Right Here, Right Now!
Good morning! This is Duane, and I have a question for you: why not learn all 12 major chords in the next few minutes so that you’ll know them forever? If you don’t believe it’s possible, just stick with me for five or seven minutes, something like that, and you’ll see that it is indeed possible to learn those chords, to know what they are. Now, that doesn’t mean you’ll be good at playing them necessarily, but you’ll know what the chords are, and if you learn them well right now, you’ll know them forever. You never have to learn them again.
First of all, there’s 12 different major chords because there’s 12 different notes you can build a chord on. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. I don’t go on to C because that’s the same as that. In other words, if I build a chord on C, it’s the same as that, it’s just an octave higher. So there’s 12 different chords. Now you may think, “Well, how in the world am I going to remember 12 chords?” Well, watch, it’s easy.
The C Chord is every other note up from C—a root, a third, and a fifth. That’s the definition of a major chord. Take the root, third, and fifth of a major scale. So it’s all white, isn’t it? Now, go up 4 notes. 1, 2, 3, 4. That’s the F chord, and it’s all white, too. Now, go up 5 notes from C. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. That’s the G chord. It’s all white, too. Okay? So there’s 3 major chords that are all white, and only 3 major chords that are all white, so learn those well. C chord, the F chord, and the G chord. Now, by the way, they’re the C chord whether you turn upside-down or not. That’s the same chord, you see? If I take the bottom note off this chord and put it on top an octave higher, it’s the same chord. It’s just upside-down. If I take the bottom note and put it on top again, it’s the same chord, just upside-down. Okay? So don’t let that confuse you. It’s like if I picked you up and turned you upside-down, you’d still be the same person. You wouldn’t change from Suzy to Mary, right? You’d still be Suzy. You’d just be Suzy upside-down. So, the C chord is all white, the F chord is all white, and the G chord is all white. Okay? So there’s 3 chords that are all white.
Now, there’s 3 chords that have a black third. That’s the D chord—D, F sharp, and A. A black third. I won’t get into the reason right now. You can look up other of my videos about that. But if you take the root, third, and fifth of the D major scale, that’s what you get, a D major chord. E major chord is like that, too—white, black, white. And the A major chord is white, black, white. Okay, again, D, E, and A. They have a black third. Now let’s review before we go on. There’s 3 chords that are all white—C, F, and G. There’s 3 chords that have a black third—D, E, and A. Got that? Okay, you’re half-done right now. If you learn that, you know 6 chords, and you can know them for the rest of your life. Because that’s 6 of the 12 major chords right there. And by the way, if you just managed to those 6 chords, you’d go a long ways towards being able to play, okay? Because those are probably the most used. We just covered the most used chords.
The next set of 3 is D flat, and that has a black note on the bottom and the top, a black key on the bottom and top with a white key in between. D flat. Now there’s 3 that have that shape, now, there’s black, white, black: D, E flat, and A flat. Again, D flat, E flat, and A flat. Does that ring a bell? Yeah, the 3 chords with a black middle note, a black third, are D, E, and A. Isn’t there a government agency named the DEA? I think there is. Anyway, remember D, E, A are 3 chords that have a black third, while D flat, E flat, and A flat are 3 black… 3 chords… 3 major chords that have a black root and fifth with a white third. Okay, let’s review that much. There was 3 chords that are all white. What were they? C, F, and G. There’s 3 chords that had a black third. What were they? D, E, A. There’s 3 chords that have a black root and fifth. They’re not D, E, and A, but D flat, E flat, and A flat.
Now, you’re 75% done. You’ve learned 9 of the 12 major chords. Okay, let’s go on to the last 3. The last 3 are easy to understand because one is all black. G flat is all black—G flat, B flat, and D flat. And then there’s 2 left over, a B chord, which is white, black, black, and a B flat chord that is black, white, white. It’s kind of like the Aflac duck. White, black, black, black, white, white, black, white, white, black, white, white, white, black, black, black, white, white, okay? So the last 3 chords are G flat, which is all black, the B chord, which is white, black, black, and the B flat chord is B flat, D, and F, okay? Now that’s the 12 major chords. There’s no more. You’ll never have to learn any more.
Now, one explanation, though, that this will come up. That chord, D flat, it could be called C sharp because that note can be called D flat or C sharp, but it doesn’t make any difference in the sound. In other words, if I call that the D flat chord, it sounds the same as if I call it the C sharp chord. The word for that is enharmonic. There’s two names for the same pitch. And so this chord, in addition to be E flat, could also be called D sharp, and so on, okay? So there’s certain enharmonic work, but don’t let that destroy you, all right?
So, let’s review. 3 chords that are all white, what are they? C, F, and G. There’s 3 chords that have a black third. What are they? D, E, A. There’s 3 chords that have a black root and fifth: D flat, E flat, A flat. And there’s 3 chords left over. One’s all black, G flat, or F sharp, if you prefer, B, which is white, black, black, and B flat, which is black, white, white. Now, if you were my student, I would give you an assignment to play those over and over and over again. Back when I had a studio, and I used to teach, I used to have my students play that rapidly until they could play it in… One gal got I think 6 seconds, but most were around 10 seconds. In other words, C, F, G, D, E, A, D flat, E flat, A flat, G, B, B flat, okay? If you’ll drill on them that way in both hands, C, F, G, D, E, A, D flat, E flat, A flat, G flat, B, B flat. Or hands together, C, F, G, D, E, A, D flat, E flat, A flat, G flat, B, B flat. Now, that will take you a while to learn to get your fingers on the right notes of the song, but you can eventually do it.
And don’t forget that a chord is still a chord if you turn it upside-down. That’s still the C chord whether you play it that way, or that way, or that way. It’s also the C chord no matter how you break it up. If you break it up like this, it’s the C chord. That’s a C chord. I’m playing just nothing but C chord here, and nothing but the F chord here. C chord, G. You see what an advantage you have if you know your chords really, really well?
And so I urge you… I can’t make you because you’re not sitting on the bench alongside me, but I urge you to practice those major chords repeatedly until you have them down. And then you can build them forever. Okay, that’s it for today, and tomorrow, we’ll take up another piano tip of some sort, so if you enjoy this sort of thing, come on over to PlayPiano.com and sign up for our free series of piano tips. You’re going to love it! See you there. Bye-bye for now.