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Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 1

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Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 2

Professional Piano Chords


for
Everyday Pianists

Published by:

Bill Romer
9859 Hedgebrook Lane
St. Louis, MO 63126
USA

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer. All rights are reserved. No


part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any
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Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 3

Disclaimer

This book has been written to provide information to help you play piano
chords like a professional. Every effort has been made to make this book as
complete and accurate as possible. However, there may be mistakes in
typography or content. Also, this book contains information on professional
piano chords only up to the publishing date. Therefore, this report should
be used as a guide – not as the ultimate source of piano chord information.

The purpose of this book is to educate. The author and publisher does not
warrant that the information contained in this book is fully complete and
shall not be responsible for any errors or omissions. The author and
publisher shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or
entity with respect to any loss or damage caused or alleged to be caused
directly or indirectly by this book.

If you do not wish to be bound by the above, please return this book for a
full refund.

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 4

Message From The Author

Hello, I'm Bill Romer and I've been playing


piano for as long as I can remember –
probably since I was about 4 years old. My
earliest memories at the piano are of my
Mother teaching me how to read sheet
music and sitting for hours playing
through stacks of her old music

I took piano lessons briefly while I was in


elementary school, but since I already
knew how to play sheet music, learning the
basics was really boring, so I quit.

Fifteen years later, after finishing school


and starting life out on my own, I decided
to study jazz piano, and it was the best
decision I could have made. It helped me
fill in a lot of theory I had never studied,
and I could finally just sit down at the
piano and play whatever I wanted,
whenever I wanted. I learned all my chords
and learned to improvise, too. It was great!

These days, I play at dueling piano bars,


weddings, funerals, church services,
parties and other events and add new
songs to my repertoire every day. I still love
to play.

Once I learned those magical piano chords


that took my playing to the next level,
playing piano became even more fun. I
hope you have the same experience, with
the help of this guide.

Bill Romer
PianoFast.com

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 5

Contents

Introduction 8
What Chords Do 8
How Do We Make Chords Sound Good 8
This Is A Practical Guide 9
How To Use This Guide 10
How To Read Music 11

Major Chords 13
How To Build A Major Chord 13
Inversions 14
Major Chord Chart 15

Minor Chords 16
How To Build A Minor Chord 16
Minor Inversions 17
Minor Chord Chart 18
Dominant 7th Chords 19
How To Build A 7th Chord 19
Inversions 20
Dominant 7th Chord Chart 21

The ii – V7 – I Chord Progression 22


Voice Leading 22
Advanced Practice 23
Let's Play A Song 24
Where To Play Melody And Chords 25
Static and Dynamic Chords 26
“O Christmas Tree” Voice Leading 26

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 6

“O Christmas Tree” Chords 27

Make It Better With Bass 28


Adding A Bass Line 28

Adding 7th Chords 30


Build A Major 7th Chord 30
Inversions 30
Major 7th Chord Chart 31
Build A Minor 7th Chord 32
Inversions 32
Minor 7th Chord Chart 33
Rules For Adding 7th Chords 34
Voicing “O Christmas Tree” 34
Adding 9th Chords 35
Build A Major 9th Chord 35
Inversions 35
Major 9th Chord Chart 36
Build a Minor 9th Chord 37
Inversions 37
Minor 9th Chord Chart 38
Build A 9th Chord 39
Inversions 39
9th Chord Chart 40
Rules For Adding 9th Chords 41
Voicing “O Christmas Tree” 41
Adding 13th Chords 42
Build A 13th Chord 42
Inversions 43
13th Chord Chart 44

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Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 7

Rules For Adding 13th Chords 45


Voicing “O Christmas Tree” 45

Adding b9 Chords 46
Build A b9 Chord 46
Inversions 46
(b9) Chord Chart 47
Rules For Adding b9 Chords 48
Voicing “O Christmas Tree” 48

Adding Augmented Chords 49


Build An Augmented Chord 49
Inversions 49
Augmented Chord Chart 50
Voicing “O Christmas Tree” 51
Adding Diminished Chords 52
Build A Diminished Chord 52
Inversions 52
Diminished Chord Chart 53
Voicing “O Christmas Tree” 54

Adding A Tritone Chord Substitution 55


Other Chords 56
Open Chord Voicings 57
The sus Chord 59
Build A Sus Chord 59
Sus Chord Chart 60

Conclusion 61
Resources 62

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 8

Introduction
Chords are one of those semi-mysterious aspects of playing the piano that
tend to confuse and scare a lot of people. Everyone wants their playing to
sound “nice” and “professional” – whatever that means – and piano chords
are a large part of that sound, whether it's gospel, jazz, country, pop, or
any other style of piano.

I believe in a kind of “immersion style” of teaching piano – just start playing


and you'll learn as you go. That's how I learned, and that's how some of the
best courses teach people to speak a new language.

I think learning to play the piano should be approached the same way, and
that's why I wrote this guide – to get you playing the chords that sound
“nice” and “professional” and to get you seeking out more information on
your own.

What Chords Do

On the piano, chords are the foundation of any good piece of music. They
provide the foundation upon which the melody is built and varied, and they
provide a framework for improvisation, whenever it's called for.

I think of chords as a kind of “filter” on the universe of musical


possibilities. We're restricted to 88 keys on the traditional piano, but we
restrict those keys even more with chords, and we can evoke certain
emotions (in most people) just by playing the right chords.

But for many people, the question remains...

How Do We Make Chords Sound Good?

Of course, in music, as in all arts, “good” is a relative and sometimes very


personal, subjective term. However, there are certain chords which are
widely accepted as sounding “professional” and which are played by top
pianists all over the world.

Making chords sound “good” also depends on where you play them on the
piano keyboard, the voicings you use, the positions of the notes on the
piano keyboard, and any alterations you make to the chords. We'll get just
enough into those topics in this guide to make you sound awesome!

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 9

This widely accepted interpretation of “nice chords” can be learned very


quickly, which is fortunate for us, and which is, once again, why I wrote
this guide.

This Is A Practical Guide

As I mentioned earlier, I believe in a kind of “immersion” approach to


learning the piano, so I figured the best way to introduce and reinforce
some very common chords and progressions would be to take a simple,
flexible song, and work our way through it.

That song is “O Christmas Tree,” and it has 6 very simple chords, which we
will be looking at in great depth. From these chords and this song, we'll be
able to see some of the most common chord progressions for the piano and
learn to make them sound really good.

I won't go into exhaustive depth on everything, but I'll try my best to give
you just enough information to get you playing something nice and
(hopefully) motivate you to continue your study in certain areas (or get
another one of these guides, once they're available ;-).

I think learning to play music should be like learning to speak a foreign


language. The most successful teaching approaches to language just start
you in with conversations immediately, filling in details as you go along.

So it should be with music, in my opinion.

If you follow the simple advice in this guide, I guarantee you will be
impressing your friends and family with your new, professional playing
VERY soon!

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 10

How To Use This Guide

First of all, in case you're not familiar with finger numbering, take a
moment to look at these pictures of a left and right hand, with numbers on
the fingers. I will occasionally refer to a finger number in this guide, just
because it's an easy way to refer to specific fingers. So, here are the
standard numbers I'll be referring to.

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 11

The key to getting the most out of this guide is to just learn the melody and
chords necessary for our practice song, “O Christmas Tree.”

DON'T get all caught up in learning every possible chord, alteration,


voicing, etc.

Just take things one step at a time (which is how I designed this guide),
and congratulate yourself for every improvement you make – you'll be
improving quickly, I can tell you that!

How To Read Music

I'm assuming that you know how to read at least a little music – meaning
a melody line in the treble clef.

Below is a piano note chart to refresh your memory or help you learn the
notes in the first place.

Once again, I won't be placing a lot of emphasis on the written music,


except for the lead sheet melody. And once you learn it, you'll probably be
able to play it from memory anyway.

So, use this for reference, but don't get too nervous about having to
memorize it.

And, really, for this guide, you'll only need to use the notes starting with
middle C on up (the treble clef).

If you are interested in learning to read sheet music better, or more


quickly, here are a few tips:

• Focus more on the patterns of the notes you see, rather than the
notes – for example, when a you see a melody move from one line to
another line directly above it, realize that it's a third, and learn to
“feel” that change on the piano keyboard.
• Learn more what a C major chord (for example) looks like in music
notation and learn to go quickly from spotting that pattern to playing
it in your fingers. If you find yourself naming notes, then trying to
find those notes on the keyboard, drill yourself on going from the
music to playing it as fast as possible, with the goal of cutting out
your mental “interference.”
• Watch the direction of the notes – notes going up the staff mean you'll
be playing up the keyboard, and vice-versa.

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Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 12

• Always aim to go from the music to your fingers as quickly as


possible – just like reading out loud from a book. You don't actually
think what each letter is anymore, you just read the words. That's the
goal in reading music.

OK, here's the piano note chart I promised you:

By the way, a b sign simply lowers a note one half step, and a # sign raises
a note one half step.

A half step is the smallest distance between two keys on the piano
keyboard – which could be between a white and black key or two white
keys (E and F, e.g.).

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 13

Major Chords
Major chords are the most common chords found in (western) music, and
are the chords almost everyone learns first.

Major chords have a “happy” sound to them (as opposed to minor chords,
which we'll get to).

They also are very “static” - meaning, they are fine just being played
without any other chords following them – they have a kind of finality to
them. You'll see what I'm talking about when we get to some other chords
in just a bit.

For this guide, the ONLY major chord you really need to learn is C major!

Major chords are written as a single letter (possibly with a b or #,


depending on the key). So C major is just written as C. And Ab major is
just written as Ab.

I have included a guide to all the major chords below, for your own practice
and reference, but don't get caught up learning all these chords now if you
don't want to.

You'll be playing C major just below middle C, which is very near the
middle of a traditional piano keyboard, and probably closer to the bottom
portion of the keyboard on smaller, electronic versions. Refer to the piano
note chart if you need help finding middle C.

How To Build A Major Chord

A major chord is ALWAYS built by stacking a minor third on top of a major


third.

What the heck does that mean?

Here's what you do:


1. Start with your left hand (LH) pinky (finger 5) on the root of the chord
– C below middle C, in this case.
2. Using your middle finger (finger 3), play the note that is 4 half steps
above the root – E, in this case – this is also known as the third in the
chord. (A half step is the smallest distance between two keys on the
piano, whether one is black and one white, or they're both white.)

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Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 14

3. Using your thumb (finger 1), play the note that is 3 half steps above
the note from step 2 – G, in this case – this is also known as the fifth
in the chord.

And there you have it! ALL major chords are built in this way, and you
should be able to build any major chord by using these steps – go ahead
and try it if you like!

Just remember, for this guide, you'll only need to learn the C major chord.

However, if you're curious or an over-achiever (like me ;-), you can use the
chord chart below to learn the other major chords.

Inversions

As you might have guessed, you can also play the C major chord in
different positions. For example, you could move the C to the top of the
chord and play E – G – C. This is called the first inversion of the C major
chord.

OR, you could also play G – C – E, which is known as the second inversion
of the C major chord.

For your information, C – E – G is known as the root position of the C major


chord.

Inversions are a great way to practice chords. Here's what to do:

1. Play and say the chord (“C major”, e.g.) in root position somewhere
low on the keyboard.
2. Play and say the chord (“C major”) in first inversion just above root
position.
3. Play and say the chord (“C major”) in second inversion just above the
first inversion.
4. Now you're back to root position, an octave above your starting point.
5. Continue like this all the way up the keyboard and all the way back
down.

This is a GREAT exercise to get chords into your mind and hands quickly.

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 15

Major Chord Chart

Here's the major chord chart I promised you. These are all the major triads
(three-note chords).

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 16

Minor Chords
Minor chords are very similar to major chords, but with one small
difference – the third of the chord is lowered one half step.

So, we learned that C major is C – E – G, which means that C minor is C –


Eb – G.

You'll notice that minor chords have kind of a “sad” sound, as opposed to
the “happy” sound of major chords.

Minor chords also happen to be “static” chords – there is no “tension” in


them – most listeners are content hearing just the minor chord, with
nothing following it.

Minor chords are written with a small 'm' or a '-' after the chord letter. So,
C minor is written as Cm or C-. You will see more of the '-' notation in jazz
music.

For this guide, the only minor chords you will have to learn are Dm and
Em, although there is a complete chart of all minor triads below, for your
own reference.

How To Build A Minor Chord

A minor chord is ALWAYS built by stacking a major third on top of a minor


third.

An easy way to build a minor chord is to think of the major chord with the
same root, and just lower the third.

However, if you want to build one from scratch, it's kind of like a major
chord “flipped” upside down. Here's how to build one (Dm is the example):

1. Start with your left hand (LH) pinky (finger 5) on the root of the chord
– D below middle C, in this case.
2. Using your middle finger (finger 3), play the note that is 3 half steps
above the root – F, in this case – this is also known as the minor third
in the chord.
3. Using your thumb (finger 1), play the note that is 4 half steps above
the note from step 2 – A, in this case – this is also known as the fifth
in the chord.

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Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 17

Once again, ANY minor chord can be built with the formula above – go
ahead and try it! Or, just check out the minor chord chart below.

Inversions

Just like with major chords, the first inversion of a Dm chord is simply F –
A – D, and playing and saying inversions of the minor chords is a great way
to practice all of them.

Just remember that the only ones you need to know for this guide are Dm
and Em.

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Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 18

Minor Chord Chart

Here's a complete chart of all minor triads, for your reference.

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 19

Dominant 7th Chords


Dominant 7th chords are just a little more complicated than major and
minor chords. They're built by simply adding a minor 7th to a major chord
(see below).

Unlike major and minor chords, dominant 7th chords – also simply known
as 7th chords – tend to be “dynamic” chords, and they have a certain
“twang” to them. Most people expect to hear another chord after the 7th, to
give the music some finality. The chord that usually completes the 7th
chord is the major chord a 4th above it.

OK, don't let that confuse you too much. Let's just look at an example.

Dominant 7th chords are written with the chord root letter followed by a 7 –
for example C dominant 7th is written as C7.

The only two 7th chords we need to learn for this guide are A7 and G7.

Now, back to that “dynamic” sound. When most people hear a G7 chord,
they anticipate hearing another chord right after it – usually a C chord
(that's a fourth above G). This is true in other keys also – so A7 is usually
followed by D.

Sometimes, a dominant 7th chord will stand on its own – especially in


blues-style songs – but it usually leads directly to a major chord.

How To Build A 7th Chord

A 7th chord is ALWAYS built by adding a minor 7th to a major chord. The
minor 7th is the note two half steps below the root of the chord.

So, a G7 chord is simply G – B – D – F. The F is the minor 7th in the G


major scale.

Here's how to build one from scratch (G7 is the example):

1. Start with your left hand (LH) pinky (finger 5) on the root of the chord
– G below middle C, in this case.
2. Using your middle finger (finger 3), play the note that is 4 half steps
above the root – B, in this case – this is also known as the major third
in the chord.

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Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 20

3. Using your first finger (finger 2), play the note that is 3 half steps
above the note from step 2 – D, in this case – this is also known as
the fifth in the chord.
4. Using your thumb (finger 1), play the note that is 3 half steps above
the note from step 3.
Once again, ANY 7th chord can be built with the formula above – go ahead
and try it! Or, just check out the dominant 7th chord chart below.

Inversions

Just like with major and minor chords, the first inversion of a G7 chord is
simply B – D – F – G, and playing and saying inversions of the 7th chords is
a great way to practice all of them.

You might noticed that a 7th chord has 3 inversions, whereas major and
minor chords have just 2. The 3 inversions of G7 start on B, D, and F.

Just remember that the only 7th chords you need to know for this guide are
A7 and G7.

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 21

Dominant 7th Chord Chart

Here's a complete chart of all the dominant 7th chords.

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 22

The ii – V7 – I Chord Progression


Believe it or not, you now know some of the most common chords found in
all of music.

In fact, you know the chords that are part of the most common chord
progression – the ii – V7 – I progression (pronounced “two, five, one”). You
will find this chord progression, in various forms, in 70-90% of all western
music. Why?

Because it just sounds good, and because it helps to reinforce the


underlying key of the music.

The numbers refer to scale notes in any given key, and the case (upper or
lower) refers to major or minor chords. In the key of C, the ii – V7 – I
progression is Dm – G7 – C.

In this guide, you will be playing a ii – V7 – I in the key of C and part of a ii


– V7 – I in the key of D. But before we get into playing this progression, let's
talk about...

Voice Leading

When chords are played in a progression, it's easier on the listener's ears if
the notes in the chords don't jump around too much – they should move
easily from one chord to the next.

This is called good voice leading.

Take a look at how to play ii – V7 – I progressions in the keys of C and D,


then play them as indicated below.

Notice how the notes move from one chord to the next without jumping a
large distance on the keyboard.

Now you can see why learning chord inversions is important – because it
helps you create pleasant voice leading in your chord progressions.

For this guide, you only need to learn Dm, G7, C, Em, and A7, but notice
how the chords progress in the tune below: Em, A7, Dm, G7, C. It's ii – V7
in D followed by ii – V7 – I in C. Interesting, isn't it?

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 23

Here are a couple of ii – V7 – I progressions, in the keys of C major and D


major.

Advanced Practice

If you're a serious student of the piano, or just an overachiever, a great way


to learn all the ii – V7 – I progressions in all keys is to practice them
around the “Cycle of Fifths” (or fourths). Just remember to say the chords
out loud, and try to have the best voice leading you can. Here's how to
practice the progression:

1. Start with the key of C and play the ii – V7 – I progression, which is


Dm – G7 – C.
2. Move up a fourth or fifth and play that ii – V7 – I. If you go up a
fourth, you will now be in the key of F, and the progression will be
Gm – C7 – F.
3. Keep going until you get back to C. In fourths, the keys will go C – F –
Bb – Eb – Ab – Db – Gb – B – E – A – D – G – C. For fifths, simply
reverse the order: C – G – D – etc.

I purposely did not include a complete chart of all ii – V7 – I progressions.


At this point, you should probably be able to figure them out yourself ;-)

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 24

Let's Play A Song


Alright, if you followed along and learned only the chords we're using in
this guide, you hopefully got to this section pretty quickly, which is great,
because...

It's time to play a song!

First of all, let me just say that this is not a religious course, and I have no
hidden agenda for using “O Christmas Tree” for our model song.

It's just a very nice melody in the public domain (no copyright issues) that
is very flexible – it sounds great as a traditional piano tune or as a jazz
number. You may already have the Charlie Brown Christmas version in
your head, which is an excellent rendition by the great jazz pianist, Vince
Guaraldi.

In this guide, we're not going to play the “bridge” (middle part of the
melody) – we'll be using only the first half of the main melody, which
consists of the familiar melodic phrase, repeated two times.

We're also starting with some very basic chords, and the rhythms are very
simple, with the most complicated spot being the dotted quarter note.

On the next page, you'll find a simple “lead sheet” for “O Christmas Tree.”
This type of music is the exact format used by professional musicians
everywhere, because it has everything they need to play the melody and
create their own accompaniment and improvisation, using the chords
indicated.

Notice how the chords are place directly above the notes where they should
be played. To start, simply play the chords in the left hand where indicated
and hold them until the next chord comes along.

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Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 25

As we mentioned earlier, you'll probably notice a couple of ii – V7 – I


progressions – the Em – A7 – (Dm) (not a “true” ii – V7 – I) in the key of D,
and the Dm – G7 – C in the key of C. Already, we're seeing how prevalent
this progression is in popular music.

Where To Play Melody And Chords

For almost all lead sheets, the best place to play the melody and chords is
indicated in the chart below. If you play the chords any lower, they'll start
to sound very “muddy,” and if you play the melody higher, it will thin out
considerably.

That's not to say you should never play in those ranges – just be careful
when you do.

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Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 26

Static and Dynamic Chords

As you play the chords and the song, pay special attention to the the 7th
chords and listen how they draw your ear and brain to the very next major
chord, as we discussed earlier.

Also notice how the major and minor chords are as good at drawing your
ear to the next chord.

This may be a subtle point, but it's what makes musicians call these
chords either dynamic or static, and it's what makes the ii – V7 – I
progression so powerful in locking in the key of the song.

Voice Leading

As you learn the chords for “O Christmas Tree,” remember to practice good
voice leading as best you can.

On the next page, I've included a chart of all the chords you'll need for the
song, along with voicings that make the chord progressions sound smooth.

Just play through each of the chords with your left hand, placing your
fingers where indicated by the dots. Even simple chords like these sound
great when put together and voiced well.

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Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 27

“O Christmas Tree” Chords

Here are all the chords you'll need for “O Christmas Tree.” Notice the voice
leading and the smooth, flowing transition it creates between the chords.

Learn these chords with your left hand, in the range of keys just below and
slightly above middle C on your keyboard.

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Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 28

Make It Better With Bass


Probably the best way to play these new chords in this guide – especially in
the context of “O Christmas Tree” - is to play the chord with your left hand
whenever you see the chord change in the music.

Once you've learned the chords, you can make things sound a LOT more
interesting simply by adding a bass line. Here's how...

Adding A Bass Line

I'm going to introduce some of my own notation for a moment, to give you
some suggestions on how and where to play bass notes for “O Christmas
Tree.”

See the thick solid line with dots on it, just below each melody line? That
line is a suggestion where you should play bass notes. For now, just play
the root note of the chord at some low location on the keyboard –
somewhere between one and two octaves below middle is probably best.

The slashes just below the chords and above the music staff lines suggests
where you should play the chord. Simply play the most recently indicated
chord, and change only once you get to a new chord.

So, the bass/chord pattern goes something like this: bass – chord – bass –
bass – chord – bass – chord – bass – bass – chord. See how that works?

This will give a nice depth to the song and is actually a kind of simplified
“stride” piano playing, the kind used so successfully by famous pianists
like “Fats” Waller and Art Tatum.

Now you give it a try, using the new chords you learned, and using the
bass and chord markers as indicated on the lead sheet.

We haven't changed any chords yet – we're just doing our best to work with
the simple chords we've got so far.

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 29

Let me just prepare you for what we are about to do.

We're going to start adding notes to these basic chords to make them
sound REALLY nice!

Once I learned how to do this, it opened a whole new world of piano playing
for me, and I had been playing piano for 20 years at that point!

Just realize that we've already dealt with the basics for this song, and
everything we do from here on out is just a variation of the basic chords
we've learned so far, OK?

OK, hold on to your piano bench, because here we go!

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 30

Adding 7th Chords


Now we're going to talk about major and minor 7th chords, which are NOT
the same as dominant 7th chords.

Major and minor seventh chords are static chords that help add some extra
color to major and minor chords, which you'll soon see when you start
playing them.

They can be used to easily add class to just about any piece of music, and
you'll also hear them played a lot in popular music, because they're
somewhere between “jazzy” and “plain” chords.

Build A Major 7th Chord

Major 7th chords are very easy to build. Simply start with a major chord,
and add the note that is one half step below the root of the chord.

Just be sure to add it to the top of the chord, if you want to see the chord
in root position.

So, starting with a C major chord (C – E – G), we simply add the note one
half step below C, which is a B (white key), to get C – E – G – B.

Play that chord and notice how “rich” it sounds. Doesn't it give kind of a
“mellow” sound to the plain old C major chord?

Major 7th chords are written with a “maj7” added to the root of the chord.
So, C major 7th is written as Cmaj7, or sometimes CM7 (capital 'M').

Once again, this can be done with any chord. So, Abmaj7 is Ab – C – Eb –
G, for example.

Inversions

Just like with dominant 7th chords, the first inversion of a Cmaj7 chord is
E – G – B – C, and you may have noticed that the major 7th chord also has
3 inversions, since the chord has 4 notes.

Playing inversions and saying the chord name repeatedly is a great way to
practice major 7th chords.

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Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 31

Major 7th Chord Chart

Here's a chart of all the major 7th chords. Note that the last 4 are played in
3rd inversion, both for convenience with my keyboard graphic, and because
they actually sound better when played this way (in the area of middle C on
the keyboard). We'll only be using Cmaj7 in this guide, by the way.

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Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 32

Build A Minor 7th Chord

The minor 7th chord is very similar to the major 7th chord, but with two
small differences: the underlying chord is a minor chord, and a minor 7th is
used instead of a major 7th.

What exactly does that mean?

Simple. Just start with a minor chord, like Dm (D – F – A), and add the
note that is one whole step below the root of the chord (C in this case).

Just be sure to add it to the top of the chord to see what it looks like in
root position.

So, D minor 7th – which is written as Dm7 – is D – F – A – C.

Play that chord and notice how it sounds. Just like the major 7th chord,
doesn't it sound a little “richer” than the plain old minor chord?

In this guide, the only minor 7th chords you need to know are Dm7 and
Em7.

Inversions

Just like with major 7th chords, the first inversion of a Dm7 chord is F – A –
C – D, and the chord has a total of 3 inversions, since there are 4 notes in
the chord.

Playing inversions while saying the chord names is a great way to practice
minor 7th chords.

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 33

Minor 7th Chord Chart

Here's a chart of all the minor 7th chords. Similar to the major 7th chord
chart, the last 3 chords are played in 3rd inversion, for convenience with my
keyboard graphic, and because they sound better when played this way
(near middle C on the keyboard). We'll only need Dm7 and Em7 for this
guide, by the way.

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 34

Rules For Adding 7th Chords

For the most part, using major and minor 7th chords is super-easy to do.

Simply:

1. Replace any “plain” major chord (that doesn't have other alterations)
with a major 7th chord.
2. Replace any “plain” minor chord (that doesn't have other alterations)
with a minor 7th chord.

Voicing “O Christmas Tree”

Let's take a look at “O Christmas Tree” with the new chords. We simply
replaced C with Cmaj7, Dm with Dm7, and Em with Em7. Here's the new
lead sheet:

Remember to be aware of your voice leading when playing these chords.

From now on, I'm going to assume you'll just be playing chords in your left
hand, with no bass notes. Feel free to change that style later, as you
become more familiar with the chords.

For example, Cmaj7, Dm7 and Em7 can be played in 1st inversion, but to
make things sound really good, you should play A7 and G7 in 2nd inversion
(with the E and D on the bottom of the chords, respectively).

Sounding a little better now, don't you think? You ain't seen nothin' yet!

Read on!

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 35

Adding 9th Chords


Adding the 9th to major, minor and dominant chords doesn't change the
function or basic sound of the chords, but it does do a LOT to make the
chord sound rich and full.

Sometimes, the 9th sound is a little too much and actually makes the chord
sound too jazzy, so be aware of that while you're playing, and use your best
judgment when playing 9th 's.

Build A Major 9th Chord

The major 9th chord is simply a major 7th chord with a 9th placed on top.

The 9th is the note on whole step above the root of the chord.

So, to play a C major 9th chord – written as Cmaj9 – simply play Cmaj7 – C
– E – G – B – and add a D to the top to get C – E – G – B – D.

OK, so that gets to be a LOT of notes to play at one time on the piano,
doesn't it? That's why this chord is usually played in 1st inversion, with the
root of the chord played in the left hand OR the chord is broken up in the
left hand by first playing the root (C), and then the 1st inversion of Cmaj9,
with no root. In other words:

C (bass) followed by E – G – B – D (chord)

We'll get more into playing styles in just a bit.

You may have noticed that E – G – B – D is also an Em7 chord, so playing


Cmaj9 without the root can create a somewhat ambiguous sound, unless
the melody or bass somehow support either the C or Em chord. Just
something to be aware of.

Inversions

By now, it's probably obvious that the 1st inversion of a Cmaj9 chord is E –
G – B – C – D, which may start to sound a little funny now that we're
adding all these notes to the chord. Once again, if the bass or melody
supports the C major chord, it's probably best to leave the C out of the
chord altogether, both when playing and practicing. Notice that major 9th
chords have 4 inversions.

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 36

Major 9th Chord Chart

The only major 9th chord we'll need in this guide is Cmaj9, but I've included
a complete chart (without the chord root) for all the major 9th chords below.

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 37

Build a Minor 9th Chord

Now, pay close attention here, because the minor 9th chord uses the same
9th as the major ninth chord. The difference is that it starts with a minor 7th
chord.

So, a D minor 9th chord – written as Dm9 – starts with the Dm7 chord – D –
F – A – C – and adds the note one whole step above the root of the chord –
E – making the complete Dm9 chord D – F – A – C – E.

Once again, that's a lot of notes to play all at once, so it's usually played
without the root, as long as there is support for the Dm chord in either the
bass or melody.

That support is important because, once again, F – A – C – E is also a


Fmaj7 chord, so that creates some ambiguity with Dm9 when the D is not
emphasized in the chord.

The other minor 9th chord we'll be using in this guide is Em9, which,
according to our rules above, is E – G – B – D – F#. Note that the F# is not
a note in the key of “O Christmas Tree,” but it is a note in the Em9 chord.

If you're kind of a theory nut, you'll notice that F# is a note in the D major
scale, and Em – A7 is a ii – V7 progression in the key of D. (Don't worry if
you don't fully understand this – just ignore it if you like.)

Inversions

Just like with the major 9th chord, the minor 9th chord has 4 inversions,
which can be played while saying the chord name out loud for practice and
memorization.

Also like the major 9th chord, you may want to leave out the root of the
chord to make things sound better.

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 38

Minor 9th Chord Chart

The only minor 9th chords we will be dealing with in this guide are Dm9
and Em9, although I've included a complete chart of all the minor 9th
chords below, without the root.

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 39

Build A 9th Chord

When we refer to a 9th chord, without saying “major” or “minor” before it,
we're referring to a chord that is built starting with a dominant 7th chord.

Once again, we place the same 9th on top of the chord – one whole step
above the root – and we now have a 9th chord.

In this guide, we'll only need to deal with the A 9th and G 9th chords –
written as A9 and G9.

A9, starting with the A7 chord, is then A – C# – E – G – B, and G9 is G – B


– D – F – A.

Again we'll remove the root from the chord and count on the melody and/or
bass to reinforce that root for us.

Inversions

Once again, there are 4 inversions of a 9th chord and these inversions can
be played/memorized while saying the name of the chord out loud. Note
that many musicians will say “G nine,” not “G ninth” when referring to this
chord, and similarly with 7th chords.

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 40

9th Chord Chart

Although the only 9th chords we'll deal with in this guide are A9 and G9, I
have included the complete chart of 9th chords – without the root – for your
reference.

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 41

Rules For Adding 9th Chords

Here are the rules for adding 9th chords to any lead sheet or piece of music
with “plain” or “simple” chords indicated:

1. Replace “plain” (unaltered) major chords with major 9th chords.


2. Replace “plain” (unaltered) minor chords with minor 9th chords.
3. Replace “plain” (unaltered) 7th chords with 9th chords.

Voicing “O Christmas Tree”

Applying these rules to “O Christmas Tree,” here's what we get:

Remember to use good voice leading. In this case, all chords should be
played without the root note, maj9 and m9 chords should be played in 1st
inversion (3rd on the bottom), and 9 chords should be played in 3rd
inversion (7th on the bottom).

For “O Christmas Tree,” your left hand can move right up the keyboard as
the chords move. Nice, isn't it? Here's the chord progression:

Cmaj9: E – G – B – D
Dm9: F – A – C – E
Em9: G – B – D – F#
A9: G – B – C# – E
Dm9: F – A – C – E
G9: F – A – B – D
Cmaj9: E – G – B – D

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 42

Adding 13th Chords


OK, are you ready?

You are about to learn one of the coolest sounding chords there is – the
13th chord.

When I first learned to play this chord, I felt like someone had finally
shown me the “keys to the kingdom” of piano chords. It sounded so
AWESOME! I am totally serious.

Now, the 13th chord does have quite a bit of jazz sound to it, but you will
also hear it used in some popular music now and then.

Check it out and see what you think. It just might change your entire
piano-playing life. Really.

Build A 13th Chord

A 13th chord is built starting from a 9th chord, which, as we know, is built
starting from a dominant 7th chord.

(You may have noticed that we skipped the 11th chord. That's because it's
not used a lot in popular music. However, it can be kind of interesting,
especially when used with minor chords, so feel free to check it out on your
own. Simply add the note 5 half-steps above the root of the chord – and
add it to the top of the chord. For example, D minor 11th – written as Dm11
– would be D – F – A – C – E – G. You probably want to leave out the root –
D – and maybe the 9th – E – but you should leave in the minor 3rd – F – and
probably the fifth – A.)

OK, back to the 13th. To build a 13th chord, simply add to the 9th chord the
note that is 3 half-steps below the root of the chord. For example, G 13th –
written as G13 – would, strictly speaking, be G – B – D – F – A – E.

However, a common, very nice voicing for G13 is F – A – B – E, with the


root – G – supported in the melody or bass. Note the absence of the root –
G – and 5th – D. This is a great voicing to practice in all keys, if you like.

In fact, play a low G in your left hand while playing F – A – B – E with your
right hand, in the neighborhood of middle C and see how cool that sounds!

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 43

Inversions

Here's something kind of strange...

I'm not going to recommend that you practice 13th chords in all inversions.
I'm going to strongly suggest that you practice only the voicings shown in
the chord chart below, which include 2 different inversions: one with the 9th
on top – e.g., C13 is E – A – Bb – D; and one with the 13th on top – e.g., G13
is F – A – B – E.

In this guide, we'll only need to use G13 and A13, both of which are voiced
with the 13th on top:

G13: F – A – B – E
A13: G – B – C# – F#

What's really convenient about these voicings for “O Christmas Tree” is


that they make for great voice leading when following the minor 9th chords
just before them in the song.

More on this in just a few minutes...

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 44

13th Chord Chart

Even though the only chords we'll need in this guide are A13 and G13, I've
included a chart of all the 13th chords below for your reference. Note that
this chart excludes the root and 5th from the voicings.

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 45

Rules For Adding 13th Chords

In most cases, you may simply substitute the 13th chord any time you see a
dominant 7th chord, and you'll get that extra-special sound.

If it doesn't sound quite right to you, then just don't make the substitution.

Voicing “O Christmas Tree”

Let's take a look at “O Christmas Tree” after substituting 13th chords for all
the 7th chords.

As we talked about earlier, the voicings we chose for A13 and G13 make for
great voice leading in this arrangement, especially when they follow Em9
and Dm9 chords.

The voicings look like this:

Em9: G – B – D – F#
A13: G – B – C# – F#

Dm9: F – A – C – E
G13: F – A – B – E

At this point, “O Christmas Tree” probably sounds better than you've ever
heard it before!

Let's keep it going!

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 46

Adding b9 Chords
Ready to add a little more zing to our arrangement?

That's just what b9 (“flat nine”) chords will do for us. Let's see how...

Build A b9 Chord

The b9 chord is an alteration of the dominant 7th chord, so it can also be


used with the 13th chord.

To build a b9 chord, simply play a dominant 7th chord, then add the note
one half step above the root of the chord.

So, for a G7 chord, the b9 version is written as G7(b9) and is played as B –


D – F – Ab (without playing the root).

A7(b9) is played as C# – E – G – Bb.

These are the only two chords we need to worry about in this guide.

Inversions

If the root is excluded from the voicing there are 4 inversions of a 7(b9)
chord, and they are a great way to practice playing and memorizing all the
b9 chords, while saying the chord names out loud.

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 47

(b9) Chord Chart

Here's a chart of (b9) chords for your reference, with no root in the voicings.

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 48

Rules For Adding b9 Chords

We mentioned this earlier, but the b9 chord is simply an alteration of the


dominant 7th chord, so it can be used wherever you see an unaltered
dominant 7th chord.

Voicing “O Christmas Tree”

After altering the dominant 7th chords in “O Christmas Tree,” here's what
our lead sheet looks like:

When we look at voice leading with the (b9) chords included, it's similar to
our earlier voicings:

Dm9: F – A – C – E
G7(b9): F – Ab – B – D

Em9: G – B – D – F#
A7(b9): G – Bb – C# – E

The (b9) can also be used with 13th chords (listen to this!):

Dm9: F – A – C – E
G13(b9): F – Ab – B – E

Em9: G – B – D – F#
A13(b9): G – Bb – C# – F#

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 49

Adding Augmented Chords


Augmented chords add quite a bit of tension and a very interesting sound
to any piece of music, but they cannot be used all the time.

You should use your own best judgment when adding augmented chords to
the songs you play.

First, let's find out how they sound...

Build An Augmented Chord

An augmented chord is built like a major chord, except that the top note of
the chord is 4 half steps above the middle note.

Here's how to build an augmented chord from scratch:


1. Start with your pinky finger (LH) on the root note – e.g., C.
2. With your middle finger, play the note that is 4 half steps above the
root note – e.g., E.
3. With your thumb, play the note that is 4 half steps above the middle
note – e.g., G#.

For example, C augmented – also written as Caug or C+ – is played as C –


E – G#.

You will usually see augmented chords used with the dominant 7th type of
chord, which makes for a really interesting chord sound.

C augmented 7th – written as Caug7 or C+7 – is played as C – E – G# – Bb.


Pretty interesting chord, isn't it? Try C+7(b9) – E – G# – Bb – Db. Wow!

Any other augmented chord can be built using the same formula.

Inversions

Since the augmented chord is another type of triad (3-note chord), playing
inversions is a great way to practice and memorize these chords, even when
playing the augmented 7th chord.

There are 2 inversions of the plain augmented chord and 3 inversions of


the augmented 7th chord, as you may have already noticed.

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Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 50

Augmented Chord Chart

In this guide, we'll only be using the A+7 and G+7 chords, but the complete
chart of augmented triads is shown below for your reference.

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 51

Voicing “O Christmas Tree”

Let's just focus on the A7 chord for now, and replace that with an A+7(b9)
chord – G – Bb – C# – F.

We'll leave the G7 chord as G7(b9) for a little variety. In fact, we'll change
that one up, too, in just a minute.

Here's the lead sheet, with major and minor 9ths, A+7(b9), and G7(b9).

Smooth!

The voice leading can still be really nice with these chords:

Em9: G – B – D – F#
A+7(b9): G – Bb – C# – F

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 52

Adding Diminished Chords


Diminished chords have a very interesting sound that almost sounds a
little “scary.” They're more dynamic chords that are often used as a
transition chord between two other chords, especially between two chords
that are very close together – like Dm and Em.

Build A Diminished Chord

You can create a diminished chord quickly by playing a minor chord, then
dropping the 5th (top) of the chord one half step. So, C diminished – written
as Cdim – is played as C – Eb – Gb.

Here's how to create any diminished chord from scratch:

1. Play the root of the chord with the pinky (5th finger) of your left hand –
e.g., Eb.
2. With your middle (3rd) finger, play the note that is 3 half steps above
the root note from step 1 – e.g., Gb.
3. With your thumb, play the note that is 3 half steps above the note
from step 2 – e.g., A.

In this example, we've built an Ebdim chord – Eb – Gb – A. You can also


think of this as a D#dim chord – D# – F# – A, and this is the only chord
we'll use in this guide.

Often, a diminished 7th chord is used instead of the plain diminished


chord. For this chord, simply play a diminished chord and add the note
that is 3 half steps above the top (5th) note.

So, Eb diminished 7th – written as Eb(dim7) is played as Eb – Gb – A – C.

Inversions

Both the diminished triad and the diminished 7th chord may be played in
various inversions, while saying the chord name out loud, for practice
and/or memorization.

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Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 53

Diminished Chord Chart

Although we'll only be using a D#dim chord in this guide, below is a chart
for all the diminished triads for your reference.

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 54

Voicing “O Christmas Tree”

As we mentioned earlier, the diminished chord – and diminished 7th, for


that matter – is often used as a transition chord between to other chords
that are close to each other.

That's exactly how we're going to use it in “O Christmas Tree.” Here's the
modified lead sheet, with major and minor 9ths, D#(dim7), A+7(b9), and
G13(b9). Wow!

Here's how the voice leading should go near the diminished 7th chord:

Dm9: F – A – C – E
D#(dim7): F# – A – C – D#
Em9: G – B – D – F#

Well, we've come a long way from our basic lead sheet for “O Christmas
Tree,” and I hope you've seen some of the beautiful things we can do with
some fairly simple chords and alterations.

You could easily stop here, or even at a couple different earlier spots in this
guide, and your piano playing would really start seeing some improvement,
assuming some of this is new to you.

But I'm going to keep going a little bit more and show you a few more cool
things you can do.

OK?

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Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 55

Adding A Tritone Chord Substitution


There's a chord substitution that's used often by professional pianists that
adds just a little extra “oomph” to a piece of music, but it's definitely
something you do NOT want to overuse.

It's call the tritone substitution, and it's used in place of a dominant 7th
chord, especially when that chord is right before the final chord of a song,
or before a chord that is in the key of the piece (C, in this case).

The tritone is actually the note that is 3 whole steps above a particular
note. The tritone relative to G is Db – 3 whole steps takes us to A – B – Db,
right?

So, the tritone substitution involves building a dominant 7th chord with the
tritone as the root of the chord. In this case, instead of playing G7 (or any
variation), we'll play Db7 (or any variation).

Our modified lead sheet will look like this:

That's all there is to it!

I like to think of this substitution as simply playing the 7th chord that is a
half step above the root chord of the piece. So, if our last chord is C major,
like it is here, I would just play a Db7 (or variation) right before the C
major. Give it a try sometime!

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Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 56

Other Chords
I wanted to mention a few other chords you may run across, or might like
to experiment with. Here are a few samples:

– The minor 6th chord is simply a variation of the minor chord that has
a somewhat unique sound. Just add the note one whole step above
the top of the minor chord.
– The minor 7 (b5) chord is usually played just before a 7(b9) chord.
Simply lower the 3rd note (the 5th) of a minor 7th chord one half step.
In the example above, Dm7(b5) would usually be followed by a
G7(b9). Try this voice leading: Dm7(b5) – D – F – Ab – C; G7(b9) – D –
F – Ab – B.
– We've already talked about the +7(b9) chord earlier in the guide, but I
wanted to mention it again.
– The minor (maj7) chord has sort of a “spooky” feel to it – there's a lot
of tension in the chord, and it works great at the end of a piece of
music written in a minor key.
– The #11 chord is also a chord that is sometimes used at the end of a
song, and you may have heard it used by Vince Guraldi at the end of
some of the Charlie Brown Christmas music. The notation above
indicates a 2-handed voicing for the chord.

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Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 57

Open Chord Voicings


Although you might not use this information right away, I thought you
might like to get a taste of what's possible with different chord voicings and
get a glimpse into the world of the professional pianist.

Open chord voicings are created by “opening up” the chords over a wider
range of keys on the piano, and they really create some beautiful sounds. I
think they add a lot of depth to just about any piece of music.

Open voicings can be used with one or two hands, and I'll give you an
example of both.

Take a look at the open chord voicings chart on the next page.

The first voicing you see is simply a C major chord, “opened up” across
nearly 1-1/2 octaves. In other words, you play C – G (skip the E for now,
and skip the next C) – E.

Play that voicing once and compare it to just a plain old C major chord
played in your left hand. Notice the difference? You should. Doesn't that
sound much richer and full?

You can use this particular voicing in place of a major or minor chord (Eb
for the minor C chord – remember?), or as the first part of a bass-chord
pattern in the left hand. That's how “stride” piano is often played.

Without going too much deeper (due to space and time limitations), take a
quick look at the C13, C9 and A+7(#9) (yes, that's a sharp 9!) open voicings
on the next page.

We simply took chord tones and spread them apart on the keyboard, to
give a wider, deeper sound.

Obviously, these would be most useful when playing with another


instrument or vocalist, but you might also be able to use them with the
melody on top sometime.

I hope this gives you some ideas of your own to go and experiment with.

Just remember that the 3rd and 7th are very important notes in most chords
– they really create the “flavor” of the chord, so try not to omit them!

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 58

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 59

The sus Chord


The suspended chord is a chord in which the 3rd of the chord is replaced
with either the 2nd or the 4th, with the 4th being much more common.

For example, a C suspended 4th chord – written as Csus4 or just Csus – is


played as C – F – G.

Play that once, then play a C major chord immediately afterward and you'll
get a feeling for how the suspended chord operates.

It has a very unique sound that adds some nice tension to mostly folk and
popular music.

I like to think of it as a way to create kind of a mini chord progression


without changing the bass note. In other words, just play a C in your left
hand for the bass, and play a Csus, then a C chord in your right hand, and
you have a nice little chord progression right there.

Once you play these chords a few times, you'll start to hear and be able to
recognize them in popular music.

There's no need to memorize them all or worry about them too much at this
point – just know that they're available and use the handy suspended
chord chart on the next page as a reference.

Build A Sus Chord

Suspended (4th) chords are very easy to build – just play a major chord and
move the 3rd (middle note, in root position) up one half step. For example:

Csus: C – F – G
Gsus: G – C – D

Notice how it sounds like the chord wants to move to the major chord. Can
you hear that tension? That's why the suspended chord is more of a
dynamic chord than a static chord.

Elton John's “Pinball Wizard” is a great example of the use of suspended


chords – it actually goes down the scale playing suspended and major
chords all through the first verse. Check it out!

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 60

Sus Chord Chart

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Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 61

Conclusion
Well, unless you're already a very accomplished pianist, that should be
plenty of chords for you to practice for now!

Here's what you should do now:

1. Go back and play our last version of “O Christmas Tree” again.


2. Decide which chords sound good to you and which do not. I'll be the
first to admit that our arrangement may not appeal to everyone.
3. Change the chords you don't like to ones that you do. Try a few of the
alterations and substitutions we've talked about and make it your
own arrangement.
4. Find a totally new piece of music – preferably a lead sheet with
melody and chords – and, step by step, learn the melody and each
chord. It's best to start with the most basic chord before you add the
alterations. That's why older sheet music is probably best for this
exercise.
5. Start adding notes and alterations to the basic chords. Decide what
sounds good to you and make your own arrangement of the song.
6. Record yourself playing one of your new arrangements, or – better yet
– play it for your friends or family and watch their faces as you
impress them with your new piano chord skills!
7. Keep playing and learning!

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com


Professional Piano Chords for Everyday Pianists 62

Resources
Piano World
Information about: Pianos, piano lessons, tuners, dealers, teachers,
movers, and more!
Musicnotes.com
Over 60,000 digital sheet music titles
LookNoHands.com
Online piano chord and scale generator software.
Hanon – Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises
THE definitive piano exercise book used by virtually every student
who has taken formal piano lessons.
The Jazz Piano Book
The absolute best book on the market for learning to play jazz piano.
The Real Book: Sixth Edition
One of the first books of lead sheets that I ever purchased and used
professionally. Every reputable musician owns this book of mostly
jazz standards, but also some popular and show tunes.
Total Sheet Music
TotalSheetMusic is your ultimate source for hassle-free LEGAL sheet
music downloads, with no extra software required!

Copyright © 2009 – Bill Romer - All rights reserved www.PianoFast.com