How to Find Piano Chords for Major Keys

Chords for Major Keys

Let’s look at how to find the chords belonging to a particular key. Finding chords for major keys will enable you to play other people’s songs, and play your own impromptu music.

What are Chords for Major Keys?

“Keys” are groups of notes used to write songs. Songs written in the “key of C major” use the notes of the C major scale to write the song.

Learn how to build a major scale here.

If we build a chord off each note of a major scale, using the notes of that scale to build the chord, we can find all the chords in that key.

These are the chords used to play songs in that key.

How to Find Chords for Major Keys

Let’s find the chords for a C major scale. Here’s a C major scale:

C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C

Now we’ll build a “1 – 3 – 5” chord off each note of the scale, using the notes of the scale to build the chords.

Starting on C, we’ll build our first “1 – 3 – 5” chord, using the notes of the scale: C – E – G

Then we’ll start on D and build another “1 – 3 – 5” chord, using the notes of the scale: D – F – A

Then we’ll start on E and build another “1 – 3 – 5” chord, using the notes of the scale: E – G – B

We can continue this pattern, building a “1 – 3 – 5” chord off each note of the scale, and using only the notes of the scale to build the chords.

learn piano chords charts printable pdf

Learn Piano Chords Printable

Get started learning piano chords with this 32-page PDF. These charts will lay a great foundation for you at the piano, and will be referenced again and again!

Chords for C Major

Using this pattern, here are the chords for the key of C major:

C – E – G = C major chord

D – F – A = D minor chord

E – G – B = E minor chord

F – A – C = F major chord

G – B – D = G major chord

A – C – E = A minor chord

B – D – F = B diminished chord

And now we’re back to C!

How to Label Chords for Major Keys

You may be wondering how we can tell whether the chord we’ve built is major, minor or diminished. It all comes back to the intervals used to build the chord (learn about piano intervals here).

But to summarize, “1 – 3 – 5” chords are called “triads”, and triads come in different forms.

Triads can be:

Major
Minor
Augmented
Diminished

We can build a major triad (major chord) with the first, third and fifth notes of the matching major scale.

And we can build a minor traid (minor chord) by taking a major chord and lowering the middle note 1/2 step.

We can build an augmented triad (augmented chord) by taking a major chord and raising the upper-note 1/2 step.

And we can build a diminished triad (diminished chord) by taking a minor chord and lowering the upper-note 1/2 step.

Types of Chords for Major Keys

When we build a triad off each note of a major scale, these are the types of chords we’re building:

Major
Minor
Minor
Major
Major
Minor
Diminished

The nice thing is, these are the types of chords we’ll build no matter which major scale we’re using. The notes will vary, but the type of chord will be consistent.

Chords for G Major

Let’s look at this once more, starting with a G major scale:

G – A – B – C – D – E – F♯ – G

We can build a chord off each note of this scale, using the notes of the scale to build a “1 – 3 – 5” chord.

Using this pattern, here are the chords for the key of G major:

G – B – D = G major

A – C – E = A minor

B – D – F♯ = B minor

C – E – G = C major

D – F♯ – A = D major

E – G – B = E minor

F♯ – A – C = F♯ diminished

And now we’re back to G!

Conclusion

The chords that belong to each major key are the chords used to play songs in that key (some songs also use “accidental” chords, which don’t belong to the key but still sound nice). And now you know how to find these chords!

You have a lot of knowledge you can apply to your own piano playing!

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20 Comments

  1. Alexander Greim

    Thank you, Julie.
    This post precisely explains to me how to identify the chords of a key. It’s precisely what I was looking for!

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      That’s great, I’m glad it was helpful!

  2. Nelson

    Hello Mrs. Julie Swihart, I thank you for all that material that you put on your page so that people like me who can afford a piano teacher can have access to learning this great instrument of multiple musical expression. Infinite thanks for such great detail and effort so that we can receive all your love and affection through your musical writings; God bless you and yours…!!!

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      You’re welcome, I’m so glad it’s helpful!

  3. James

    This helped me a lot understand about chords thanks!

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      You’re welcome, I’m so glad it’s helpful!

  4. Abbey

    You made it so easy for me thanks now I understand

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      I’m so glad to hear that!

  5. HENSON INDEMBUKANI CHOMA

    Yeah.piano chords are good they make work easier to play piano.

    Reply
    • B SHAKUNTALA BALIGA

      Hullo Julie! You have explained this subject beautifully…it seems so easy now. Thank you

    • Julie Swihart

      You’re welcome, I’m glad to hear that!

  6. Paul Mathole

    My Name Is Paul Mathole, I’m From South Africa And A Beginner In Musical Studies, I’m Thankful For The Teaching Material And I Trust That You’ll Forever Be Blessed For The Work That You Do, Grace Be With Your Spirit. Amen.

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      Thank you so much, I’m so glad this is helpful!

  7. Henson

    Hi Julie I really appreciate you for your concern, through the conclusion I learned that accidental are there to help to play chords that are not belong to a particular key but they sound good wow I love that.

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      I’m so glad it’s helpful!

  8. Susan

    Love all of your posts. Thank you!

    Reply
  9. David

    Thanks so much. This post is brilliant. The 4 types of Triads are explained in an easy to understand teaching style.

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      I’m so glad it’s helpful!

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