How to Play Diminished Chords on the Piano

Diminished Chords

Let’s look at how to build diminished chords on the piano. Once we know the pattern for building a diminished chord, we can apply that pattern starting on any note.

How to Play Diminished Chords

To play a diminished chord, start with a minor chord, and lower the upper note 1/2 step.

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!

A Diminished

Let’s build an A diminished chord. We’ll start by building an A minor chord. We can build an A minor chord by playing the first, third and fifth notes of a an A minor scale (learn how to build a minor scale here): A – C – E

Then we’ll lower the upper-note 1/2 step, to E♭.

So an A diminished chord is:

A – C – E♭

adim chord piano

In case you’re wondering why we label the last note E♭ instead of D♯, the reason comes down to the intervals used to build the chord (learn about intervals here).

But to summarize it, a diminished chord is built using a root, minor third and a diminished fifth. Since A is our root, a fifth up from “A” is “E”. So we need to label the last note some type of E, making it E♭.

E Diminished

Now let’s build an E diminished chord. We’ll start by building an E minor chord, using the first, third and fifth notes of an E minor scale: E – G – B

Then we’ll lower the upper-note 1/2 step, to B♭.

So an E diminished chord is:

E – G – B♭

edim chord piano

Conclusion

Now you know how to build diminished chords on the piano! Just take any minor chord and lower the upper-note 1/2 step. Piano chords are such a quick and enjoyable way to begin learning and playing the piano!

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6 Comments

  1. Jay

    Great resources. Could you perhaps create one on the nashville number system?

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      Thank you, I’m glad it’s helpful! I don’t use the Nashville number system personally, but I can see how it can be useful. I do have a post here on finding the chords for major keys, so you could use this as a starting point:
      https://www.julieswihart.com/chords-by-key/

  2. Kikomeko Richard

    It’s a wonderful lesson for diminished chords.
    But can u pliz try expound it more especially in key F#

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      Thank you! To build an F♯ diminished chord, we’ll start with an F♯ minor chord: F♯ – A – C♯. Then we’ll lower the upper-note C♯ 1/2 step, to C. So an F♯ diminished chord is: F♯ – A – C

  3. Alex Pineiro

    Thank you, JUlie. That’s the first time I’ve heard the reason for an Eb vs a D# put in that context.

    I learned from an old player that it was simply about pitch direction when “playing” music… if you are coming to that black key, or any other, from a higher pitch, then it is played and written as a flat, but if coming to that black key, or any other, from a lower pitch, it is a Sharped.

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      I’m glad it’s helpful! I understand what your friend was saying. The main idea is that when you’re building a scale, the notes must progress in alphabetical order, so sharps and flats are labeled accordingly. For example, when playing a G major scale, the notes are G, A, B, C, D, E, F♯, G. The black key is labeled as F♯ instead of G♭ to keep the note names in order. When you build different types of chords, the labels for the chord notes are based on the scale intervals used to build the chord (fifths must be five alphabet-letters apart, etc.). I hope that makes sense!

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