How to Play Any Major Chord on the Piano

Major Chords

Let’s look at how to play any major chord on the piano.

How to Build Any Major Chord

We can build a major chord using the first, third and fifth notes of the matching major scale.

So to build a major chord, we’ll first need to build a major scale. We can build a major scale using a pattern of half-steps and whole steps (a half-step is the distance from one note to the very next, and a whole step is two half-steps).

The pattern for building a major scale is: W – W – H – W – W – W – H (where W = whole step and H = half-step).

Then we can use the first, third and fifth notes of the scale we built to build the corresponding major chord!

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!

How to Build a C Major Chord

So to build a C major chord, we’ll first build a C major scale by starting on C and using the pattern of half-steps and whole steps to build the scale: C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C

Then to build a C major chord we’ll play the first, third and fifth notes of the C major scale: C – E – G.

c chord piano

We can use this pattern to build any major chord! All we need to do is find the first, third and fifth notes of the matching major scale.

Major Chords List

Here’s a list of all the major chords:

C major: C – E – G
C♯ major: C♯ – E♯ – G♯
D♭ major: D♭ – F – A♭
D major: D – F♯ – A
E♭ major: E♭ – G – B♭
E major: E – G♯ – B
F major: F – A – C
F♯ major: F♯ – A♯ – C♯
G♭ major: G♭ – B♭ – D♭
G major: G – B – D
A♭ major: A♭ – C – E♭
A major: A – C♯ – E
B♭ major: B♭ – D – F
B major: B – D♯ – F♯
C♭ major: C♭ – E♭ – G♭

Some of these chords are “enharmonic”, which means they’re the same notes on the piano, but can go by two names.

Here are the enharmonic major chords:

C♯ major and D♭ major
F♯ major and G♭ major
B major and C♭ major

Triads

Major chords are “1 – 3 – 5” chords, or “triads”. But major chords aren’t the only type of triad. There are also minor, augmented and diminished triads.

Here are their differences:

Major chords are built with the first, third and fifth notes of the matching major scale.

Minor chords are major chords with the middle note lowered 1/2 step.

Augmented chords are major chords with the upper-note raised 1/2 step.

Diminished chords are minor chords with the upper-note lowered 1/2 step.

The differences between these triads comes down to the intervals used to build the chords (learn about piano intervals here).

Conclusion

Now you know how to build any major chord using the first, third and fifth notes of the matching major scale!

Memorizing patterns is so much better than memorizing notes, because memorizing patterns will ultimately give you creative freedom at the piano!

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15 Comments

  1. Stephen

    At 72, I think I’ll stick to LISTENING to music.
    I sure do appreciate people who LEARN and PRACTICE so others can ENJOY their performances.
    Being good at something (like piano, guitar, etc.) takes determination.
    I take my hat off to those musicians who have paid the price to be good!
    Bless you, Julie!

    Reply
    • Julie

      Thank you so much Steve!

  2. darab

    thank yo very much for your efforts. I really enjoy openning your posts. keep good work.

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      Thank you so much, I’m glad you’re enjoying it!

  3. darab

    ِMy dear teacher, thank you again for your post. However, I have a basic and yet very important question to ask you and would appreciate your comments. when I was very young(12 years old) I went through lots of note readings with a good teacher using the bible(Beyer). However, right from the beginning, I had no interest to learn notes but I had a very good ear and could play the music that I liked on the piano just by listening to it. Also, I was interested in patternes and cords. My teacher kept telling me that I must only play the notes and nothing else. Unfortunately, I decided to quit learning music. Now that I am much older, and am learning, still, this question has not answered that can I become a good musician just to following patterns and improvisation rather than learning how to read notes? Thanks agin

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      Hi Darab, this is a great question! It all depends on your goals for learning piano. You can be proficient on the piano without knowing how to read and play sheet music by understanding the patterns on the piano and using those patterns to play by ear and to create music. I really think everyone who learns piano would benefit from seeing the piano as an instrument separate from sheet music, because then they can understand better how to play creatively, which is so much fun! Learning to read and play sheet music is useful if you want to know how to play particular pieces of music just as they were written. That can be fun, and can also be useful for developing technical skill, but if that’s not your goal, then it’s not necessary. I hope this helps!

    • darab

      Thanks for your comment. I totally agree with you!

  4. Abbey

    Hi Julie thanks very much now I understand how to create chords and the different between major and minor thanks to you may God fulfill all your desires.

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      Thank you so much Abbey, I’m so glad it’s helpful!

  5. Chris

    Thanks alot Julie Swihart, i got to learn and i now understand intervals, learning intervals was kinda confusing untill i saw this post which helped me to understand it.

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      Oh good, I’m so glad to hear that!

  6. Takedo

    Thanks so very much, Julie!
    At my school, we are currently learning the piano at school and we are doing the song Perfect by Ed Sheeran after reading on this I went to school filled with determination and absolutely blew my teacher away!

    -thanks again i got extremely high marks on the assessment <3

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      Oh that’s wonderful! I’m so glad to hear that!

  7. Bharat

    NOW I KNOW WHAT IS MAJOR,MINOR. THANKS A LOT

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

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

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