you probably know, there are thousands and thousands of
different chords -
everything from basic major chords to minor
7ths to 13ths to suspensions to poly-chords. Someday, you
might want to learn all those chords if you don't already
But meanwhile, there
are 3 chords -- just 3 -- that you absolutely, positively
have to know. If you don't know these three, there's
hardly a song in the whole world that you could play. But
by knowing just 3 chords, you can play hundreds, if not
thousands of songs!
Are you ready? Here they are:
I IV V
Huh? What's all
Huh? What's all that about?
In every key there
are 3 chords -- just 3 chords -- which are known as
"primary chords" --
chords that occur way more than other chords.
They are like family members of that particular key.
They are groups of notes built on the 1st note of the
scale, the 4th note of that scale, and the 5th note of
that scale. (Those are 3-note chords called "triads" --
later we will get into 4 and 5 note chords.)
For example, here is the C scale on
the keyboard. It runs from C up to C and octave higher.
The I chord is built on the first note of the C scale, and
So if I build a chord on the "I" -- every other scale note
up from C, the chord is C, E, and G -- known as the "C
If I build a chord on the "IV" --
every other scale note up from F, the chord is F, A, and C
-- known as the "F major chord".
If I build a chord on the "V" -- every
other scale note up from G, the chord is G, B, and D --
known as the "G major chord".
Here is what it looks like in music
Please notice, if you
haven't already, that those 3 chords contain
the notes in the C scale!
So any melody - tune - in the key of C
(as long as it just uses the 8 notes of the scale) can
be harmonized just by playing one of those 3 chords!
Think about that
-- that's a HUGE
insight that most people never get.
So, in any given key you can play in, there are PRIMARY
CHORDS -- chords that occur way more than other
chords. They are like family members of that particular
your house, let's say you have 3 people in your family --
your spouse, your child, and you. On the same block, but
down the street a few houses, lives your cousin and her
any given moment, who are the most likely people to be in
don't think so.
It's possible, of course, but not
too likely. If I had to guess, I would say it would be
either you, your spouse, or your child. It might be your
cousin down the street -- there's a much better chance of
that than, say, David Letterman or Prince Charles -- but
my best odds would be to guess that the family members
would be there.
It's the same way with chords. In any given key, there are
3 "family members" that are residents of that key -- the I
chord, the IV chord, and the V chord. They are far and
away the most likely chords to occur in any given key.
For example, if I am playing in the Key of C, and the
first chord is the C chord and I have to guess what the
next chord is, I would guess that it would be either the F
chord or the G chord. Why? Because those are the other
"family members". So we have narrowed the odds a great
deal just by knowing who the members of the family are.
Does that mean that there are always just 3 chords in a
song? No, but there are literally hundreds of songs that
are made of just 3 chords.
Primary Piano Chords
Of All the Major Keys
Here are the primary chords (the family chords) of all the
major keys (remember that the primary chords are the I
chord, the IV chord, and the V chord based on the scale of
that particular key):
Key of C:
C, F, G
Key of G:
G, C, D
Key of D:
D, G, A
Key of A:
A, D, E
Key of E:
E, A, B
Key of B:
B, E, F#
Key of F:
F, Bb, C
Key of Bb:
Bb, Eb, F
Key of Eb:
Eb, Ab, Bb
Key of Ab:
Ab, Db, Eb
Key of Db:
Db, Gb, Ab
Key of Gb:
Gb, Cb, Db
Do you have to know all these chords in all these keys?
You can choose to play in just one key, or just a few
But what you
is the 3 chords in whatever key you want to play in! That
means that the stark beginner can learn 3 chords in just a
few minutes, and be able to play along with thousands of
tunes, because most folk songs, hymns, country songs, and
many rock songs just use the 3 basic chords. That's why
people who know zilch about music can pick up a guitar,
learn 3 chords, and strum along while singing everything
from "On Top Of Old Smoky" to "Amazing Grace" to "My
Country 'Tis Of Thee" to "Auld Lang Syne" to "Silent
Night" to..........................well, you get the idea.
And not only a guitar, but a piano, keyboard, or whatever.
That's it for this
Next week we'll expand our horizons a bit, and take an
overview of the types of chords available to us in
addition to these 3 absolutely essential chords.
See you then.
If you're a beginner, or
already play but don't know how to use chords and you're HUNGRY for more stuff
like this, then you'll absolutely love our
How To Play Chord Piano!
Come on over and check it out at
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