4 techniques to play piano chords

A lot of people are put off learning how to play the piano due to music theory, sheet music and the numerous amount of notes. I hope to change this by showing you how easy it is to play piano chords to learn your favorite songs!

There are many musicians, especially in this modern day, who compose songs without the ability to read music. Take “The Beatles” for example; none of them could read music yet they managed to create 17 number one hits with some absolutely classic melodies!

What are chords?

In music a chord is a set of pitches consisting of at least two (usually three) notes that are played simultaneously.

In the image to the right you can see the notes A, D and F being played this is the chord of D minor.

Most songs have four repeating chords where generally there are 3 major chords and 1 relative minor chord.

Why play chords on piano?

  • Quick to learn and play
  • Perfect for accompanying a singer
  • You can play them in lots of different ways

Different techniques to play piano chords

1) Play the chords as they are to a set beat

This is the easiest way to play chords on piano. Simply play the chords for the song either once per beat or more (2 or 4 times is most common) using either your left or right hand.

Listen to the beginning of “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith you should hear 3 chords being repeated.

These chords are Am (notes A, C, E), F (notes F, A, C) and C (notes C, E, G). You can see a visual representation to the left.

By playing these chords once per beat you can accurately cover this song! Find the chords and lyrics for Stay With Me here. You could also try Take Me To Church by Hozier. You’ll find the chord diagrams at the top of the page if you are not sure which notes to play.

You can also play a chord several times per bar depending on the beat, this works well for songs written for guitar. Try doing this for The Man Who Can’t Be Moved by The Script – Play G, D, Am and C 4 times each before moving to the next chord.

2) Play the chords with one hand and the root note with the other

When you are more comfortable locating the various different chords on piano try bringing in your other hand to compliment the chord being played by playing the root note for that chord. The root note is the ‘source’ of the chord so in a C chord the root note would be C. In the image below you can see the F chord being played with the right hand (F, A, C) and the root note (F) being played with the left.

In Harry Style’s hit song “Sign of the Times” you have each chord being played 4 times whilst the root note is played once per chord. Find the chords and lyrics for Sign of the Times here and watch the below piano chords tutorial!

Photo by Gavin Whitner, visit him on https://musicoomph.com/

You could also try playing the chord with one hand and then stretching your hand over an octave to play the root note twice over 2 different pitches. For example in the image to the right you can see the pianist reach over an octave to play the C note twice.

Use this method to play Let It Be by The Beatles – play each chord 2 times to sound the most accurate.


3) Play the chord with one hand whilst playing the arpeggio with the other

An arpeggio is a chord where each note is played individually in either an ascending or descending order. So for the chord of C you would play C, E, G, C or C, G, E, C.

Take for example the beautiful “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley, listen to Andrea Bocelli cover it using an arpeggio of F.

Try playing Let Her Go by Passenger using your right hand to play each chord once whilst your left hand plays the appropriate arpeggio.

4) Play the chord with one hand whilst playing the melody in the other

This is the most difficult way to play chords but it is perfect if you do not wish to sing along. The Scientist by Coldplay is a good example of this, check out our piano sheet music – you can bring up the digital piano view if you can’t read sheet music.


Now you know the 4 main ways to play piano chords check out all of our tutorials below:

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About author
William Ridd is a writer based in London. After a messy divorce from the clarinet, William decided that playing music wasn’t for him, but he continues to appreciate it and likes writing about it.
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