If you’ve been learning to play the piano for a few months, you will probably have started getting to grips with a number of scales and their triads. C major tends to be the first one, as it consists entirely of white notes. Expanding out from this, you’ll cover G major (one sharp) and F major (one flat), before branching out into minors, specifically A minor, D minor and E minor.
These may seem at first like a rather random collection of scales, but together they form the C major family of scales. Their triads (the first, third and fifth notes of the scales) are all white notes, which make them easy to work out.
If you are looking to play songs for your own pleasure (or even for the entertainment of others), this is a great place to start as, with this small handful of chords, you can play the vast majority of songs that are out there.
At first, it’s fine to tackle these as single chords (no rhythm) in the root position, as shown above – with your left hand taking the root note and your right hand taking the chord. In time, however, you’ll want to add in some rhythm and chord inversions. For more info on chord inversions, check out my post about chord exercises for piano. As for rhythm, this is the standard 4/4 rhythm I recommend for getting started:
As you can see, the right hand is playing steady minim (half note) chords, while in the left hand, the little finger plays the root note as a single semi-breve (whole note), while the thumb plays the same note an octave higher with the rhythm: dotted minim (three-quarter note) – crotchet (quarter note).
As you progress further at the piano, you will learn more scales together with their chords, filling up the extended C family, which includes the majors and minors of all the white notes.
After this, you can look to incorporate chord decoration, such as bass note that aren’t the root, suspended-fourths, major, minor and dominant sevenths, added sixths and seconds and so on.
To help to develop your chord knowledge, I have put together a PDF of chord progressions. They are laid out in three ‘blocks’, the first being the standard C major family (as shown above), the second being the extended C family, and the third adding in some of those decorations.
Use these to help practice moving between chords and get to know them in their various inversions etc. Simply pick one cell in whichever block is appropriate and play round and round the chords listed there. Here’s the PDF:
If you have any questions about these or any other piano learning stuff, please do get in touch. All the best!