Keyboard Playing Basics- Chords

So far, we’ve looked at the keyboard layout, the Western notation, the Indian notation and the concept of “scale”. There is more to this. If you’ve ever listened to your favorite song very carefully, you’ll notice that apart from the beats and the voice of the singer, there is an additional sound being played at the background, which changes a few times. It is like humming, but not exactly. When heard with the singer’s voice, it creates some sort of resonance, and hence, leaves a deeper impact. This is nothing but the “chord”.

Let’s first understand the difference between a melody and a harmony. The melody is the main tune (or set of notes, to be more precise). These notes are generally sung by the singer along with the lyrics. Read this:

Chhookar Mere Mann Ko, Kiya Tune Kya Ishara, Badalaa Ye Mausam, Rahe Pyaara Jag Saara

You didn’t read this, did you? You sang the song, if I am not wrong. What you just sang was a melody. I have done the same on keyboard (Click here).

The harmony is a set of notes played simultaneously. Playing two or more notes at a time produces a richer effect than playing only one note at a time. This is what people have observed, and hence, a harmony always accompanies a melody.

Note that, there are numerous combinations of notes possible. But just like the notes in a scale, only peculiar combinations are capable of producing the desired effect.

A chord is a harmony with three or more notes played simultaneously. For time being, keep this in mind. So, a chord is a set of 3 or more notes which are to be played at the same time. Like scales, chords are named according to their starting note and there can be a major chord as well as minor chord. 

What we know from previous article is that any song is composed in a particular scale. For majority of the cases, the melody of song is best accompanied by a set of 3 chords and these chords consist of notes, which belong to the scale of the melody (or song). Let’s try to understand this with the the help of an example.

Take C major scale. So, the keys are C,D,E,F,G,A,B and again C. All white keys. The 3 chords which go with this scale are

C major (C, E, G)

F major (F, A, C)

G major (G, B, D)

In the brackets, I’ve mentioned the notes constituting keys. So, when you want to play C major chord, press the keys C, E and G all at a time. Same holds for F major and G major.

To know the chord to be played with the melody, first identify that note in the melody, which sustains itself a bit longer than the other notes. It will generally be the first note or the last note of the melody. (Not always). Secondly, identify the chord containing that note. For example, if the sustained note is ‘F’, you will play F major chord with the melody. If the sustained note is ‘B’, you will play G major chord.

When you play the melody as well as the harmony, the chord sound resonates with the melody, making it a better audible experience. This can be better understood when you listen to this. I’m playing the melody with the right hand and the chords with the left hand. Spend few more seconds on this.

The 3 chords have covered all the notes from the C major scale. And none of the notes comes in 2 or more chords, except the first and fifth note of the scale. (Remember that these are the shuddha swaras). So, all notes have been covered with least possible overlap and hence this triplet is an optimized triplet of chords.

Now, how do we find the chords for any scale? The answer is, go for the first, the fourth and the fifth note of the scale. Those will be the chords.

So, for F major scale, the chords will be F major, Bb major and C major. For Ab major, they will be Ab major, C# major and Eb major For C# minor, the chords will be C# minor, F# minor and Ab minor.

Which notes constitute a chord? For a major chord, start with the note, leave 3 keys, go for the 4th one. This will be the second note. Now, again leave 2 keys and go for the 3rd one. This will be the third note.

For C major, start with C, leave 3 keys, C#, D and Eb, go for the 4th one, which is E. Now, leave 2 keys, F and F#, go for the 3rd key, which is G. So, C major consists of C, E and G.

For a minor chord, start with the note, leave 2 keys, go for the 3rd one. This will be the second note. Now, leave 3 keys and go for the fourth key, which will be your third note.

Take C minor chord. Start with C, leave 2, take next, which is Eb. Now, leave 3 keys and take 4th, which is G. So, C minor chord consists of C,Eb and G.

Try playing all other major and minor chords and also make a list of chords which accompany the scales. It will be a nice exercise and will reveal few more interesting things to you regarding the chords common to multiple scales.

In a nutshell, chords make the melody richer by accompanying. For a scale, the 1st, the 4th and the 5th chords are enough to play the song in that scale. If you’ve any queries regarding this, you can drop an e-mail. (

By the way, Chhokar Mere Mann Ko is in E major scale, so the chords will be E major, A major and B major. Happy playing 🙂




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