How Beginner Piano Students Can Make Chords Sound Better

How To Make Your Piano Chords Sound Better

We all want to sound great on the piano. But, as a beginner piano player it can be difficult to bridge the gap between your playing ability and how you wish you sounded. However, with a few tips you can make simple chords sound more advanced. Even as a beginner.

If you are just clicking on this article and have never played piano before, I recommend reading about putting Major and minor chords together (part 1 and part 2) so you have a better understanding of what is covered here.

More Than One Way To Play Piano

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a classically trained piano player. The learning I do remember about chords came from music theory classes around my piano teacher’s dining table. No piano in sight. While that approach has some wonderful things, like learning how to read sheet music well, there were some definite gaps in my musical education.

Then, I played on a worship team where our fearless leader pushed the bounds (at least from my experience) of how we played music. Suddenly I was reading lead sheets, chord charts, and making rhythmic covers of hymns while looking at the 4 part harmony music. And, occasionally transposing into another key right before performing in front of the entire church. Oh my!

Which is why my teaching approach focuses much more on chords than my own piano education did. Learning how to make piano chords sound better opened up my abilities as a musician. And, later as a composer.

For all the musical examples below, I will be using the I-V-vi-IV chord progression. AKA the most popular chord progression in modern Western music.

P.S. If you have never played this chord progression, read “Putting Major + Minor Chords Together – Part 1” first! This will make this much easier.

Remembering that those Roman numerals reflect the relationship between chords, let’s play this in G Major. The piano chords are (in order): G Major, D Major, E minor, C Major

Keep repeating this chord progression as we explore. And, when you are done exploring, always end on a G Major chord. This is your ‘home’ chord and signals to your ear that the song is done.

I would recommend watching the video below (or click here) to see this and the following tips in action.

Make Chords Sound Great #1: Open Voicing

Often we play chord notes in one hand. But, what happens when you spread out the chord notes to two hands.

Take the notes of each chord and put 2 notes in one hand. You will be missing one note, but you can place this in your other hand. For an even fuller sound, repeat the bottom note of the chord (i.e. the same note that shares the name of the chord).

If you play all those notes together at the same time, you can create a slower mood to your song. Does it sound like a lullaby? Does it mellow or meloncholy?

To change up the mood, play the notes one at a time (broken chord). Whether you start with the lowest or highest note, you can create more of a singer-songwriter mood.

Piano is learnt best hearing and seeing, so please watch the video above (or click here) to see this in action.

Make Chords Sound Great #2: Add Sus Chords

Suspended chords (i.e. sus chords for short) can create an older pop sound. However, depending which ones and how they are used, sus chords can even lean into jazz or blues.

If you have never played sus chords, I recommend reading “Suspended Chords: An Easy Way to Sound More Advanced”.

Using two hands, you can easily create a interesting suspended 2nd chord!

First, play octaves in the left hand using the bottom note of each chord. In your right hand, move the bottom note up one note so it becomes a sus 2 chord (all other notes stay the same).

Secondly, play the exact same chord notes. But this time move quickly from the bottom and middle notes. This is similar to what we did in tip 1, but only the bottom two notes of the sus chords are played one at at time.

If you are wondering what this looks like, please watch the video above (or click here) to see this in action.

P.S. You can use this same strategy with other suspended chords as well!

Make Chords Sound Great #3: Chord Inversions

Chord inversions are fantastic for many reasons. They make it easier to play chords on the piano. And, yes, they make chords sound great as well.

If you are wondering what chord inversions are, read “How To Play Chord Inversions On The Piano”.

In the meantime, a quick review is … chord inversions are the same notes as a ‘regular’ or root position chord. The notes are just played in a different order. The fastest way to create these is by moving either the bottom note up or the top note down.

To test this out, play octaves in the left hand once again. Why mess with a cool sound, right? In the right hand, play chord inversions instead.

To bump up the complexity of the sound, try changing the left hand octaves to another note in the chord. Does it sound good? Does it sound horrible? Depending on which note and which chord, you can experience either one of those scenarios. And that’s okay because you are exploring!

If you are wondering what this looks like, please watch the video above (or click here) to see this in action.

How To Make Piano Chords Sound Better

A quick bonus tip that can be used with any of the above ideas is to add rhythm! I share an example of this in (you guessed it) the video above. You can click here to see this in action.

Which other questions do you have about playing chords or making chords sound great on the piano?

If you like this approach to learning piano, click to set up an interview to join our online piano studio!

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