• 11 Ways to Enhance Your Chords and Playing (Part 1)

    in Chords & Progressions,Contemporary Music,Playing By Ear

    Chords & Enhancements

    >NOTE: To learn ALL the chord techniques and chord strategies to take your playing to the next level, go here:


    Several months back, I tried out a new format where I took really good questions from students and not only answered them personally but sent the answers to our entire mailing list.

    And you really seemed to enjoy that. But due to a busy production season (which I’ll tell you about very soon), I haven’t sent out any in a while.

    Today, I’m back.

    Not only with these helpful “Question & Answer” articles but with consistent blog updates as well. So stay tuned!

    (If you have a question you’d like to see me answer in this format, visit https://www.hearandplay.com/askjermaine…)


    *** Comment From Jamal Howard ***

    Jermaine, I have been with you since 2004 and I give you the credit for getting me started. Now, I play for 2 churches and started a singing group a couple years ago that is really blessing our area.

    My question is on easy ways to enhance my chords. Everyone tells me I sound good but I’m always hungry for more tips. Anything you can pass my way will be appreciated.

    Keep up the great work my brother. You are an inspiration to many. Thank you.


    >>> My comments and explanations to Jamal

    Hey Jamal,

    First off, thanks so much for your dedication! Wow, 2004! That’s a long time ago in internet years.

    I’m glad to hear it paid off for you too. Playing for one church these days is enough but you’re playing for TWO. Keep it up!

    Your question is, no doubt, a great one and I get asked this all the time.

    There are many ways to approach enhancing and altering your chords.

    Here’s a short list:

    1) Inversions
    2) Chord Additions
    3) Chord Omissions
    4) Chord Suspensions
    5) Chord Arpeggios
    6) Chord Extensions
    7) Chord Reaches
    8) Chord Dissonance
    9) Chord Substitutions
    10) Polychord voicings
    11) Grace notes

    Many of these chord concepts are covered in GospelKeys 202 and Urban Pro 600 in full detail, but I’ll cover them here and in my next e-mail.



    You’d be surprised how far mastering inversions will take you.

    In fact, many musicians don’t pay attention to inversions.

    They learn their major, minor, diminished, and augmented chords (what I call the “Fantastic Four” in my Monthly Music Mentor series) and never look back.

    And sure, these 4 chord types can take you a long way but what separates a GREAT musician from a good one is ones attention to details.

    The melody will often times determine what inversion of a chord you play. I say “often times” because this isn’t the case all the time… but usually.

    If you don’t know what an inversion is, here’s my simple definition.

    “INVERSIONS are just different ways to play the same chord.”

    Basically, every note gets its turn on the bottom. If you remember that, you’ll never forget how inversions work.

    If I had 4 odd numbers:

    1 3 5 7

    And you had to rearrange these numbers in as many different ways as possible with each one getting its turn in the front, it would look like this:

    1 3 5 7
    3 5 7 1
    5 7 1 3
    7 1 3 5

    Now, imagine these numbers are notes like:

    C E G B
    E G B C
    G B C E
    B C E G

    There you have it! You’ve mastered the “inversions” game.

    So when you’re playing a particular chord and you think it can sound better, the first thing to do is try different inversions.

    After hitting a chord, you can even follow up with other inversions of the same chord up your piano.

    Hands down, it’s the easiest, lowest hanging fruit for enhancing your sound.


    The second thing you can do is add single tones to your chords.

    When playing major and minor chords, the easiest thing you can do is add the “9th” tone to your chord.

    “9” sounds all fancy doesn’t it?

    Don’t sweat it because it’s basically the same thing as the 2nd tone of your scale.

    If you’re in the key of C major, here’s the scale:

    C D E F G A B C
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7

    Now, imagine we kept going and we never stopped counting:

    C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

    What tone is the 9th?

    It’s “D” right?

    “D” also happens to be the 2nd tone of the scale too.

    Now technically, you can reserve “9” for times when you’re really going to add the “high D” from the next octave and “2” for the instances where you use the low “D.”

    But to be honest, this is “playing by ear” and it really doesn’t matter how you look at it. As long as you arrive at “D” for this C major or C minor chord, you’re fine.

    High D, low D… they both will enhance your chord and you can choose the one you like for the situation at hand.

    So instead of boring C major and C minor chords like this:

    C E G
    C Eb G

    You’ll play:

    C D E G
    C D Eb G


    C E G D
    C Eb G D

    But I prefer the first version where the notes are closer.

    Another tone that works well in these situations is the “6th tone” (or “13th,” as described above).

    I like adding this tone when I’m already playing a 7th chord.

    So if you’re playing a C major 7 chord:

    C E G B

    Adding the “6th” tone, “A” works well in most instances.

    C E G A B

    “Additions” don’t always have to be new notes. You can double up on existing notes.

    Usually the “3rd” tone of the scale is a great note to double up on.

    For example, in the last chord, you could double up on the “E.”

    C E G A B


    C E G A B E

    Because this is 6 notes, you simply play the C on your left hand and the “E G A B E” on your right.

    C on left /// E G A B E

    “Additions” are a great way to enhance your chords.


    Opposite of additions, sometimes less is more.

    For example, the chord above:

    C on left /// E G A B E

    I’d probably take out the “G” which is the “5th” of the chord.

    Usually, if there’s something to take out, it’s the “1” or the “5” of the chord.

    Let me explain:

    First, you need to know your numbers for the key you’re in.

    In our case, C major:

    C D E F G A B C
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7

    So when I say the “5” or the “1” or the “6” or the “7,” I’m referring to the tones of the scale, as shown above.

    I’m NOT talking about the order of the chord as in the “3rd” note that’s played. It all relates back to the scale. Just thought I’d clarify that.

    The reason you can take out the 5th is because it’s present in both major, minor, and dominant chords. Taking it out doesn’t alter these chords whatsoever.

    On the other hand, you don’t want to mess with the “3rd” or “7th” tones of a chord because they are critical. They determine what type of chord you’re playing usually.

    But unless the chord is diminished or augmented (which, in those cases, the 5th is either lowered a half step or raised a half step), you can take out the 5th because it’s just there for support.

    For power, some people prefer to play it on their left hand and leave it out of their right hand. Some people leave it alone.

    Let your ear be the final judge. Sometimes I keep the 5, sometimes I omit it.

    Another tip is to omit the “1” of the chord.

    Why? Because it’s usually covered in the left hand bass. If you’re playing a C major chord, you’re usually playing C on your left hand anyway so there’s no need to play it again on your right hand.

    And most of the time, it sounds better to NOT play it on your right hand. Try it:


    C on left /// C E G B


    C on left /// E G B

    Doesn’t the second one sound better?

    Plus, it lets you invert easier (tip #1 above).

    It’s far easier to invert “E G B” (which is basically an “E minor” chord) than it is to invert “C E G B.”

    Now compare:

    C on left /// G B C E


    C on left /// G B E

    If the melody is “C”, then I’d keep C and question whether “C major 7” is the right chord altogether.

    Maybe the chord just calls for “E G C” instead of “E G B C.”

    The closeness between “B” and “C” as the highest notes create tension and if that’s not what you’re looking for, perhaps the “B” should be gone.

    So this is the thought process going on when it comes to omissions.


    This is when you hold on to a particular tone (usually a tone not originally in the chord) and it resolves down to the real tone.

    You hear it a lot at the end of songs.

    Say your song ends on a typical C major chord:

    C E G

    If you wanted to change this to a suspended chord, you’d get rid of the “3.” That’s E.

    Instead, you’d replace it with the tone a half step higher — the “4.”

    So, instead of:

    C E G


    C F G

    The “F” (which is the 4) creates a dissonance that must resolve. It’s begging to resolve down to “E” and eventually it will.

    C F G

    resolves to:

    C E G

    This is would we call a “suspended 4” chord.

    There are also “suspended 2” chords.

    Instead of the 4th tone replacing the 3rd tone, we use the “2nd” tone to replace the 3rd tone.

    Notice in both cases, the “3rd” of the key is the target.

    So now it’s:

    C D G (C sus 2 chord)

    This is similar to the “C major add 2” chord we studied above.

    The key difference is one has the “E” in it and the other doesn’t.

    C major add 2 C D E G

    C sus 2 C D G

    Corny joke: They say God’s favorite chord is “G sus”

    Assume sus4 if you don’t see a number after sus.

    So if this is true, God’s favorite chord is what?

    G C D (G sus chord)

    Interesting Observation:

    Inverting a “sus2 chord” gives us another type of chord I talk about in GospelKeys 202, the “Quartal chord.”

    C D G (Csus2)

    Now, take the “C” off the bottom and put it on top:

    D G C

    (“D G C” = quartal chord).

    Unlike major, minor, diminished, and augmented chords that are built off third intervals, quartal chords are built entirely with fourth intervals.

    What’s the interval between “D” and “G”… answer: a fourth! The interval between “G” and “C”? … answer: a fourth!

    So turning your sus chords into quartal chords is another way to enhance your sound.


    C on left /// C E G


    C on left /// D G C

    What sounds better?

    Here’s one final insight I’ll leave you with:

    Inverting a sus4 will eventually give you a sus2.

    Csus4 is:

    C F G

    Now put the C on top:

    F G C (now you have Fsus2)

    Now put the F on top:

    G C F (a “quartal chord”).

    All this stuff’s related! If you learn one, then take the time to explore how to get the others, you’ll cut your learning time in half!

    Well, I think I’ve given you enough to think about for now.

    I’ll be back soon to finish that list.


    Jermaine’s notes: If you really want to get serious about enhancing your chords, I invite you to check out one (or both) of two courses:

    GospelKeys 202 specializes in teaching you contemporary worship chords. From chord additions to quartal chords, you learn it all. And since it focuses on playing worship, you learn how to incorporate these chords into real-life songs. Over 60 chords and most importantly “rules” (like the ones discussed above) that will certainly enhance your playing. It’s worth checking out at:


    GospelKeys Urban Pro 600 is more advanced. It takes a similar approach as 202 but covers bigger, more extended chords encompassing both hands (aka – “two-handed voicings). By the end, you’re playing a lot of the latest-sounding chords exactly the way you hear them on albums. If you’re looking for that next edge, this course is for you. If you’re not quite ready, GospelKeys 202 is perfect for you.



    Talk soon,

    Jermaine Griggs
    Hear and Play Music

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.


    { 63 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 George Ripp Russell

    Hi Mr.Griggs!First THANK YOU for all that you do here.I am a guitarist but also dabbled in some keys until I was introduced to your site by my engineering teacher Mr.Kahliq Glover.I feel guilty that I have recieved so much knowledge just from your free offerings and have not been able (as of yet)to invest in your products.Believe me as soon as the Spirit will allow I will be investing in your products.I do not perform gospel even though capable,what you give in your lessons are used in other forms of music and I use them from time to time.You have taken my keys to another level that I was not expecting.Welcome Back I look forward to future lessons with your systems.
    George Ripp Russell


    2 Manuel

    Hey Jermaine this is Manuel from Bucaramanga Colombia.
    I have been playing guitar for 10 years, but I fell that Im in the same place where I started. And that makes me fell bored with the guitar.
    You said to the other guy that you teach a lot of new things in to dvds that you recomend.
    What should I do to change my reality??’

    Second question: Why I always see that in the church people dont use guitar players, just keyboards, drumplayers, bassplayer and singers.. and Im not talking about rock, I talk about gospel or jazz or blues….
    Why people like those instrumentos to play in the church..
    Manuel Vargas


    3 Walter Laming

    Hi Jermaine,
    I’m a 78yr old pensioner livin in the U.K. I like your articles very much and they prove very helpful keep up the good work. Many thanks W.Laming


    4 Katy

    Thank you for your suggestions, Jermaine… I am a one handed (left) beginner pianist. I’ve wanted to simply be able to accompany myself when I sing. Your inversion theory as well as “additions” is a tremendous help. I just need to practice, practice, practice in order to “do it”. Thanks again.


    5 Debby Franson

    This was very informative.


    6 Escape

    Thank you very much for your suggestions. Many things to know and you are the source.


    7 nuel

    hi jermaine,i have been followin your article for quite some time and you cant imagine how helpful it has been to me.i am now the main pianist in my church and i often receive invitations to play in many other churches and events..but sir,i am having problems with my solo.i have been told to work on modes n tritones but these are topics i have difficulty in understanding..i want to be a better pianist jermaine and hopefully play alongside you.


    8 Uyi Kenneth Simeon

    Hello Jermaine, I like your publications and since I’m a learner, I would like to see more of your Inverse notations and full chords posted to me.

    I appreciate your lessons.



    9 Joe Watts

    Hi Jermaine. Although I have been a member/student of yours for well over a year, you always amaze me at how you can so easily explain a musical concept like nobody else has ever done. Although I thought I knew about the basic ideas you put forth in this Part 1, you gave me new insight and simplified it even better. You are a blessing to all your piano students. I thank you so much.



    Hi Jermaine,
    I am very happy to watch this site. The work HERE you are doing is VERY nice. Keep it up in view of the upcoming pionists.
    I am learning key board through net since one year. While playing some songs I am finding it difficult to set that lead voice is coming less than the beat voice. How to adjust it, please guide me in this regard. I will be waiting for your reply.
    Thank you very much.


    11 Elba Bulte

    Hi Jermaine,

    Thank you so much for your excellent music articles on how to play piano. You are very generous and always willing to share your music knowledge thus making possible for poor beginners to continue to improve and learn more.

    This latest article will make easier for me to deal with chords, as I sometimes when playing some songs, I get lost, so I can see that If I use the inversions, I will not have to stop and find the keys or jump. One question ? For example on C chord CEG does it make any difference whether
    C E G EGC GEC ECG are all OK?
    I have seen in some books of First Inversion Second and Third.

    Question: If you have the notes for the right hand, how can you work out the ones for the left?

    I am sure all these new knowledge is going to make a big difference on my playing.

    Thank you very much and God Bless You!



    12 kayleigh Harrington

    i LOVE this article.. ithought for sure i knew about inversions, omissions and additions… but the way you explained it simplified it beautifully! thanks much i finally know what a sus2 chord is …. cant wait to see you finish this list of how to improve..im recently being put into lead pianist at my church and have been playing for the youth band a while… and quite frankly. i felt like im always sounding the same. and i need some help! so yayyyyy!!!! thanks again:)



    13 Samuel Arhin

    Jermaine! I appreciate your selflessness to the gospel musician cummumity and I know your reward greately awaits in heaven.
    God Blessss You and never give up on these Good works.
    Thank You.


    14 MS

    Hi, Jermaine,

    You are truly blessed! I JUST LOVE THE WAY YOU EXPLAIN THE VARIOUS CONCEPTS! Things just get clearer, like a light bulb being switched on, and I sincerely say a hearty ‘Thanks’ for sharing. I try to live by the mantra ‘Knowledge is no good unless it is shared’, and you are doing just that. Keep up the good work, and may God continue to bless you and family at home and at Hear and Play Music.
    Glad that you are back on this forum.

    Much love and best wishes,


    15 Noah Amoo

    Sir Jermaine, I salute you! You’re the best teacher I have ever known. I have been studying your lessons from Ghana for years now and I just love your talents and your techniques. Great is your reward in heaven. Keep it up and God bless.


    16 Andrei

    Dear Jermaine,
    your articles are as useful as they are an infinite pleasure to read. Many thanks and hello to you from Russia.


    17 Tosman

    Its amazing the way you’ve blew my mind this nite wit few explaination u gave me on cord addition and suspension.hw can i get your resources(video) online at subsidized rate.can u ship it to nigerìa?


    18 Sirajus Salekin

    It’s just awesome…. Its help me so much to play different and exclusive flavour of music which is nice to hear…. thank u so much….

    I don’t get everyday lesson from this site which was promised me to give for 60 days…. please confirm to continue the lessons to me which will help me so much to play different and good music to hear…. thank you….


    19 Sugabsen

    Honestly you are a guru


    20 Lucion

    another great article, thanks for sharing!


    21 michael

    hi jermine please help me start afresh with the piano ok i mean from the basics tanks


    22 Calvin

    How can I purchase the musician transformation package ? I’ve read the free downloads and I am hungry for more.


    23 mathew kiyega

    iam interested in the keyboard but i dont know where i can start from. so can you help me and send me the notes thanks and God bless



    24 Peter

    Hi mr, this is great, i love hear and play, i’ve learn much.
    am Peter from South Africa, 25 year old man.


    25 femi

    i love these chords.they are BOMBS


    26 Barrie Evans

    Some good tips for those who are learning to play the piano. Keep up the good work!


    27 Temi

    I’m going gaga with these chords. they are wondaful


    28 Lennon

    Hi Jermaine

    Just wanted to say keep up the good work man. I’ve benefited a lot from your website and I’m sure there are a lot of people out there that can say the same. Your approach is greate ,simple and easy to understand. Where’s Jason White, he’s greate and the rest of the guys you work with.

    All the best


    29 Roger

    Very much appreciated! I look forward to part 3. The trichords work very nicely to fill stacked 4ths….a solid, deep sound! Roger


    30 robert skyers

    greeatings, blessings,
    peace, love, joy,happyness
    and, good, goodwill,
    to you and your family!
    beloved, greetings once againe in the name of the most high god trough our lord and savour jesus the living christ,jermaine it has been a while now since i was able to even read my email, this is due to the punches that getting ahead throw at me,however with the lord on my side nothing to fear,
    after reading the comment’s on this page your still on the job sir, thanks be to god for creating you, i am now playing the key board in the church band thanks for your incoragement, i still need to get a hold on the 300 page home study, but nothing happen before the time, mr Griggs!i might not make it to cornagie hall like i wanted to but come this christmas god’s will, i will be on stage with my eleven year old daughter in concert at our church, thanks againe jermiene god’s blessing be with you allways!!!!!!


    31 aquilino

    hey thanks. i am from belize. used to be a music teacher but have some kids that want to learn music. so this info will really be of help to the class and music club. thanks.


    32 Innocent

    Mr Jermain,I here want to commend u sir. I dare 2say u are simply God sent.I don’t have much 2say but I think this is simply mind blowing.


    33 Diana

    Hi Jermaine, I am a piano teacher. I am very interested in teaching my students from your material. I love your step by step method. You really break it down. I would love to teach your method and have my students purchase your material. Please advise me. Thanks.


    34 larry harris

    mr.griggs i thank you for all time and skills you have blessed a lot of people all over the world. my playing have increased 75% since i started your lessons i thank you for the work you put into this because i can tell your heart is in it. God Bless You and keep you


    35 Ajibose

    The 101 keys book has really helped me. I now have confidence when i play.


    36 Iluminada Lafuente

    Hi, i think that i saw you visited my site so i came to “return the favor”.I’m trying to to find things to enhance my web site!I guess its adequate to make use of a few of your concepts!!


    37 Uli

    To learn all inversion of a chord is expecially for beginners like me one of the most effective way to improve playing. Often you find sheet music with the melody and chord-letters above. To know the chord inversions helps you to find chord positions that allow you to change from one chord to another without changing the complete hand position but only few finger. For example change from Gm to C7. The root positions of the chors would be G-Bb-D and C-E-G-Bb. But if you try G-Bb-D and G-Bb-C-E makes it much easyer, because two fingers can stay in their position. A friend told me: “Piano players are always lazy”. This helpes not to get in timing problemes while playing different chord in a short time period!

    The next step is then to harmonize with the help of the chord letters. For example the german tune “Lobe den Herrn meine Seele” (im F-maj.) has the melody C – F – G – A – G – F (all 1/8) in the beginning and an F-Chor above it. The root of the F-Chord ist F – A – C. Now yout can hamonize the melody with the inversions of that chord: (F -A -C) – (A – C – F) – (A – C – F +G!) – (C – F – A) – (A – C – F +G!) – (A – C – F). If you play this with the left hand and add the F-chord in root-position with the left hand as the bass, you can “pimp” the simple sheet to a full sounding song.


    38 male stripper glasgow

    I like your rich words. excellent contribution. I hope you release others. I will continue subscribing


    39 Print NI

    Howdy appreciate this work witness this


    40 humphrey ernest

    these are really wonderful combinations i’ve learnt ….thanks jermaine


    41 Lynn

    Thank you, this was great !


    42 oriokot

    I seem to be late but I also think am early to get good insights into taking my playing to another level through all the steps you have given.thanks Jermaine


    43 Shadiya Beckett

    i hate this thing.


    44 David S Dent

    hello Jermaine,

    excellent , as always,




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    What an inspiring work! You’ve never ceased to inspire me. Thanks and God bless you for the great job mr. Griggs!!!


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    52 Lerry

    hi jermaine, re u married? if not, i’m offering u my sister for free. wow u just made me feel like a pro. i love these. pls keep it up.


    53 Moscales

    Appreciate your work sir. J’taime


    54 clement

    God bless Jermaine,long live Jermaine may d boss live for ever amen amen alleluyah amen.


    55 Jean

    Hey Jermaine

    Read your article, I must say I’m impressed , you do know how to put your stuff together, you are such a great teacher I like the way you break things Down so that people are able to understand it , I just want you to know that I’m trying my best to work heard at the lessons you send out, and to grasp as much as I can anyway keep on doing what your doing stay bless


    56 joshua

    Great info. keep it up


    57 Donna Patterson

    Kudos! Thanks for taking the time to explain. You’re a great guy!


    58 Emmanuel

    What is Chord extension and chord reaches sir?


    59 emmanuel

    Thanks. This is inspiring.


    60 Mark

    I have been playing the piano for 26 years (started at 20). I have one finger on my left hand that I can use. Increasingly, I am aware of how thin the lower end sounds. Do you have any suggestions on what I could do to enhance this?


    61 Carolyn

    Thanks, Jermaine. I just love the way
    you break music down. You explain
    it so simple. May God continue to bless you for all you do. You are a great teacher and I truly know that you are God sent.


    62 Worship Chords - Shout To The Lord Chords

    What an inspiring work! You’ve never ceased to inspire me. Thanks and God bless you for the great job mr. Griggs!!!


    63 Deborah Camuti

    Jermaine as well as Johnathan Powell,
    I have been with you Jermaine since about 2004. I started with your 300 page course. Over the years I had joined your first website, advanced to GMTC and just became a lifetime member. What makes GMTC my choice was from the beginning Jermaine you would give out free products and advice from your heart because i really felt you cared about all us struggling musicians. I was under a different email address then purchasing products at that time. Now I was asked to play piano at my church as well as just enjoying learning more advanced stuff being i constantly feel bored after i learn something new and need an extra push. Heads up to Johnathan Powell as well another caring and great instructor. I guess in a nutshell thank you both for sticking around soo long and keeping the care and passion for teaching. I would of not be where i am today if not for you guys and want to pass on GMTC to my grandchildren.


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