• The Secret To Chord Mastery

    in Piano,Playing songs

    In my last post, I introduced the 5-part “Musician Transformation” system:

    Fundamentals Fluency, Chordal Command, Pattern Proficiency, Song Solidity, Ear Efficiency.

    We started with the first step, Fundamentals Fluency, which consists of scales, number system, finger exercises, intervals, and rhythm.

    Now, we’ll turn to chords!

    In Chordal Command, we focus on 5 key areas: Triads, Extended Chords, Inversions, Primary vs Secondary, Voicings.


    As it sounds, triads are 3-note chords.

    They are the simplest chords to play.

    While some argue over whether a chord starts at 2 or 3 notes (it really doesn’t matter), most consider the triad the smallest chord.

    There are 4 main triads:

    • Major
    • Minor
    • Diminished
    • Augmented


    C major

    C minor

    C diminished

    C augmented

    I call these the “Fantastic Four” because with these four simple chords, you can play just about any other chord available!

    Extended Chords

    This is the next phase and as I alluded to above, the “fantastic four” chords help to create extended chords.

    For example, to create a major 9 chord, all you really have to do is “stack” two major chords together.

    If you know your numbers (as discussed in Fundamentals Fluency), you’ll know the 1st and 5th tones of C major.

    Simply play major chords on each of those tones. Since C is the 1st tone of the scale and G is the 5th, that means C major + G major.

    Playing C + E + G (C major) and G + B + D (G major) creates a C major 9:

    Major 9, minor 9, dominant 9, major 11, minor 11, dominant 11, major 13, minor 13, dominant 13, and many more can be played simply by stacking triads on top of each other.

    This entire system is covered in our Musician Transformation program, which is available to all new members of our Gospel Music Training Center.

    You’ll also find more information about “extended chords” in these two reports: #1 | #2


    Next is mastering inversions because you can totally transform a chord by simply ordering the notes differently.

    The number of notes in the chord generally determine how many inversions are available for the chord.

    I like to think of it as every note getting its turn on the bottom.

    So if you take this C major 9 chord in root position:

    Here are the different inversions for it…

    First inversion:

    Second inversion:

    Third inversion:

    Fourth inversion:

    Primary vs. Secondary Chords

    Not all chords are created equal.

    As you start building your chordal vocabulary, it’s important to note which chords are going to occur most often.

    In any given key, the 1st, 4th, and 5th tones of the scale are what we call “primary chords.”

    These are the most important chords of the key.

    All other chords (2nd, 3rd, 6th, 7th) are “secondary chords.”

    For more information on primary chords, click here.


    Inversions dealt with the order of notes in a chord (i.e. – “Every note getting its turn on the bottom”).

    Voicings not only deal with the order of notes but which notes you choose to double up on, omit, skip, etc.

    For example, you could take a typical C major chord:

    …Put it in first inversion (E on bottom):

    …But voice it this way (pay attention to the “E” on both top and bottom):

    Or you could do this:

    Or you could do this:

    Or you could do this:

    Or you could do this:

    While there are limited number of inversions (based on how many notes in chord), there are usually many more options available when it comes to how you can voice chords. The quick examples above are proof.

    You’ll also find more information on all Chordal Command techniques in these two reports: #1 | #2

    Hope you enjoyed this lesson. Until next time!


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    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.



    { 8 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Reuek

    Thanks ever so much for making piano learning so easy for amateur like me. I do enjoy your weekly new letter and i get to learn new things . Thanks again for your pains and efforts. God Bless



    2 Edwin

    Thanks JG for the newsletter and many tips you send to our mail boxes. My playing is so much better than two years ago because your style of teaching is very simple and effective. Keep it up.


    3 Cheryel

    Thank you so much for the visuals, to see it written down in this form makes a big difference to me.
    Thank you,


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    5 Brochures Derry

    Greeting respect your work take a ganders of mine


    6 samson

    plz can u throw more lights on when to use augumented chord,diminished chord i mean how to use them when and how to use them,tanks


    7 Sunggu


    Think that we are in C Major key, and playing C-Chord. When I play C-Major Chord which the C will be in the middle C and the E and G will be higher than C. But when we play the inversion, where will be the position of C? Below Middle C or above? Or can I put it below Middle C? Or can I put the E and G below Middle C when we play both 1st and 2nd inversion?



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