Piano Chords 101

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Authored by Dave Limina

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Course Code: OPIAN-245

Next Semester Starts
June 27, 2022

Level 2

Level 2

3-Credit Tuition

$1,515

Non-Credit Tuition

$1,265

This course will take a deep dive into constructing many types of chords used in contemporary and classical music styles. Each chord type will be reinforced through weekly exercises to incorporate them into your practical musical vocabulary. We will utilize chord types in musical etudes in various styles each week for performance application.

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Each chord type will be associated with appearances of those chords in influential songs and through ear training and lead sheet exercises. You will work to develop the ability to recognize each chord type by ear.

Upon completion of the course you will be able to:

  • Construct, recognize, and musically use essential chords at the keyboard
  • Recognize and play chords in a musical way, reading from mixed lead sheet notation
  • Construct and play major, minor, augmented, sus4, and diminished triads: dom7, dom7sus, Maj7, min7, dim7, min7b5, and dom7+.
  • Use learned chords in musical ways in various musical styles
  • Work to drill chord types and inversions into muscle memory
  • Use basic voice-leading of chords for musical applications
  • play chords over bass notes
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Syllabus

Lesson 1: Major Scales and Major Triads

  • It’s All Based on the Scale
  • Major Triad Construction
  • Major Triad Inversion Drills
  • Reading and Musically Applying Chords from a Lead Sheet—Influential Performances
  • Assignment 1: “In the Midnight Hour” by Wilson Pickett

Lesson 2: Minor Triads

  • The Natural Minor Scale
  • Minor Triad Construction
  • Minor Triad Drills in Root Position
  • Minor Triad Inversion Drills
  • Reading and Musically Applying Chords from a Lead Sheet—Influential Performances
  • Assignment 2: “The Thrill is Gone” by B.B. King

Lesson 3: Diminished and Augmented Triads

  • Diminished Triad Construction
  • Diminished Triad Drills
  • Augmented Triad Construction
  • Augmented Triad Drills
  • Reading and Musically Applying Chords from a Lead Sheet—Influential Performances
  • Assignment 3: "No Use “Cryin’” by Ray Charles

Lesson 4: Voice Leading Triads through Chord Progressions

  • The Technique of Voice Leading
  • Voice Leading Major and Minor Triads Drills
  • Voice Leading Diminished and Augmented Triads Drills
  • Voice Leading Through Chord Progressions with Maj, Min, Dim, Aug Triads
  • Reading and Musically Applying Chords from a Lead Sheet—Influential Performances
  • Assignment 4: “Treat You Better” by Shawn Mendez

Lesson 5: Major 7th and Dominant 7th Chords

  • Major 7th Chord Construction
  • Major 7th Chord Drills
  • Major 7th Chord in inversion drills
  • Dominant 7th Chord Construction
  • Dominant 7th Chord Drills
  • Dominant 7th Chord inversion Drills
  • Reading and Musically Applying Chords from a Lead Sheet—Influential Performances
  • Assignment 5: “Don’t Know Why” by Norah Jones

Lesson 6: Ear Training, Drills and Tunes (Mid-Term Review)

  • Listening to and Identifying Chord Qualities
  • Techniques to Identify Chord Qualities
  • Review: Mixed Chord Type Drill
  • Review: Mixed Chord Type Drill—Left hand Chords
  • Review: Mixed Chord Type Drill Rhythmic Exercise
  • Assignment 6: Midterm Project: “Warmth of the Sun” by the Beach Boys

Lesson 7: Minor 7th and Minor 7b5 Chords

  • Minor 7th Chord Construction
  • Minor 7th Chord Drills
  • Minor 7th Chord inversions
  • Minor 7th b5 Chord Construction
  • Minor 7b5 Chord Drills
  • Reading and Musically Applying Chords from a Lead Sheet—Influential Performances
  • Assignment 7: “Georgia on My Mind” by Ray Charles

Lesson 8: Diminished 7th Chords

  • Diminished 7th Chord Construction
  • Diminished 7th Chord Drills—Root Position
  • Diminished 7th Chord Drills—Inversions
  • Reading and Musically Applying Chords from a Lead Sheet—Influential Performances
  • Assignment 8: “Caravan” by Duke Ellingnton

Lesson 9: Sus4 Triads and Sus2 Triads

  • Sus4 Triad Construction
  • Sus4 Triad Drills
  • Sus2 Triad Construction
  • Sus2 Triad Drills
  • Reading and Musically Applying Chords from a Lead Sheet—Influential Performances
  • Assignment 9: “You Raise Me Up” by Graham/Loveland

Lesson 10: Add9 Major and Minor Triads and Dom7sus4 Chords

  • Major Add9 Triad Construction
  • Minor Add9 triad construction
  • Major and Minor Add9 Triad Drills
  • Major and MInor Add9 Triad inversion Drills
  • Dominant 7th sus4 Chords Construction
  • Dominant 7th sus 4 Chord Drills
  • Reading and Musically Applying Chords from a Lead Sheet—Influential Performances
  • Assignment 10: “I Want It That Way” by Backstreet Boys

Lesson 11: Chords Over Different Bass Notes

  • Chords with Different Bass Notes (Inversion) Notation
  • Chords with Different Bass Notes Construction
  • Chords with Different Bass Notes Drills
  • Chords with Different Bass Notes Drills in Chord Progressions
  • Reading and Musically Applying Chords from a Lead Sheet—Influential Performances
  • Assignment 11: “In Walked Bud” by Thelonious Monk

Lesson 12: Musical Application Practice

  • Pop/Rock Style Chord Exercises
  • R&B Style Chord Exercises
  • Funk Style Chord Exercises
  • Classical Style Chord Exercises
  • Jazz Style Chord Exercises
  • Afro-Cuban Style Chord Exercises
  • Assignment 12: “Your Smiling Face” by James Taylor

Requirements

Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Students should have:

  • at least one year of experience on a keyboard instrument
  • knowledge of basic pitch notation
  • knowledge of basic harmony (major and minor scales)

Required Textbook(s)

Software Requirements

  • an application that can change the speed of provided audio recordings without changing the pitch (examples include Amazing Slow Downer, VLC Player, and many DAWs)

Hardware Requirements

  • keyboard instrument with at least 61 keys and a sustain pedal (examples include piano, digital keyboard, synthesizer, or MIDI controller connected to a sound source)

After enrolling, please check the Getting Started section of your course for potential deals on required materials. Our Student Deals page also features several discounts you can take advantage of as a current student. Please contact support@online.berklee.edu for any questions.


General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of  Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection

Instructors

Dave Limina

Author & Instructor

Dave Limina is an associate professor in the Piano department at Berklee College of Music, where he received the Most Valuable Contribution to the Performance Curriculum Award in 2001 for his work in developing the Hammond organ program. An experienced session keyboardist, composer, and arranger, Dave has performed with Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters, Lori McKenna, Duke Robillard, Gloria Estefan, Mark Murphy, Scott Hamilton, the first national touring company of the Broadway musical Rent, and many others. He received Boston Music Award nominations for his work with Courage Brothers, Ronnie Earl, and Mighty Sam McClain, and has played on several Grammy-nominated recordings. He played keyboards on Michelle Willson's Wake Up Call, which won a Boston Music Award in 2001. Dave does extensive session work in Boston, New York, and LA. He is the author of Hammond Organ Complete (Berklee Press) and the instructional video/DVD Accelerate Your Keyboard Playing. His playing is featured on many TV and film soundtracks.

What's Next?

When taken for credit, Piano Chords 101 can be applied towards these associated programs:

Associated Certificate Programs

Associated Degree Major

Questions?

Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at advisors@online.berklee.edu.