Illustration of all the major chords in root position.

Major Chords Root Position

Illustration of all the minor chords in root position.

Minor Chords Root Position

Today I am posting major and minor chords in root position, drawn on small keyboards with dots to show where to put your fingers. I call them picture chords, because they are very helpful for students who are visual and kinesthetic learners.

In addition, some students have trouble processing a lot of accidentals on a small staff. They become very confused if you show them a page full of chords on a staff. But once they see it this way, on a clean-looking page with lots of white space, they relax because it is so easy to follow the diagram. In fact, these students usually memorize the patterns and make great “by ear” players. I was one of those students; my ear has always been my best piano friend!

If you combine picture scales and picture chords with a steady diet of reading music on their level, they often turn out to be well-rounded students who can read music as well as play by ear. So don’t give up and please don’t think of picture chords as a crutch or dumbing down teaching. Picture scales and picture chords are just another tool in our big hat of teaching ideas.

It takes some students a long time to learn how to read music at the piano. If they improve even slightly and at a slow pace, then they are making progress. We have more senses than our eyes, so why not use them all to learn how to play piano?

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6 thoughts to “Major and Minor Root Position Picture Chords

  • Heidi Neal

    I love the way you have color coded these so the black keys have a different color of dot. It makes the difference even more obvious and the red/yellow reminds me of a happy sunshine major day in contrast to the blue minor day! I’m thinking I might have them make a quick sketch next to the chords of vanilla cones, hamburgers, oreos and killer b’s + chocolate, or cut them apart for some type of sorting game or go fish collect a set to further the connection. Thanks for another great resource!

    • Susan Paradis

      Thank you for your comment and for sharing your creative ideas!

  • PamVenter

    Love your ideas and worksheets, you are a wonderful teacher

    • Susan Paradis

      Pam, thank you very much. I’ve always thought of myself as a teacher and it’s what I love to do. To everyone, not only my students. I’m sure it drives my friends crazy! 🙂

  • Whitney

    These are wonderful! I love your picture scales and have used them for years. My experience is that children learn scales so much easier by seeing them on the keyboard. I have used your 5 Finger Scales with very young children successfully. I was adding a Tonic “Ta-Dah” chord with each. Having this visual will help that even more! This is a great addition. Thank you!

    • Susan Paradis

      Whitney, thank you so much. I’m happy when my material is useful to others! I move from 5 finger scales (including skipping and the tonic chord, just as you do) to crossover two hand arpeggios. I show them to students by rote, but by the time they come back to their lesson, they have already forgotten how to do it! This diagram really helps.


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