PIANO CHORDS FOR KIDS
are important for children to learn not only because chords are
the DNA of music theory, but because chords will allow children
to play a simple accompaniment with their left hand without
having to read left hand piano music (the bass clef.)
Think of chords
as three piano keys, one on top of the other. Take any white
piano key and skip a white key. Play the next key. You now have
two white keys separated by an unused white key in between. That
is a chord in its most simplified form for children's use.
understand this, just as they understand how to create with
blocks and Legos. Stack them on top of each other.
as an abstract, single-handed game, are an easy idea to pick up.
It is when you
want to have the child play chords in one hand and then a melody
in the other that you run into problems.
brains are in varying states of hemispheric separation and this
accounts for the difficulty some (younger) kids have in playing with two
hands. It is best to separate the two skills, playing with both
hands, and chords, to prevent this confusion.
For a child who
has difficulty with two hands, it is excruciating to watch. The
discomfort is palpable and real: they are in mental distress and
the teacher needs to find ways to dilute the suffering or they
will become "allergic to left hand," as one child put it.
But you can and
should embark on an exploration of chords, one-handed if
All chords are
played in root position, and you should allow the child to play
two-note chords (omitting one of the three members) if that is
what comes easily to them.
The C chord is
the center of the child's harmonic universe. Next come F and
Work with those
three chords and the literally billions of songs that use
primarily only them.
I often explain
that the three chords C, F and G are like the primary colors,
blue, yellow and red. Children readily understand that analogy.
When the child
is comfortable with the "Big Three," teach the D chord,
which has a black key in the middle. Once again, a two note D
chord is all that most children's hands can reach.
Once you have
taught the D chord, and teaching those first four chords could
take a year for it to be automatic, you are ready for minor
minor chord is a difficult task for a child at first. It
requires several levels of learning. They must know the major
form of the chord, and then move the middle key down one, a move
that is fraught with peril for kids, especially if you have not
cemented the black/white and up/down skills securely.
If not, secure
those skills first before learning minor chords.
Once the child
is over the hump of playing with both hands, playing chords and
melody becomes an excellent way of developing the interaction of
the brain hemispheres, especially for children who haven't
become proficient with reading music for the bass clef (the left
have to reduce the two-handed act to a ridiculous level. To
demonstrate that there is nothing to fear, I ask them to play a
C chord in the left hand, and the key numbered one (Middle C.)
This is very
simple and they do it readily. Then I explain that really
playing with two hands is like that, but a billion times more
difficult. Don't force them to play with two hands, convince
them that it is easy if you do it a bit at a time.
developing the interaction of the hemispheres is one of the most
valuable activities that piano can provide to a child.
It has been
shown that the ganglia connecting the two hemispheres of the
brain are 40% larger in musicians.
Piano training is brain training.