How to Build Chords on the Piano, Part 3 – 6th and 7th chords

Welcome to Part 3 of How to Build Chords on the Piano! In this video I explain how to build 6th chords, and 7th, MAJOR 7th and MINOR 7th chords. I refer to the “formulas” we covered in Part 1, so you might want to review Part 1 first if you don’t know what I mean by chord fomulas.

(Click if you would like to enlarge on Youtube.com: https://youtu.be/X4di8DIQy6A)

It is important to understand chords and chord symbols if you want to play popular music using sheet music or fake books. However even classical pianists benefit from understanding chords as they show up in most all classical music, sometimes broken (1 or 2 notes at a time), sometimes block (all notes of the chord played at once). The better you are at recognizing a chord when you play it, the faster you will learn your piece, because you will understand what it is you are playing. And since I am all about tools that provide short cuts to deeper understanding, I have created a set of flash cards for 7th, Major 7th, and Minor 7th chords, in both treble and bass staves. As I stated in the above video, print out just set at a time, writing the answers lightly in pencil on the back of each card. For example, when you print out the set of Major 7th cards, all you will have to know at first is the root. If you see the root (bottom note) is an F-sharp, you can write F#Maj7 on the back, since you already know that the whole set consists of Major 7ths. Write the answers on the back of each card in each set before printing the next set. Once you have all the cards labeled, mix up all of the cards, and start quizzing yourself at the piano.

According to the learning science bible called, Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, self-testing or “retrieval” is one of the very best ways to learn:

One of the most striking research findings is the power of active retrieval — testing — to strengthen memory…. The act of retrieving learning from memory has two profound benefits. One, it tells you what you know and don’t know, and therefore where to focus further study…. Two, recalling what you have learned causes your brain to reconsolidate the memory, which strengthens its connections to what you already know and makes it easier to recall in the future.” — From Make It Stick pp. 19-20

Regarding using flash cards, Make It Stick states: “…don’t stop quizzing yourself on the cards that you answer correctly a couple of times. Continue to shuffle them into the deck until they are well mastered. Only then set them aside — but in a pile that you revisit periodically….Anything you want to remember must be periodically recalled from memory.” (p. 204)

Aside from the flashcards I will often ask my students to tell me what (broken or block) chord they are playing in various measures of their classical sheet music. Then I have them write the chord symbol (as triads, slash chord inversions, or 7ths etc.) above the notes of the chord for practice. You can do this yourself; see if you can identify chords in your pieces. If the notes don’t seem to form any recognizable chord, try another measure, or have your teacher point to notes that form a chord you have studied here (Major/Minor/Diminished/Augmented Triads, 1st and 2nd inversions of Major Triads, and 6th and 7th Chords). You will see that chords are everywhere! And in fact, nearly all western music is made up of chords, which add beautiful 🎨 color 🎨 to music.

NOTE: ALL FLASHCARDS MUST BE PRINTED IN LANDSCAPE ORIENTATION (wide/horizontal) INSTEAD OF PORTRAIT (tall/vertical) IN YOUR PRINTER SETTINGS.

Click “Download” below to print Major 7th chord flashcards:

Click “Download” below to print 7th chord flashcards:

Click “Download” below to print Minor 7th chord flashcards:

I hope you find these flashcards and the instructional video above helpful to your piano studies. Feel free to share these media with other piano students and teachers. They are not included with my piano instruction books Upper Hands Piano: A Method for Adults 50+ to Spark the Mind, Heart and Soul or my Songs of the Seasons books (see below) but I hope that all who have purchased the books (Thank you VERY MUCH! 🙋🏻) will find their way to this post. If you’re new to this blog, check out the navigation bar to the right to see if there is any free sheet music you would like to print, including my recent Toccata piano arrangement for Halloween 🎃. Please comment and let us know how you are doing with these three posts on building chords!

With love and Music, Gaili

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2 Replies to “How to Build Chords on the Piano, Part 3 – 6th and 7th chords”

    1. Hi Len! I’m so glad you are finding the videos easy to follow. I try to repeat a concept or skill in different ways it makes sense to everyone with different learning styles. But sometimes I wonder if I am making the videos just too long!

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