Announcing “Piano Chords 108: Lose That Chord Catalog”

UPDATE, Nov. 17, 2018: The first video lecture of this course has just been published!

HERE’S THE ORIGINAL POST (yesterday):

I’m excited to announce a new online music course in progress here at PWK, called “Piano Chords 108.”

Since our site is blog-like, this course will be published in installments. (That’s also how we did things this summer with “The Blues Piano Crash Course” and “A Study in Blues Piano.”)

This post below is the Course Introduction (just text for now).

COURSE INTRODUCTION

Welcome to Piano Chords 108!

Kent Smith here, your instructor.

This course provides a simple system for memorizing the “108 Essential Piano Chords.”

See the chord symbol, or hear the chord name, and you will know all the notes, with certainty!

Altered and Extended Chords

You’ll also acquire enough knowledge in this class to alter or extend any of those 108 chords. (Jazz students will need this additional skill, for sure.)

In the end, you’ll be able to determine the unique set of notes that define any one of HUNDREDS of chords, on the spot. This impressive accomplishment requires zero rote memorization of any chord. (What?)

Because of the above, my focus on “108” as being the number of chords you will acquire is an understatement. One can see (in the second, more optional part of this course) that the rest of the “standard chord universe” opens right up — as soon as you know how to alter and extend any member of the “Big 108” group.

When it comes to these 108 chords — by far the most common and useful chords in both popular and classical music — you will never again need a chord catalog, chord poster, or web search.

Even though this course has the goal of weaning students off chord catalogs, so to speak, I will definitely include a downloadable picture-based catalog for these 108 chords. Such a reference will no doubt prove useful for checking your understanding of this system. But ultimately, I don’t want you to need any such piano chord reference…

…Because that’s the whole theme and purpose of Piano Chords 108: Lose the catalog (so to speak)!

Here’s the scoop.

Instead of learning 108 piano chords by “rote” (trying to memorize one chord at a time, note-for-note), you will be learning, instead, how to quickly find the notes to any of these chords by using a simple “memory trick” — actually, it’s a music theory device — a device that requires you to master just 6 “chord-generating” patterns (master = know the six patterns, and also know which pattern applies to which type of chord).
This pattern-driven approach is “infinitely” more doable than blindly attempting to memorize 108 unique chords, with no known rhyme nor reason behind those endless little clusters of notes! Forget that! And yes, you would likely forget that!
Each of the six chord-generating patterns to be mastered is a series of three letters (just two in the last one):

  1. MmM
  2. mMm
  3. Mmm
  4. mmM
  5. mmm
  6. MM

Each pattern defines the magic formula for creating chords of one particular type:

  1. Major chords (includes major 7 chords)
  2. Minor chords (includes minor 7 chords)
  3. Dominant 7 chords
  4. Half-Diminished 7 chords
  5. Diminished chords (includes diminished 7 chords)
  6. Augmented major triads

How do we tell these six patterns apart? You will see (in the class) that the answer is not complicated; I will give you excellent tips for calling these up mentally, and for always keeping them straight!
Armed with these 6 patterns, you will learn how to pretty much instantly find the notes (on your keyboard) to any of the following 108 chords:

“The Big 108”

The 12 Major Triads (triad = 3-note chord)

C, D, E, F, G, A, B
C# or Db
D# or Eb
F# or Gb
G# or Ab
A# or Bb

The 12 “Major 7” Chords

CM7, DM7, EM7, FM7, GM7, AM7, BM7
(C# or Db)M7
(D# or Eb)M7
(F# or Gb) M7
(G# or Ab)M7
(A# or Bb)M7

The 12 Minor Triads

Cm, Dm, Em, Fm, Gm, Am, Bm
(C# or Db)m
(D# or Eb)m
(F# or Gb)m
(G# or Ab)m
(A# or Bb)m

The 12 “Minor 7” Chords

Cm7, Dm7, Em7, Fm7, Gm7, Am7, Bm7
(C# or Db)m7
(D# or Eb)m7
(F# or Gb)m7
(G# or Ab)m7
(A# or Bb)m7

The 12 “Dominant 7” Chords

C7, D7, E7, F7, G7, A7, B7
C#7 or Db7
D#7 or Eb7
F#7 or Gb7
G#7 or Ab7
A#7 or Bb7

The 12 “Half-Diminished 7” Chords (also called “Minor-7 Flat-5” chords)

Cm7b5, Dm7b5, Em7b5, Fm7b5, Gm7b5, Am7b5, Bm7b5
(C# or Db)m7b5
(D# or Eb)m7b5
(F# or Gb)m7b5
(G# or Ab)m7b5
(A# or Bb)m7b5

The 12 Diminished Triads

Cdim, Ddim, Edim, Fdim, Gdim, Adim, Bdim
C#dim or Dbdim
D#dim or Ebdim
F#dim or Gbdim
G#dim or Abdim
A#dim or Bbdim

The 12 Diminished 7 Chords

Cdim7, Ddim7, Edim7, Fdim7, Gdim7, Adim7, Bdim7
C#dim7 or Dbdim7
D#dim7 or Ebdim7
F#dim7 or Gbdim7
G#dim7 or Abdim7
A#dim7 or Bbdim7

The 12 Augmented Triads

Caug, Daug, Eaug, Faug, Gaug, Aaug, Baug
(C# or Db)aug
(D# or Eb)aug
(F# or Gb)aug
(G# or Ab)aug
(A# or Bb)aug

Grand Total Chord Count: 108!

Over time, all or most of these chords will become completely “automatic” to you. However, the IMMEDIATE result of completing this class is that you will never have to stop and scratch your head when confronted with the chord symbol for ANY of these. Instead, you will be able to determine all the notes on the spot — with 100% confidence.

Let’s get started!

In the first couple of video lessons, we will cover a handful of basic music theory terms, especially studying how they relate visually to the keyboard. Specifically, we will get you going really strong on half-steps, whole-steps, major thirds and minor thirds on piano. How come? Because we must mentally own these musical intervals, in order to understand and confidently use the Six Patterns that this chord learning system completely relies upon.

Stay tuned for that!

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