How to Play Chords on a Keyboard or Organ

By Charlotte Johnson

Being able to play chords on a keyboard or organ is a fundamental skill that you will need if you plan to accompany a soloist, ensemble or choir. Chords are combinations of notes that blend together to make a harmonious sound. Since keyboards and organs are very similar in structure, playing chords on either instrument involves a very similar technique. With a little practice, you will be able to play many different chords on the instrument of your choice.

Keyboard Chords

Look at the notes on the keyboard. The white notes span the musical alphabet of A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. The black notes are called sharps (#) or flats (b). A black key that lies to the left of a white key is the white key's flat, whereas a black key that lies to the right of a white key is the white key's sharp. The entire musical span including the black keys consists of A, A#(Bb), B, C, C#(Db), D, D#(Eb), E, F, F# (Gb), G, G#(Ab).

Place your right thumb on a C note. C notes are the white notes located just to the left of any set of two black keys.

Place your middle finger on the next E note. E is four half steps to the right of the C. Count each black and white key as a half step (C#, D, D#, E).

Place your fifth finger on the next G note. G is three half steps to the right of E.

Place C (the root of the chord), E (a third) and G (a fifth) simultaneously to play a C chord.

Use this pattern of the root note, plus four half steps to the right, plus another three steps to the right in order to play any chord. For instance, an A chord would be A, C# and E. You can play these chords with your left hand as well by using your left fifth finger, left third finger and left thumb.

Play minor chords by playing the root note, three steps to the right (a diminished third) and then four half steps to the right (a fifth).

Play inverted chords by beginning with the third or the fifth of the chord rather than the root. For instance, the first inversion of a C chord would be E, G and C, and a second inversion of a C chord would be G, C and E.

Organ Chords

Finger the chords on an organ the same way you would on a keyboard.

Add bass notes with your feet. A base note that would correspond with a chord would be the root of the chord. For instance, a D chord would have a D in the bass.

Use the heel of your foot to play white bass notes. If your organ's pedals aren't colored black and white, the white notes would be the long pedals.

Use the toe of your foot to play the black bass notes (or short pedals).

About the Author

Charlotte Johnson is a musician, teacher and writer with a master's degree in education. She has contributed to a variety of websites, specializing in health, education, the arts, home and garden, animals and parenting.