I have read some topics which are similar in respect to the question I will ask but I figured to post a new topic as I want to ask for a specific method to proceed.

This is the thread I found with some good answers relative to my question - Best method to learn all chords on piano

My situation: I have learnt the major and minor chords and know how to formulate them, no problem there. It did not take very long to learn them as I had already covered some prior to digging into all of them. I know there's so much you can do with chords and I'm slacking a bit on this aspect, I can now make melodies using single notes within scales but would also like to add in chords and more importantly want it to be a natural process for me where I know where everything fits well together.

There's a list of chord types I'm interested in: 1) Major Chords (Covered) 2) Minor Chords (Covered) 3) Sevenths (Covered some here and there I know about 6 chords well using maj/min 7ths) 4) Suspended-2 & 4 chords - theoretically know how to form them but don't know any of them yet except Gsus2 (G C D) due to it being in a song I was learning and it stuck in. 5) Inversions

My task list is pretty demanding, I'd love to be able to do all of this and utilise it in my own compositions. Any ideas how to go forth, is it best to practice chords singularly first then combine them in context with playing a song or writing a composition?

3 Answers 3


There is a best way to do this, and it's the accepted practise in jazz, I've taught this lots and watched it work. You need to drill all keys changing roots and chords in every possible permutation, starting with the most common movements. You put on a metronome, and you play em. Start as slow as you need to in order to get through all keys with no hiccups. Then cover all the movements. For example, play all major chords, one per two beats, going around the cycle. Then the other way. Then up and down chromatically, up and down wholes step, up and down minor thirds. Then start doing the same thing with progressions. IE: IIminor7-V7-IMaj7, taking the whole progression around all the root movements. The key is all the changing and not letting yourself stop to think, you want to get this nailed the same way you know your timetables, instant, no calculation. It helps to do this as chords and arpeggios. Trust me, this works! Every jazz player's done it ad nauseum. The book "Patterns for Jazz" has excellent examples. =)

  • Thanks this sounds like the process I started with in practising the major and minor triads. I'm quite interested in how long it took for your students to learn? I tend to grasp these concepts quite quickly although I'm in no rush, I'm curious to see how long it took to learn. I'll look out for the book. Many thanks!
    – MJohnson52
    Aug 15, 2015 at 10:49
  • There's no standard really, and it's something you do for life (at least jazz players do). A huge amount of jazz vocab is really just based on being able to voice lead and enclose chords on the fly. I still do it almost every day after 20 years of playing, you can never be fast enough! =) Aug 15, 2015 at 18:20

The question is "what's the best way..."

The answer requires a tiny bit of setup: In the past, musicians were well-versed in reading sheet music and had a decent understanding of at least simple functional harmony. Today, that "baseline" level of knowledge has been eroded by the use of tablature and other "rote" notations, which by simplifying the presentation assume that they're "helping" the player.

They are not helping the player.

When you read music, you can discern two important things: what note(s) should I play NOW; and also, you can figure out what the notes' harmonic relationships are to each other. With tabulature (or similar), you learn "put your thumb HERE, and play this "shape" of notes." The underlying harmony is obfuscated.

The solution? learn how to voice chords not by "shape", but rather by knowing which scale notes you need to include, and also by understanding why you want to use inversions in the first place. (yes...wait for it...)

The reason you use use inversions in the first place is because of what a chord progression is: on the one hand, it's a series of stacked notes played together, stacked notes after stacked notes. ON THE OTHER HAND, a chord progression is actually a collection of linear melodies/lines, played together. When you play your chords as root-inversions-all, the inner lines all leap around. When you play your chords in various inversions, you are SMOOTHING OUT THE INNER LINES, which makes those inner lines sound more like reaasonable melodies, and less like crazy leaps across chasms.

So to recap: learn you chords as a matter of harmonic knowledge instead of as a matter of finger/hand shape; invert those chords in a way that provides smoothness and elegance to the inner lines formed by the three or four simultaneous "voices" that appear in time as you play those chords.


Not exactly sure what you're looking for, but here's an idea. Establish a chord sequence, of maybe 8, 12 bars. Let's use C, G, Dm7, G7 as the first line. They could well be played using root chords for each, but I think you need to move more subtly. Try, for example, CEG (root) for the first. That establishes 'home' in an unequivocal way. Moving to G, find notes close to the CEG, maybe BDG. Then for Dm7, you could use CDFA, which involves only small changes in pitch. The G7 following could then consist of DFGB. That then leads the way to the almost inevitable C in the next bar, which would be voiced EGC. All this would be L.H. for piano, of course.

  • I'm looking for ideas that'd get me into knowing chords instantly and being able to play fluently within a scale. The chords in specifics are: sevenths, inversions and suspended chords as those are used most in production I enjoy. I'm wondering whether it's due to practice in isolation or in the context of learning a song, either way I want to be able to get them down. I learnt the major and minor chords with ease, no problem in root position.
    – MJohnson52
    Aug 13, 2015 at 14:13
  • 1
    There is no "instantly" - there is only practice
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Aug 14, 2015 at 15:53

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