Is there any books or methods on practising chords? I am not talking about knowing chords on their own but being able to practise them with other music items such as scales. I find I am a very good at scales or chords individually but when I put them together, not great and very disjointed. I am a self taught pianist doing very well in classical, jazz and blues. Including some improvisation in all these styles. But somehow, I feel I am missing something, improvisation is not to the same standard as playing other people’s music. My improvisation using scales is very good and colourful and flows well (both hands) but when I include chords it’s not as good.... duller... not sure really. I know my scales inside out and practised for hours... but clearly, chords not as much!

  • 2
    You might want to include some additional context such as the genre and your instrument.
    – user37496
    Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 17:13

4 Answers 4

  1. Step 1: When you play a melody in piano for a song, at the end of each phrase you will feel a sense of pause/rest/silence, this is the moment when the singer take the inhale breath, play the chords at this end of phrases, so that there will be a continuous flow of the melody and chords in the play till the end of song.
  2. Step 2: Try playing the chords a little while earlier than the phrase end.
  3. Step 3: Try to play the chord which has a note in the scale that ends the phrase.
  4. Step 4: Continue the chord till the next phrase where the chord is not matching the note.
  5. Step 5: Replace chords in the above steps with arpeggio
  6. Step 6: Repeat the above steps on different songs

Example of piano melody and chords:

God of Mercy and Compassion - Piano melody - E-minor (Harmonic)

  • That makes sense! Maybe I need to practise with others. I like your analogy of the singer taking a breath, that has open possibilities
    – user33232
    Commented Sep 15, 2018 at 7:01

Exploration time! Take apart the simple triads that tend to make up most middle of the road music. Realise there's only three notes involved (triads?!) and try different voicings. C E G can be played on piano in close form as C E G, E G C, G C E only. But open them up (as in don't play the very next available in the chord - leave a space) and you have many more options. Try doubling one, two or all three notes. The combinations are nearly endless!

Next, think about getting from one voicing of one chord to the next - and how to keep a pivot note, or not, as you fancy.

When you've explored all these options, using simple song books - artists you like, or compilations from various genres, etc., and just played through many songs, you'll gradually start to do the accompaniment part more automatically. Then's the time to experiment with walking bass, bass/chord alternating, finding out about, and using, extensions, listening to which notes you can discard in a chord, etc.

  • Looks like I was over complicating it. That definitely works!
    – user33232
    Commented Sep 15, 2018 at 7:05

First of all, you'll want to be familiar with all the chords you have at your disposal. Start by learning the diatonic chords in every key. Know what the I, ii, iii, etc., are in every single key, by heart, and be able to reproduce them on command instantly.

Then, expand your chord knowledge by adding in sevenths, ninths, thirteenths, as well as altered tones like raised/lowered fifths or ninths, etc.

Then, familiarize yourself with common chord progressions, such as circle of fifths progressions. A lot of jazz piano, for instance is simply ii-V-I(or i), or simply V-I(or i) over and over in different keys. Knowing your dominant in every key will help you be able to use secondary-dominant chord substitutions.

This isn't everything, but it's a really good start. Ear training to recognize these chords by ear would be a big plus also. Know what a minor seventh chord, a flat-9-flat-5 chord, etc sounds like by ear and hear the progressions in your head before playing them. Just listening to and analyzing a lot of jazz/blues piano will help with this.

Hope this helps!


As a place to start, I recommend practicing chord scales, playing the diatonic triads for each key, initially in order from tonic up to the octave, then in reverse, back to the tonic. After proficiency is at least partially achieved, try mixing the chords order randomly to more accurately duplicate how they are randomly used in actual music performance. At this point you may choose to start adding extensions and working on altered chords if you are interested in taking it to the next level. Also, studying chord voicing can open up a whole new perspective for you musically.

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