Learning the piano is hard, and understanding how to play the A minor piano chord prove to be a challenging task. That’s why, in this article, I’m going to cover everything you need to know about chords—from how chords appear in written music to concepts like fingerings and inversions!
Where the A Minor Chord Comes From
What Is A Chord?
Music terms can be downright confusing, especially to beginners that are new to the world of piano. So why not start with the basics, such as, what in the world is a chord?
Well, let’s begin with harmonies and melodies. If you think about your favorite songs and the lyrics you sing along to, you’re most likely thinking of the melody, or the main sequences of notes.
Harmonies, on the other hands, are the underlying support beam in music. And chords are what create harmony, and they consist of two or more notes in a column, which are played simultaneously before moving on to the next column.
The A Minor Scale
Alright, now that we’ve covered that, let’s dive into the topic of A minor scale. Now the A minor scale is a sequence of seven tones that are used to build harmonies and melodies.
It begins with the note A, and the bonus eighth note at the end of the scale is a repeat of A to complete an octave. The A minor scale, (like the C major scale), does not have any flats or sharps, so you’ll only see the treble and bass clef to the left of each staff.
Written notes match the movement of the notes on the physical keyboard. As the notes move up the staff, they get higher on the keyboard, and as they move down the staff, they get lower.
See the scale as written in the treble clef and bass clef below:
Major chords are named by the first note in the scale, or the root note. The chord itself consists of three notes and belongs to a family of chords called triads. The chord ACE is made up of the first, third, and fifth notes of the A minor scale and usually appears with the Roman numeral notation i or ia.
How to Play the A Minor Chord
Locating the Chord on the Piano
It’s fairly easy to locate the A minor chord on the keyboard, but if you need a sneak peek, check out the image below:
You’ll find the A key, a white (natural) key, between the second and third black (accidental) keys
You’ll find the C key, a white (natural) key, two white notes up the keyboard from A.
You’ll find the E key, also a white (natural) key, two white notes up the keyboard from C (or four white notes up the keyboard from A).
Playing the Chord and Fingerings
Now it’s time to think about fingerings.
Professional pianists often recommend that you use particular fingers when playing certain scales and notes. These “fingerings,” or standard recommendations are usually written directly onto a piece of music for beginner pianists and take the form of numbers.
Each number corresponds to an individual finger—on each hand, thumbs start at 1 and pinkies end at 5. As you advance in your piano skill level, you’ll see these numbers less and less since it’s assumed that you’ll have them memorized by the time you become an advanced pianist.
In my personal experience, fingerings have often felt trivial, annoying, or tedious, but I’ve learned that they truly help you with your hand technique, your muscle memory, and your fluidity in practice. Fingerings are designed to help you avoid tripping over your fingers, especially as you play quickly and help you keep a smooth, even sound production.
Practice does not make perfect, but if you put in the effort to learn these fingerings, you’ll have an easier time playing piano in the long run.
The standard fingerings for ACE—the A minor chord—are as follows:
Let’s give it a try! Place your hands on the keys, make sure your thumbs, middle fingers, and pinkies are lined up on the keyboard, then play all of the keys at the same time!
Congratulations! You’ve just played the A minor chord!
A Minor Chord Inversions
Although ACE is the root position of the A minor chord, there are a few ways to remix the notes…with inversions! With these chords, the order of the notes is systematically rearranged or inverted.
1st Inversion (Am/C)
When you take the A, the bottom note of the root position, and move it to the top of the chord, you form the first inversion. The chord ACE turns into the chord CEA.
Be sure to note that the fingering in the right hand changes for the first inversion:
Since the third note of the A minor scale, the C, is the lowest note in the first inversion, this chord is also known as Am/C. It usually appears with the Roman numeral notation i6 or ib.
2nd Inversion (Am/E)
When you take the A and the C, the bottom two notes of the root position, and move them to the top of the chord, you form the second inversion. The chord ACE turns into EAC.
Be sure to note that the fingering in the left hand changes for the second inversion:
Since the fifth note of the A minor scale, the E, is the lowest note in the second inversion, this chord is also known as Am/E. It usually appears with the Roman numeral notation i64or ic.
Tip: When you move one note from the bottom to the top of the chord, you make the first inversion. When you move two notes from the bottom to the top of the chord, you make the second inversion. It’s a good trick to remember.
Now let’s go over what we’ve learned about the A minor piano chord.
The note A is the root of the A minor scale and sits as the first note of the A minor chord. The third and fifth notes, C and E, along with A, make up the chord ACE. When playing this chord, make sure you use the correct fingering to help you build muscle memory.
The A major chord can also be inverted. In the first inversion, the A moves to the top of the chord to create CEA, while in the second inversion, the A and the C move to the top of the chord to create EAC. Make sure to double check your fingerings in the inverted chords, because they may change in the right or left hand depending on which chord you want to play.
Whether you’re looking to play something sad, sorrowful, or melancholy, the A minor piano chord will be a good one to have under your belt.
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