The C major and G major chords are two of the most common chords used in piano music. Both chords appear in many keys, including C major, G major, A minor, and more. Because they are such common chords, many pieces of music involve moving from the C major chord to the G major chord.
But nothing is ever as easy as it appears, and some people—especially beginners—struggle with understanding and executing this change. That’s way in this article, we will learn three ways to achieve the easiest change of piano chords from C to G.
Understanding Notes in the Chords
The C major chord consists of three notes: C, E, and G. The G major chord also consists of three notes: G, B, and D. You may notice that both chords share the note G. When moving from one chord to another, a shared note can help make this process easier. The shared note can remain the same, while the other notes in the first chord change to become the notes in the second chord.
In general, it is best to move as little as possible when changing from chord to chord. For example, if the first chord has a C and the second chord has a D, move from the C to the D right next to it, rather than changing to a D in a different octave. All of these changes are made easier by using what are called chord inversions.
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Chord Inversions and Root Position
We now know which notes are in the C major and G major chords; however, the chords do not have to be played with the notes appearing in that order. As long as all three notes are present, you can play the chord with the notes in any order you like. When we change the order the notes of the chord are played in, we call this an inversion.
If the chord is played with the notes “in order,” this is called root position. This position is given this name because the note the chord is named after is the note that is on the bottom of the chord. If the middle note of the chord is on bottom, we call this first inversion. If the highest note of the chord is placed on the bottom, we call this second inversion.
The diagrams below show the C major chord and the G major chord in all of their inversions.
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Before we begin playing the chords, it is important to know our finger numbers. When playing the piano, each finger is assigned its own number. This system helps us determine which fingers play which notes, and is often used in sheet music written for the piano.
The finger numbers are the same on both hands: the thumb is number one, the pointer is number two, the middle finger is number three, the ring finger is number four, and the pinky is number five. These finger numbers are demonstrated in the images below:
C Root Position to G 1st Inversion
We are now ready to try moving from the C major chord to the G major chord! First, we will move from C major in root position to G major in first inversion. As shown below, we will begin with our right hand playing the C major chord.
Finger one will play C, finger three will play E, and finger five will play G. When we switch to the G major chord in first inversion, finger five will stay on G. Finger one will move down to B, and finger two will play D.
Now we will learn how to move from C major root position to G major first inversion in the left hand. In the C major chord, finger five will play C, finger three will play E, and finger one will play G.
When switching to the G major chord in first inversion, finger one will stay on G. Finger five moves down to B, and finger three moves down to D. It is important to play D with finger three instead of finger four, as it is rather difficult to play fingers four and five at the same time when they are not playing keys that are right next to each other, thus creating unnecessary tension in the hand and wrist.
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C 2nd Inversion to G Root Position
Now we will learn yet another way to move from the C major chord to the G major chord! First we will learn how to move from the C major chord in 2nd inversion to the G major chord in root position, using our right hand.
To play the C major chord in 2nd inversion with the right hand, start by putting finger one on G. Use finger three to play C, and finger five to play E. To move to the G chord in root position, keep finger one on G. Move finger three down to B, and move finger five down to D.
Next, we will learn how to move from the C major chord in 2nd inversion to the G major chord in root position using our left hand. To play the C major chord in 2nd inversion using the left hand, begin by putting finger five on G. Use finger two to play C, and finger five to play E.
To move to the G chord in root position, keep finger five on G. Use finger three to play B, and move finger one down to play D.
C 1st Inversion to G 2nd Inversion
Let’s learn one more way to move from the C major chord to the G major chord! Here, we will learn how to move from the C major chord in first inversion to the G major chord in second inversion, first by using our right hand. To play the C major chord in first inversion, use finger one to play E. Next, use finger two to play G. Finally, use finger five to play C.
To move to the G chord in second inversion, move finger one down to D. Finger three plays G, and use finger five to play B.
Now let’s learn how to move from the C major chord in 1st inversion to the G major chord in 2nd inversion using the left hand. To play the C major chord in first inversion, begin by using finger five to play E. Finger three is used to play G, and finger one is used to play C.
To play the G chord in 2nd inversion, move finger five down to play D. Use finger two to play G, and finger 1 to play B.
Note that although these two chords share a note, this is the only instance of switching from C major to G major we have learned in which the same finger does not play G in both chords. If you use the same finger to play G in both chords, this will create tension in the wrist.
Therefore, we must switch to finger two playing G in the G major chord to avoid this. Over time, repeated use of fingerings that create tension can lead to injuries which prevent the ability to play the piano, among other issues.
Now that we have learned some different ways of moving from the C major chord to the G major chord, here are some tips to help you master this skill!
When practicing these chords, it can be helpful to practice playing each note of the chord separately. This helps you become familiar with how the individual notes of the chord sound, and where your fingers will need to go. Try playing the notes in the chord separately several times, and then trying playing all of the notes in the chord together at once.
Slow practice is also key to playing these chords successfully. By practicing these chord changes slowly over and over, you are building the habit of playing them correctly. Do not try playing these chords quickly until you have practiced them slowly over and over.
If you wait until you have played them slowly many times, it will be much easier to play them quickly than if you start trying to play them quickly right away. Patience is key! Slow practice will help make these chord changes become second nature.
Use your wrist to help make playing these chords easier. Always move your wrist in the natural direction it wants to go. If the chords are changing from higher notes to lower notes, let your wrist move to the left. If the chords are changing from lower notes to higher notes, let your wrist move to the right. Do not feel that your wrist must be “rigid” at all times, but also, do not let your wrist move more than what is necessary.
We have learned three ways to approach the easiest change of piano chords from C to G. We now know which inversions and root positions are best to use in combination with one another to make the switch between chords as smooth and easy as possible. Now you can apply these chord changes, and the strategies used to make them happen, in your own music making!