If you’ve ever listened to Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 6” or Vivaldi’s “Autumn from the Four Seasons,” it’s no wonder that classical artists often described F major as calm, composed, peaceful, and pensive. It’s also considered melancholy (The Beatles’ beloved “Yesterday”), or even explosive in joyful emotion (Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are”).
If you’re a beginner pianist who wants to learn how to play the F major chord on the piano, then you’re in the right place! In this article, we’ll learn about the F major piano chord, including where the chord comes from, how it appears both on the keyboard and in written music, how to play it with correct fingerings, and how to make its inversions.
Where the F Major Chord Comes From
Let’s begin with the basics–what exactly is a piano chord?
What Is A Chord?
Where do we start? Sheet music can be pretty difficult to read, especially with the avalanche of unfamiliar symbols and words scattered across various pages. If you’re just beginning to learn piano, you might be asking which of these is a chord? Well, here’s a quick rundown:
A chord is made of two or more layered notes which are played at the same time to create harmony. Harmonies support melodies, or the main sequences of notes in a piece of music.
In the image below, the chords each consist of three notes stacked in a column. All of the notes in one column or chord should be played simultaneously before moving on to the next column or chord.
Why bother with chords, though? Why not play individual notes? Take a moment to think about your favorite songs. Usually the lead singer sings the melody, while the backup singers sing the harmonies. Melodies tend to be more memorable, but harmonies—and chords—are what bring depth to the music you’re playing.
The F Major Scale
Now that we know what a chord looks like and why we play it, the next step is to figure out where major chords come from. “F major chord” sounds very similar to “F major scale,” right? So let’s begin with scales to figure out the reason why that is.
Scales are sequences of tones used to build harmonies and melodies. Major and minor scales have seven notes (the bonus eighth note is a repeat of the first note and completes an octave).
The F major scale begins and ends on the note F. It has one flat—B-flat—which is noted with the symbol ♭ on the B lines. This is called the key signature. It’s there to tell you that instead of playing the white (natural) B key, you go down a half-step and play the black (accidental) B♭ key.
When you move up the scale, the notes get higher on the keyboard, and when you move down the scale, the notes get lower on the keyboard. In other words, it matches how the notes are written on the staff.
Check out the scale as written in the treble clef and bass clef below:
Major chords come from the first, third, and fifth notes of the major scale and are a part of the chord family called triads (because they consist of three notes). They are named by their root note, or the first note in the chord.
In the F major scale, the first, third, and fifth notes are F, A, and C, so the chord is FAC, and its name is F major. It often appears with the Roman numeral notation I or Ia.
How to Play the F Major Chord
Now, let’s move onto how you go about locating the F major chord on your keyboard.
Locating the Chord on the Piano
If you’re trying to locate the F major chord and are struggling to place the notes on the keyboard, take a look at the image below:
To find an F key, look for three black (accidental) keys. The F key is a white (natural) key directly below the first of those black keys.
To find an A key, move two white notes up the keyboard from F. The A key is a white (natural) key.
To find a C key, move two white notes up the keyboard from A (or move four white notes up the keyboard from F). The C key is also a white (natural) key.
Playing the Chord and Fingerings
Now that we’ve found the keys on the keyboard, let’s take a moment to talk about fingerings.
I remember my days as a beginner pianist, and let me tell you, fingerings were not my thing. To me, they only seemed like extra work to memorize, and besides, I was getting by just fine without them.
But, as the weeks passed, playing scales and chords became increasingly difficult the faster I became. Why couldn’t I stop tripping over my own fingers!?
Professional pianists recommend specific fingers for playing different scales and chords, hence the term “fingering.” And while they might seem annoying at first, these are meant to help you with your hand technique, build muscle memory, and play more smoothly as you advance.
Fingerings are written as numbers and correspond to individual fingers. On both the right and left hands, thumbs are 1 and pinkies are 5. Sometimes fingerings are written directly onto a piece of music, but more often than not, the numbers are omitted because it’s assumed that you learned them as a beginner. (See the F major scale fingerings here.)
Take it from someone who had to restart and spend months retraining their hands with the correct fingerings—practice does not make perfect. If anything, it makes permanent. And, when it comes to fingerings, you’ll be better off starting off on the right foot. (Or should I say…the right hand?)
So, for the root position of the F major chord—FAC—these are the fingerings:
Go ahead and place your hands on the keyboard. Double check your fingering and make sure that your thumbs, middle fingers, and pinkies are on the correct notes. Then, take a deep breath and press all of the keys down at once!
Congratulations! You’ve just played the F major chord!
F Major Chord Inversions
So you’ve learned to play the root position—FAC. But… what if you want to mix it up a little? Luckily, FAC isn’t the only way to play the F major chord.
Major triads come with a couple of common variations. These are called “inversions” because the order of the notes is rearranged or inverted.
1st Inversion (F/A)
To make the first inversion, take the bottom note of the root position, the F, and move it to the top of the chord. FAC becomes ACF.
The fingering changes in the right hand when you move from the root position to the first inversion:
This first inversion is also known as the F/A chord because the third note of the F major scale, the A, is the lowest note in the chord. It often appears with the Roman numeral notation I6 or Ib.
2nd Inversion (F/C)
To make the second inversion, take the bottom two notes of the root position, the F and the A, and move them to the top of the chord. FAC becomes CFA.
The fingering changes in the left hand when you move from the root position to the second inversion:
This second inversion is also known as the F/C chord because the fifth note of the F major scale, C, is the lowest note in the chord. It often appears with the Roman numeral notation I64or Ic.
Tip: An easy way to remember how to make inversions is to think of the number of notes you need to invert. Do you need to make the first inversion? Move one note from the bottom to the top of the chord. Or, if you need to make the second inversion, move the bottom two notes to the top.
Review of the F Major Chord
Let’s review what we’ve learned about regarding the F major piano chord.
The F major chord consists of the first, third, and fifth notes of the F major scale—FAC. Since F is the root of the scale and the chord, this chord is in its root position. To play it, locate the keys on the piano, make sure you have the correct fingering, and play all of the notes in the chord at the same time.
The F major chord also has two inversions. To make the first inversion, take the F and move it to the top of the chord to make ACF, and to make the second inversion, take the F and the A and move them to the top of the chord to make CFA. Watch out for the changes in fingerings depending on which inversion you’re playing.
As you continue to practice, keep an eye out for the F major piano chord and its inversions. With its popularity in both classical and modern music, you might be surprised with how often it’ll appear.
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