F Minor Triad on Piano — How to Play F Minor Successfully
If you’re starting to learn how to play the piano, then you’ll certainly want to understand everything you can about playing the F minor triad. So that’s what we’ll help you with today, as we discuss concepts like scales and key signature, explain proper hand and finger placement, and provide visual aids to help you learn more efficiently.
What is an F Minor Triad?
In music, a triad is made up of three specific notes from any given musical scale. You will need the first note of the scale — also known as the root — the third, and the fifth. Because we are playing an F minor triad, we will be using the notes of the F minor scale. There are different versions of the F minor scale, but the one shown below will be the natural minor—the version that follows the key signature. Here’s what it looks like.
Keep in mind that this is a minor scale and will sound differently from a major scale (think “do,re,mi”) that you may be used to hearing.
The reason is because, in music, minor refers to any chord, song, etc. set in a tonality that invokes a feeling of sadness, anger, or melancholy in the listener, as opposed to the happier sounding pieces in major keys.
Technically speaking, the difference between major and minor is the third tone of the scale; it’s lowered one half-step in a minor key. It may not seem like a big difference on paper, but if you listened to the example in the link above, then you just heard how much of a difference that small change made!
Now, back to that F minor triad!
As stated earlier, we need the root, the third, and the fifth. Taking a look at that F minor scale from above, we see that those notes are F, Ab (pronounced A flat), and C respectively.
And now that we know what the triad is, let’s see if we can find those notes on the piano!
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F Minor Triad on the Keyboard
If you are playing a piano or a full-sized keyboard, then you have 88 black and white keys to work with! To make things a bit easier, we are going to be learning a little navigating trick using the black keys on the piano.
Whether you are playing a piano or a keyboard, you may notice that the black keys (except that very first one on a full-sized keyboard) are arranged in groups of either two or three. Like this:
To make things easier, I have circled the sets of two in blue and the sets of three in red. There are only 7 notes in the musical alphabet and they repeat in order down the entire keyboard. This consistency makes it easier to locate notes, since a note will always look the same regardless of where it is located on the piano.
We want to play an F minor triad, so it is best to locate the root first; the F.
An easy way to find an F is to first locate a set of three black keys.
The F is the white key to the immediate left of the first black key in that set. It looks like this:
You can start on whatever F you’d like on the piano to play this triad. An F on the left side will give you lower sounds and an F on the right will give you higher sounds. It might make things easier, however, to start in the middle.
Pianists orient themselves at the piano using middle C, the C that is closest to the middle of the keyboard. If you are a beginner it may help to start with the F closest to that middle C. It looks like this:
Starting there will be more comfortable and allow you to focus on your posture as you learn.
Moving on. So, now that we’ve got our root, the next note to find is the third, the Ab. If you have been wondering about that little symbol beside the A, wonder no further. It’s called a flat sign. In music, flat means to lower the note by one semitone or one key on the piano.
To find Ab, go back to that same set of three black keys you used to find the F. The Ab is the black key in the middle of that set. It is a completely different note than A, so don’t mix them up!
To find the C, we need to go up a little higher on the keyboard, to the very next set of two black keys. The C is the white key immediately to the left of that set of two.
The entire triad looks like this:
You’re doing great! After some practice, you’ll be able to find these notes by sight, so no worries if you need to use the black key trick for a while as you learn.
And now that you know what the F minor triad looks like, let’s now learn how to play it on the piano.
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Playing the F Minor Triad
Pianists number their fingers like the image shown below.
In piano sheet music, there are often markers above some of the notes to indicate which of your fingers you should use to play it. Following those suggestions puts your hand in the most natural, comfortable, and efficient way of playing that section of music. These markings are called fingerings and, in this article, I am going to give you a suggested fingering of how to play an F minor triad.
I highly suggest that you follow these fingerings as it will have you playing this triad in the most efficient way and start building some good technique and habits that will serve you well on your piano journey.
Playing F Minor Triad with Right Hand
Find the F you’d like to start on and put your 1st finger, your thumb, on it.
Note the way my hand is shaped in the picture above. You’ll want to keep your hand rounded just like the picture, laying your thumb the same way mine is. When you play, be sure to touch the keys with the tips of your fingers and not let your finger bent at the first joint.
It may not affect your playing much if all you are practicing is one triad, but paying close attention to your technique will build better playing habits and increase your finger strength so, when you do graduate to more difficult pieces, you will be able to play them much more easily.
If your thumb is on the F now, your hand is already in position to play the next two notes. Put your 3rd finger on the Ab and your 5th finger on the C.
You may have to scoot up the keyboard a bit to reach the black key with your 3rd finger, and that is just fine.
Look at you! You’ve got the F minor triad in your right hand!
Playing F Minor Triad with Left Hand
Since our hands are mirror images of each other, the fingering for your left hand will be backwards. To start the triad in your left hand, find the F you want to start on and place your 5th finger, your pinky, on it.
Your hand is already in position for the rest of the triad! Set your 3rd finger on the Ab, and your 5th finger on the C and you’ve got it!
You’re playing the F minor triad in your left hand now too!
When playing with either hand, there are a few things to watch out for. You’ll want to use the weight of your hand to push down the keys, instead of trying to push them down with your individual fingers. You’ll also want to make sure that the fingers not in use don’t go floating into the air when you play. A little floating is fine, but your fingers should not be sticking up in the air. Your hands should, at all times, should be nice and rounded. Like this:
And that’s all there is to the F minor triad!
Taking the Next Step
Now that you can play the F minor triad in both hands, there are many things you can do to take the next step in your practicing!
You can try the triad in different octaves, starting at different places on the piano. Play the triad high, play it low, play it with both hands! Try it broken by playing the notes separately instead of together, or try it inverted! To play an inverted triad, all you have to do is start on the 3rd or 5th instead of the root (Ab, C, F or C, F, Ab instead of F,Ab,C)
There are many things you can do once you’ve got a triad down! The best part is, many of these techniques sound much more complicated than they really are!
If you really want to impress, you can try out your damper pedal!
If you are playing on a piano, you may already have experimented with the pedals by your feet. Whether your piano has two pedals or three, the damper pedal is the one on the right-hand side.
Holding down the damper pedal lets notes ring out long after you’ve released the key and since a triad is a chord, those three notes will sound very nice with the pedal.
If you’re using a keyboard, don’t feel left out! There is a wide variety of digital pedals available. Just check the outputs on the back of your keyboard, so you can be sure to get a pedal that is compatible with your instrument.
Songs in F Minor You’ll Love
And if you run out of things to practice in F minor, why not check out these songs below, all originally composed in the key of F minor!
Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day
This Green Day hit opens right up with a broken F minor triad! Did you know the song title was based off the title of a painting? Check it out, and you’ll understand why Green Day went with a minor key for this song.
Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana
A 90’s grunge anthem! The opening of this very popular Nirvana song starts right on an F minor chord. It’s also got a pretty repetitive chord structure if you’d like to have a try at learning it. Have a listen and sing along!
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas
Another 90’s hit! 1890’s, that is. This mysterious piece was first performed in 1897, but you’ll probably know it best from the Disney movie Fantasia. Give it a listen and just try not to picture that iconic scene!
Well, that wraps up another article in your piano playing journey!
Now that you can find an F minor triad on the piano and play it all kinds of ways, all that’s left is to add it to your arsenal of chords and scales and get to playing! Each triad, scale, or chord that you learn will further your learning and make you a better pianist!
Enjoy your practicing! Have fun!
And when you’re ready to add on to your skills, we will see you in the next article!
Vocabulary We Learned Today
Triad – three notes, consisting of any given note combined with the notes three and five notes higher in the corresponding scale.
Scale – graduated sequence of notes dividing what is called an octave
Root – note that establishes the tonality of a musical key, chord, or scale and gives it its name.
Key Signature — any of several combinations of sharps or flats, indicating the key of a composition.
Minor – tonality based on a minor scale, the 3rd tone being a minor third above root. “Sad and Melancholy” sounding.
Major – tonality based on a major scale, the 3rd tone being a major third above root. “Happy” sounding.
Flat — to lower a note by one semitone
Fingering – the placement of fingers in the most suitable and efficient way to play a series of notes.
Octave — the distance between one note (like F) and the next note bearing its same name; eight keys apart.
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