In this guide, we’re exploring how to find piano chords to the songs you are desperate to be able to play. There are so many different ways to get to the same end result of learning a song on the piano, whether you use sheet music, tutorials, or other methods.
Chords are normally played as an accompaniment and a lot of people who want to find piano chords to popular songs are keen to play the chords while they learn to sing. Learning the chords to a song can be one of the quickest and most enjoyable ways to get the satisfaction of playing a song you love. Some people who never master scales or more intricate elements of piano can play a few chords.
Why Focus on Chords?
A lot of people who are just looking to find piano chords have decided that, for now at least, this will be the focus of their piano playing. Once you can play a few chords, you have opened up a world of musical possibilities. You might have heard of the “four chord” songs out there. There are a huge number of songs that are played with the same four chords, or simple variations of these.
The video above shows you how to play four simple chords and then walks you through how you can play a number of songs with just this relatively small amount of knowledge.
We don’t recommend just learning chords, and you should definitely try to bolt-on melodies and bass as well. In fact, if you are going to become a concert pianist then this is something you are inevitably going to have to do. However, chords can be a great starting point, and a quick way to wow friends and family.
Chords are popular among people who don’t want to learn how to read music. Don’t get us wrong, chords are crucial no matter what method you use to learn the piano, and whether you understand the notes on the musical staff or not. However, chords can be communicated easily among people who don’t know how to read sheet music. It is perfectly possible to play chords and melodies without this knowledge. So, where can we go about finding piano chords to songs?
Songbooks and Sheet Music
Having said that sheet music is not always required to learn the chords, we are going to list it as a way to find piano chords anyway. If you can read music or you have any interest in learning then this is undeniably the most accurate method. The guide below shows you how to recognize chords, and different types of chords, when reading sheet music.
Taking the time to learn how chords are written in sheet music can feel like a real pain, and an extra task for someone who just wants to take the fastest route to playing some songs. However, if you want to be a professional musician this is a skill you are going to have to learn at some stage.
The benefit of sheet music is that eventually, you can get to the stage where you can “sight read” which means you can perform music you have never seen before. This is the musical equivalent of reading out loud. It means that you can see notated music and play it instantly, and this is quite an impressive skill. Eventually, you may be able to play pretty much any piece of music just by looking at the sheet music, rather than having to practice and learn it before performing.
As well as the chords being notated within the actual sheet music, some songbooks will also list the chords above the staff. This can make it easier for those who don’t read music. Often, these chords are listed with a diagram of how to play said chord on the guitar. Ignore this diagram, but the chord itself can be easily converted to play on your keyboard or piano. Luckily, though chords are played differently on guitar and piano, and have different sound characteristics, the chords remain the same even when you switch between the two instruments.
If you buy a songbook of your favorite artist, check whether or not it lists the chords as well as having them within the notation.
Find Piano Chords Using Tutorials (and Interactive Lessons)
We say this all the time here on Pianu. People who are learning how to play the piano today are the luckiest generation ever to have approached the instrument. It is easier to find piano chords, and just about any other piece of information you need, than it ever has been before.
Let’s take a specific song to use as an example. Chasing Cars, by Snow Patrol. If you want to use the above method, and learn how to play the chords to this song by using sheet music, it is easily available.
If sheet music looks like hieroglyphs to you, don’t worry – tutorials are here to help. A simple search for “Piano Chords for Chasing Cars” will bring you dozens of results, either on Google or YouTube. We’ve picked out one of the best tutorials you can use on YouTube.
This one even shows the notation along with the piano roll and gives a perfect demonstration of what you should be playing. There are so many variations on YouTube. If you are an absolute beginner, you can even go for the tutorials specifically marked as “easy” which will show you one-handed playing to get you started.
Our personal favorite method, and the one that sets Pianu apart, is the interactive lesson, which you can view (and even try for yourself) here. By plugging a USB-MIDI compatible keyboard into your computer, you can rely on Pianu to tell you when you are playing notes correctly or making an error. The interactive tutorial can guide you every step of the way until you can play Chasing Cars perfectly.
Pianu has a huge library of songs you can do this with. Our Pianu academy is also built around playing songs, rather than just boring yourself with endless lessons on technique and scales. This means that you can find piano chords and put them into practice quickly.
The Pianu Song Library
All of the songs in the Pianu song library are split into categories based on their difficulty level. This means that beginners can specifically pick out songs that might be more suitable for them to learn. All of the songs within are available as interactive lessons, so you don’t have to copy what someone is doing in a YouTube video and hope you’ve understood it. The Pianu platform can show you exactly how to play the right notes at the right time.
Using Guitar Chord Websites
This can sound like a really backwards way to find piano chords, but it is amazing how effective it can be, especially if you want to learn rock and pop songs rather than classical compositions. Often, clever people on online resources like Ultimate Guitar have listed the chords to songs whether they are traditionally played on guitar, or on piano.
We can continue with our example of “Chasing Cars” here.
A E/G# D A
We’ll do it all, everything, on our own.
A E/G# D A
We don’t need anything, or anyone.
If I lay here, if I just lay here
Would you lie with me, and just forget the world.
A E/G# D A
I don’t quite know how to say how I feel
A E/G# D A
Those three words, I said too much, but not enough.
You’ll notice how the chords are listed on a row above the lyrics. Often, the chord change is lined up with the lyrics in a way that gives you a prompt for when you should change chords, but you can usually work this out by listening, too. If you aren’t going to learn how to read sheet music then when you find piano chords like this, you are going to have to get good at using your ears to work out how they relate to a song. It takes a little bit of practice, but most people get there.
Ultimate Guitar even has chord diagrams. You can see exactly how the chords you need to play look on guitar, ukulele and piano. So, you can see that the site is now so much more than just a guitar platform.
There are other benefits to Ultimate Guitar, too. It is regularly reviewed by professional musicians and has a strong community of contributors. There are thousands of songs on the site, and there are even different versions of the chords and tabs to songs. On top of this, there is a simple option to transpose songs.
Ultimate Guitar will probably always have a slight bias toward guitarists, but it can be a useful tool for musicians who play other instruments, too.
Chordify is a really interesting addition to this list. We would call it something of a “last resort” for finding the chords to songs, but it is a clever indication of where technology is going. Chordify can work out the chords to a song just by analyzing the sound wave.
In the words of the company: “Chordify recognizes chords from an audio signal and aligns them to the music in a simple and intuitive player. Chordify uses cutting-edge technology to help both novice and trained musicians play the music they want to play.”
The end result is a huge database full of songs that people have already searched for, as well as the option to use YouTube videos or even upload your own songs in order to find out the chords to a piece of music. A song that has already been “Chordified” is listed on their database, making it easy to find piano chords to this piece of music, or you do have the option to “Chordify” something yourself, if not. Upload a track and watch it create an analysis.
It is not 100% accurate, but it is pretty close, especially for relatively simple songs. This means that even if you have a penchant for obscure pieces of music, you can use Chordify to establish how to play it on the piano.
Chordify lets you access three songs a day for free, after this you need to pay to retain your access. It’s frustrating that it isn’t totally free, but it is a good resource, so if you regularly find yourself running out of free credits to “Chordify” songs, you might want to make the investment.
Google – A Musician’s Best Friend
This might seem like the most basic piece of advice you’ve received in some time, but we can’t ignore it. If you want to find out the chords to a song then you have a pretty good chance of doing so if you search on Google. In some cases, you will find a full, simple-to-follow tutorial for a song. In other cases, you might simply find a forum with fanatical followers of a band debating whether a chord is an F minor or not! Either way, Google is spectacularly good at performing the job of bringing back the most relevant results. That might be a YouTube video, it might be a platform like Pianu or Chordify. In other cases, it might find piano chords on a fan-made website or a specific sheet music site. The chances are, Google will find what you’re looking for.
In short, what we’re saying is, rather than search all of the sites and platforms individually, you can ask Google to find piano chords for you and see what comes back. It’s amazing what the algorithm can do.
Working Out Chords Yourself – Is it Possible?
We recently published a guide to playing piano by ear. It is perfectly possible to reach the stage where you can listen to songs and then work out the melody on the piano yourself. In fact, with certain songs, it is relatively straightforward.
It will take a long time to get to the point where you can hear a song for the first time and recognize notes, chords, and chord progressions, but some people have this ability, and for those who do want to learn to play by ear, it is a fairly crucial skill.
If you haven’t got to this stage yet, it is a case of trying to train your ear. The guide below can be very helpful.
Root notes can also be extremely important when it comes to working out the chords to songs yourself. As you will see from the video above, she starts by working out the root note (bass notes) and then tries to match up the chords. To do this, you also need a good knowledge of chords.
She uses the song “Eleanor Rigby” to work out the chords, but you can start with something more simple. Notice while watching the video that she also is not afraid to try and fail. If you want to work something out for yourself then you have to get used to the “trial and error” process.
Can I Do This With Classical Music?
How can you find piano chords to classical pieces of music? Well, it is possible, and there are a lot of classical pieces that use chords played on the piano, but they tend to work in a slightly different manner, making it hard to establish the exact notes and chords without reading sheet music.
In piano, the word “can’t” shouldn’t enter your vocabulary. It’s just something you haven’t learned yet. So, while there is nothing to stop you from learning classical music (and the chords within) by ear, we recommend starting with some popular songs and training your ear this way. Simple, four-chord songs will be a great starting point. Once you reach the stage where you feel like you can quickly and easily work out a simple song, keep advancing in complexity.
Do All Songs Use Chords?
A lot of people who are new to the piano assume that every song uses the same techniques, more or less. This isn’t necessarily true. While songs all share a set of rules, and usually have a key and a time signature, chords (or at least, the simple triad chords) don’t have to be used. Some songs are just a melody and bassline, for example.
What is a Triad Chord (and How Many Chords Are There Anyway?)
Triad chords are simply chords played using three notes in conjunction. When you start to play, the majority of the chords you learn will be triads. You can then add further variations as you go on. Thousands of rock and pop songs can be played using just triad songs, and when you find piano chords listed as “C” or “D” or “Fm” then they are usually referring to the triad version of chords. Remember, both major and minor chords can be called triads. The small “m” next to the letter of the chord signifies a minor chord.
This is what a triad chord looks like when played on a keyboard. This is the C Major chord:
For a huge list of triad chords we recommend checking out this guide.
If you scroll down on the triad chord guide, you will notice that there are far more varieties of chords. Inverted chords, “7th” cords, sus chords, there are so many different types.
The important thing to remember is that triad chords are by far the most popular. If you enjoy jazz music or more alternative styles then you might start to regularly see chords such as 7th chords. They are usually not too complex to learn how to play. The difficult thing is actually remembering all of these chords.
Don’t worry about remembering all of the chords. You don’t need an encyclopedic knowledge to start to play songs. When you find piano chord online, if you can’t remember how to play a specific chord, you can easily find this knowledge online.
There are around 100 chords that are semi-regularly used. 12-14 of these are far more common. Focus on knowing how to play a C major long before you learn how to play an “Asus4” chord.
A Word Of Warning for Beginners
If you are starting out in your journey to play the piano, you may be very excited by the prospect of being able to find piano chords to pretty much any song online. It’s true. Bands you have loved and songs you have listened to thousands of times, you can find all of their songs online and if they are a fairly well-known band or artist, you will probably be able to find piano chords for their songs.
This is exciting, but it can also be a sure-fire way to make the piano feel more intimidating. If your favorite band is Tool, or Radiohead, or someone else known for doing things in a slightly more complex manner than rock and pop is used to, you might find that their songs are very difficult to learn. Even the pros might have some difficulty.
Our course is designed in a way that teaches the chords and notes first before putting them into practical use to teach songs. Following the Pianu academy can be a great way to ensure you build your knowledge of piano chords gradually.
This is not just about building knowledge gradually, though, it is about stopping people from becoming intimidated by finding a song that has 37 chords, all more complex than the last! Don’t expect to be playing like this within your first few lessons…
If it all feels too much, or you find piano chords that are a bit “out there”, remember that you can play thousands of songs just by knowing four chords. This fundamental knowledge is a great starting point, and from here, you can build towards playing the more complex songs, compositions and even classical concertos.
As we’ve already stated, it’s the best time ever to find loads of information to help you to play the piano. You can find piano chords to thousands of songs almost instantly online. We recommend following some sort of course or structure, at least until you have the basics nailed, but from here, it is up to you which songs to learn next.
Whether you use YouTube tutorials or the “old-fashioned” way of using sheet music, you will find no shortage of learning material.