The first time I introduce a chord to my piano students, it’s at the keyboard.
The problem most younger kids (3 to 7 year olds) have with chords is they just can’t seem to get their fingers coordinated enough to make this sound clear. So, I usually present it on it’s own as a separate activity weeks before I actually have them use it in a song.
So I show them a C major root position chord first as the outside notes – making a fifth, and then the inner third. Then putting it all together. This takes longer than you would think!
After a few weeks of practicing the chord daily so that they can play it 10 times in a row bouncing up and down, we can now move to playing the song Mary Had A Little Lamb.
Playing piano and reading music are separate skills. Yes they are interrelated but much less that you would think. So, weeks later, after the students are playing chords easily, I begin to address chords on the staff. To do this I tell them a little story and show them a drawing. I actually draw it right in their notebook in front of them.
There’s always magic seeing something come from nothing!
I tell them that in this magic world of music there are snowmen. Each note can be stacked on top of each other and this is what they look like.
Root position chords look like a snowman.
Play It On the Keys
We then play the chord and notice how our fingers correspond to each ball of the snowman.
Find All The Snowmen In This Piece
I will usually have them look at song and start circling all the “snowmen” they can find.
Then later, when we learn other chords, we have other versions of snowmen.
This snowman is stretching his legs!
First inversion (3rd in the bass)
Play this one.
This snowman is lifting his head and shoulders up!
Second inversion (5th in the bass)
Play this one too.
The kids think it is very funny and funny is memorable!
And now that Disney has made Olaf a famous snowman (from Frozen), I even can tell them
“Hey look, it’s Olaf!”
What do you use to teach chords?
Any fun stories? I’d love to hear!