Broken chords refer to the technique in which you play chords on a piano. They
can sometimes also be called arpeggios. However, arpeggios can differ slightly
from the traditional broken chord. ( Basically, arpeggios are a subset of broken chords )
Broken chords are very similar to playing a natural chord where you play the first, third and fifth notes of a
scale at the same time. You use the same fingerings as you would playing a ‘normal’ chord. So if you use your
thumb, middle finger and pinkie to play the chord, you would use the same to play a broken chord.
When playing a broken chord, instead of playing all the notes of a chord simultaneously together, they are
broken up into each note and played consecutively one after the other. For example, if you were playing a C
major, you would play C,E,G, keys one after the other separately.
The next position for you to try would be to place your first finger on E and proceed to play E,G,C one after
the other. Then, you will place your hand to start on G after that and proceed to play the notes G,C,E one after
the other. Finally, you will end up on C again an octave higher and you would repeat the first pattern.
As you can see, with this note progression, you are basically repeating each
note of a ‘normal’ chord a number of times in the normal chord
transgression. You are moving up each note of the chord and playing each inversion of that chord
i.e. the root of the chord when you start to play the it from the beginning.
You are playing the first inversion of the piano chord when you move your hand up
a major third into the second position of the broken chord. Finally, you are playing a second inversion when you
move into the third position of the broken chord.
Broken chords make up piano exercises which you can do with your fingers and are usually examined together with
piano scales if you decide to take
an examining school’s exams to further your piano skills.
While they may seem like a great challenge to learn and become familiar with, if you practice and
understand the theory behind them, you would have quickly mastered the concept and being able to smoothly play them
on the piano.
Being able to play and understand the theory behind them presupposes a good knowledge of ascending and
descending scales. It is also important to understand key signatures in order to determine which notes have been
raised or lowered.
Understanding hand position and which fingers you use when playing them are all part and parcel of
mastering this new found way of playing chords. (i.e. the greater the distance your hand needs to stretch, the more
likely you will use the fingering 1,2,5)
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