Piano Player World

Broken Chords on Piano

broken chordsBroken 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.

how to play piano chords

finger on black keyAs 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)


how to play piano chords

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