How To Play “cardigan” On Piano (Taylor Swift)

Lisa Witt  /  Pop/Rock  /  UPDATED Jan 12, 2023

This lesson will teach you how to play “cardigan” on piano. “Cardigan” is the lead single from Talor Swift’s album, “Folklore”.

It’s an album she released without anybody knowing it was coming! She wrote and recorded it in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The album is very different from her more recent releases, and many of the songs feature moody piano melodies.

Enter, “cardigan”.

This lesson comes with a ton of downloadable resources. Make sure you get yours!

Get the musical score here
Grab your backing track (with vocals, no piano) here
Download the backing track (no vocals, no piano) here

The 4 Main Chords

As with most pop songs, there are 4 chords that are repeated throughout.

The song is in the key of Eb major, so there are 3 black notes to be aware of. Those are Bb, Eb, and Ab.

So every time to see a B, E, or A note, just remember to drop it half a step and play the black key.

The chords we’ll use are F minor (F-Ab-C), Bb major (Bb-D-F), Ab major (Ab-C-Eb), and Eb major (Eb-G-Bb).

There is also a sneaky C minor later on in the song. It uses the notes C-Eb-G.

And those are all the chords. Spend some time getting comfortable because we’re going to be playing them with our LEFT hand!

Left-hand Chord Inversions

Throughout the entire song, we’ll be playing the chords in a sort of stride pattern, where we play the root note down the keyboard before coming up to play the chords in inversions.

So it looks like this:

how to play cardigan left hand

This could take some time to get used to. Take it slow and really work on getting those chord shapes into your muscle memory.

In fact, the first time you sit down to learn this song, you might want to focus ONLY on those left-hand chord shapes.

They’re super important to the feel of the song and they are used throughout the entire piece.

The Right-Hand Melody

This is the iconic riff that repeats throughout the song. There are a few slight variations as the song progresses, but they are very small.

So learning this riff will set you up well to be able to master the song.

Let’s look at the first two lines of the song:

how to play cardigan line one
how to play cardigan line two

As you can see, the riff actually starts BEFORE the first beat of the song. It has a little swing to it, which is best learned by listening to the original.

That melody line and theme repeats over and over again. Spend some time getting the feel of it under your fingers.

Practice Tips

As with all new things, it pays off big-time to START SLOW. This is not a race and it’s far better to learn how to play the song correctly than it is to rush through and make a ton of mistakes.

Take it one hand at a time. I mentioned this earlier, but it’s super important. Focus on your left-hand first. Then move to your right.

When you are comfortable playing one hand at a time, then slowly begin playing hands together. The great thing about this song is that the hands are kept pretty separate, so you don’t need to have a great level of hand independence to master it.

And finally, HAVE FUN. This is a beautiful, beautiful song. The piano playing is so moody and full of emotion.

This is one of those pieces you can get lost in for hours. So cherish the time you spend learning it.

I hope you enjoy the lesson on how to play cardigan on piano. Remember to grab your downloads!

Happy practicing.

Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for more than 20 years and in that time has helped hundreds of students learn to play the songs they love. Lisa received classical piano training through the Royal Conservatory of Music, but she has since embraced popular music and playing by ear in order to accompany herself and others. Learn more about Lisa.

Headshot of woman with short platinum hair against a studio background.

The easiest way to learn beautiful piano chords.
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