Matching Piano Chords To Melodies

Lisa Witt  /  Chord Inversions / Feb 5

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So you’ve learned how to play the melody of your favorite song (or maybe you’ve even composed your own melody), but now you need chords to match it. How do you know which chords will fit under your melody notes? Here are FOUR ways:

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1) Figure out what key you are playing in. In most cases, your starting note and ending note will identify your key

2) Find the 1-4-5-6  chords for the key you are in. Most popular music uses these chords in some order, so they will be your best guesses as you find what will fit best in your song.

3) Build your chords around the melody note. Here is how it works. Start with the 1 chord and play it underneath your melody until it doesn’t sound good anymore. When it stops sounding good, look at the note you are playing in your melody and try to find a chord that contains that note. Use the 1-4-5-6 chords as your first guesses. Use trial and error to help you what sounds best to you. Trust your ear! It will tell you if things are sounding ugly.

4) Make it your own! Once you’ve found chords that feel like a good fit you can move into breaking those chords up into broken form, 5ths, octaves whatever you like to create the mood you are after. The foundation has been laid now you get to have some fun!

🎹 Hack Into Chords 👊

Understanding how chords work will give you a BIG leg up in learning how to play the piano. Knowing just a handful of chords will unlock hundreds, if not thousands of pop songs. To get started on chords today, check out our free Chord Hacks course, or read How to Play Piano.


This skill does become easier the more you practice it. I suggest starting with a song you’ve heard a million times as the more familiar you are with the song, the easier it will be to practice this skill. Songs from your childhood are a great choice. Remember it is okay to make mistakes! Trial and error is your friend here.

Have fun!

Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for 19 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.

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