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G major chord demystified for beginners

g major chord

Learning chords is the first step to unlocking thousands of songs that you can play on the piano., With foundational knowledge such as chord structure and how to play chords, both playing and making music become possible. This example is all about the chords in the major key of G major. We focus on the G major triad, which is the first chord in the key of G. It also has three “inversions” which we explain below. G major is a very popular key, and a very common chord shape that falls into many major key signatures. The major key signature of G includes both minor and major chords, but first we will be exploring the G major chord.

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What is the G major chord?

The G major chord is the first chord in the key of G, and the first chord in the G major key signature

This G major key signature only has one altered note, the F# note, but this note is not part of this G chord. Each G major chord only contains three notes, and is often one of the first chord shapes learned by beginners on all instruments. 

G is often one of the first chords learned by people who play lute based instruments, such as the ukulele, guitar, mandolin or bass, because it requires only a few fingers to play them and mostly open strings to strum. 

On piano however, we learn this chord almost always after learning to play the C major chord, which is the most common chord to play on the instrument, and the most common key signature for piano beginners. 

The reason for this is that both the chord C major and the key C major have no sharps or flats in either position, or in the scale. Thisallows even beginner players to make coherent and beautiful melodies with their instrument, even using only the first finger, third finger, and the fifth finger. 

How do you play a G major chord on piano? 

The most common way for G major to be played is by using the root position, using three fingers. 

First, place the thumb of the right hand on the lowest note, the root note, G, then your middle finger on the note B, then the pinky finger of the right hand on the note D. These notes when played simultaneously make up the notes in the chord called G major. This chord also appears in the key of C major, and the key of D major.

Notes in a G major chord

The notes in a G major chord are G, B, and D. They are split by thirds, which creates a simple hand shape for the  chord G major. The scale associated with this chord can be learned at a later date, and because of the amount of notes that we have in music, we actually find the chord G major in three different keys, so don’t worry about exactly what scale you are playing or what key you are in. 

Start playing the notes in a G major chord, and as your technique grows, you can add more complexity.

G major chord triad

Because the notes in the G major chord on piano only contain three tones (notes), we call it a triad. This is also easy to remember, as  the notes of the chord are spelled in alphabetical thirds, this means that we use every other letter of the alphabet, and that the notes are going to be separated by a major or minor third. This is always true for chords in root position, but not always true for chords when they are being played in inversions and variations.

G major 7th chord

G major and G major seventh are functionally very different chords. Even though the center notes, B are the same in both of them, and that they both start withG, they are not interchangeable. 

The G major 7 chord is most often used in jazz music, or in typically ethereal sounding classical music. The G major 7th chord uses the additional additional key F#. This is different to a G major dominant 7th chord which contains the notes G, B, D, and F.

The reason why G major 7th is not commonly used in rock or popular music is because the half step between F# and G happens to sound very dissonant and even eerie to some audience members, so often it is left out of chords played on popular music. 

It also is not one of the chords in the key of C, and the key of C has no F# natural to it, so it sounds unnatural in the scale.  Some G major chord progressions do include the major 7th chord, but not all. 

G major chord finger position

The finger position used to play the chord G major will change if you’re playing the chord with your left or right hand, or if you’re playing it with two hands or with a single hand. 

Simply put, chords can be variable. However, we’ve collected the most common fingerings for the triad G major, written for both hands, and including the inversions. 

The fingerings for both of these chords are written below, along with the inversions. If you cannot read the sheet music, below there is also a chart written so that you can understand it using only notes and fingerings.

G major chord sheet music

Here is the sheet music representing the left and right hand for all three inversions of G major. 

If this cannot be read, below you will also find all of the chords represented in grid form, corresponding for each fingering. 

These diagrams in sheet music contain each of the inversions, root position, first inversion and second inversion, written for both right and left hand. The right hand is intended to play the notes written on the treble clef, whereas the chords written on the bass clef can be played with the left hand. The fingerings have been adjusted in both situations to make sure that they will work, the fingerings are different for each hand.

What are inversions?

The simplest way to think about how inversions work is by comparing a chord to a triangle with three sides. Once you can imagine that we are using a shape, we can then imagine that all three sides have a label. Once we have a shape set, we can imagine that we take that same shape and rotate it, allowing each side to be on the bottom most. 

This is a way that musicians use and think about inversions: we take the shape and rotate the chord, since the notes are the exact same for each of the shapes, the chord still maintains its identity. 

So, our first inversion now has our root note at the top (highest note) of the chord, instead of on the bottom of the chord. 

G major chord inversions

As explained,  inversions are when we take the chord’s notes and rotate or rearrange them, and when they are expressed in sheet music or on a chord chart we often will see a different symbol to explain the inversion. 

The symbol we see will be the name (letter) of the chord, indication of whether it is major or minor, and then a separate note written underneath in order to express whether it is written in first inversion or second inversion.. 

However, unless you are playing extremely old classical music, the inversions will not be written out fully, instead,  the lowest tone will be indicated as a note inside the chord. It may be up to you to learn to recognize whether the note underneath the inversion makes the chord a first inversion or second inversion, but it will very rarely be indicated by the chords in the key. 

Often, a G major chord progression for piano written in music notation will be vague. You will be expected to understand how to play all of the inversions whenever you are needed to play them. 

Luckily, inversions don’t totally change the sound, and will still work to some extent if you play the wrong inversion or forget to invert the chord.

G/B – first inversion

The first inversion is for when the root note is instead placed on the top of the chord. Be careful, because as the chords start to rotate you’ll need to change the fingering. The fingerings for left and right hand are also different for each inversion. 

G/D – second inversion

Second inversion is for when the 5th of the chord, is placed on the bottom and the top of the chord is occupied by the third. This inversion is called second inversion. 

This is often considered the strongest of the inversions because the fifth below the root creates a very full and rich sound that can be powerful and strong. 

Popular songs to play with a G major chord

As the G major chord piano is common, many songs contain it, and not just songs that are in the key of G. Many of them also share the same chord progressions in G major. Expect to play this chord commonly with any song that is in the key of C, or in the key of G. The chords of G major are: 

  • G major
  • A minor
  • B minor
  • C major
  • D major
  • E minor
  • F# diminished

The Beatles – Let It Be

The best place to look at sheet music might be the simplest example and Let It Be might be the best foundational song for budding pianists. It includes examples of combining common chord progressions, the G major 7 piano chord, and simple sheet music and melodies.

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Queen – We Are The Champions

This stomping rock song is a great way to learn common chord progressions that include the G major piano chord, because it introduces the common blues chord progression of C, F and G major chords on piano. This is common in rock music and blues music, and is helpful to learn.

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Billy Joel – Piano Man

An iconic song,, Piano Man, uses a simplistic chord progression and uses a G major chord progression masterfully. This song is also challenging because of the time signature, so watch out and make sure you’re paying attention to Skoove’s built in metronome. 

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Final words

Skoove  boasts a huge library of songs that help build your repertoire of skills and put your G major chord knowledge into practice.. The free trial will be able to get you up and running, and practicing both the G major chord notes and G major chord inversions. Time to use your new knowledge of G major and start playing the songs that you love!

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Author of this blog post:

 

Alvin Shipp is a Multi-Instrumentalist Composer, Performer, Producer, and Educator from Portland, Oregon currently based in Berlin, Germany. He’s worked extensively in the USA and Germany, has released Over 15 Albums. He has been teaching upper-level students for over 15 years, and currently lives as a Freelance Composer, Mixing & Mastering Engineer and Teacher.

 

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