Two skillsThere are two things to learn in order to use chords in song melodies in your piano sheet music. First you have to learn how to play chords on your piano. For example, you have to know how to play the chord C-major and which notes to use in order to use the chord symbols you can find above the melody line in your piano sheets. When you see the symbol C above a note you will then know how to play the chord.
The next important but more sophisticated skill is to learn how to use chords in music notes even if you do not have written chord symbols to a song you are going to play. Having to know which chords to use in a song is also necessary if you are requested to play "Happy Birthday To You" on a birthday party for example. Of course you can learn to play this song by heart but it is a tremendous pleasure to be able to play songs you have heard with chords and melody on the go.
The first steps to piano chordsThere are some basic levels to master in order to play chords to songs in an effortless and professional way but even mastering the first steps will give you the means to play songs you like.
The first level means that you can handle piano chords with your left hand and play the melody line with your right hand. If you see the chord symbol C above the piano music notes you will press down the notes c, e and g with your left hand as you play the note below the chord symbol with your right hand.
The only way to learn this is to start from where you are now. This is a piano beginners lesson so we will start with the most basic chord skills you have to master in order to play chords from piano music sheets.
Playing melodies and piano chords by heartAn easy way to start learning chords is to memorize easy melodies you like. This will gradually help you develop your musical taste and the ability to use the appropriate chords when you hear a melody or have to put chords to the melodies in your piano notes.
Try to learn the melody to for example "Mary Had A Little Lamb" by heart. You can play the melody in the key of C for a start. This means that you start with an E note on the piano as you play the melody. Try to figure out the melody by ear. Here is the lyrics with suggested chord symbols in brackets after the syllable where you are supposed to press down the chord.
Ma(C)ry had a little lamb, litt(G7)le lamb, litt(C)le lamb
Ma(C)ry had a little lamb, its fleece(G7) was white as snow(C)
The C chord contains the notes c, e and g
The G7 chord contains the notes g, b and f
You can try the same approach with other easy songs you know. Try to figure out the melody by ear and to find out which chords to use by trial and error. The process will develop your musicality and ability to play by ear!
How to use a fake bookA fake book contains melodies in the form of lead sheets with the melody line, basic chord symbols and often lyrics. The idea is that this information is enough for a skilled pianist to make an impromptu rendering of a song and maybe also improvise and create a personal arrangement.
However, you can use a fake book even if you are not able to create complicated and improvised arrangements from the scant musical information to the songs in these books. Just pick a song you like and are familiar with from the book and use the music scores and the notated chord symbols as a method for learning piano chords.
The art of messing aroundA very pleasant way to learn which chord to use in a song is to use the chords you know with your left hand and play simple melodies that you improvise as you play the chords. For example, play the chord sequence C,F, G7 and C with your left hand as you try to play melodies on the white keys. You really can not go to wrong as all white keys will sound more or less good.
This will help you develop your ability to feel which chords to use in songs, you will be training your finger dexterity and also develop your ability to compose your own melodies.
It is really a pleasure to be able to play chords to piano sheet music you play. Even the process of learning to play chords can be a positive experience if you start on the level where you are right now!