Piano chords are extremely useful for understanding the structure of music and for playing from lead sheets and improvising. But they’re not the easiest thing to learn.
For a student, it can seem like there are too many types of piano chords to keep track. It can be overwhelming.
That’s where these chord challenges come in.
When it comes to technical work, sometimes we need to get a little creative to give students the foundation they need to be successful.
These 5 levels of chord challenges are a systematised way to work on chords with piano students. They will give a clear structure for teaching all the major, minor and dominant seventh chords and inversions.
The 5 challenge levels provide a sense of accomplishment and landmarks along the way to guide progress.
- Chord Apprentice: Major chords in root position
- Chord Scholar: Minor chords in root position
- Chord Ninja: Dominant seventh chords
- Chord Superstar: Major and minor chords in first inversion and second inversion
- Chord Master: All chords in random order
You can download reward stickers for each level below and Vibrant Music Teaching members can access backing tracks and an iReal Pro playlist for the challenges here.
This booklet will walk you and your students through each level and what’s required, with handy visual references along the way. Feel free to adapt this to the way you teach chords and have fun with it! Feel free to adapt this to the way you teach chords and have fun with it!
Download the Piano Chord Challenges Booklet
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Are you a Vibrant Music Teaching member? Just click here to access this resource and the backing tracks right away.
Old Notation-based Version of the Challenges
This post was published in June 2015 and updated in June 2019.
My thinking changed over those few years and I now prefer to taking a playing rather than flashcard/notation-based approach to chords, which is reflected in the new booklet above. If you prefer the flashcard version you can find it below.
Each pdf includes:
- The challenge summary sheet with stars for keeping track of which chords have been covered so far.
- Worksheets for the student to fill in the chords they are learning on the treble clef, bass clef and keyboard diagrams.
- A full set of flashcards for the chord level (when printing these two-sided make sure you choose “long edge binding” as that’s the way they’ve been set up). The text side of the flashcards include a little decorative border to match the challenge level, so they’re nice and easy to sort and identify.
The Five Levels (old version)
Click on the titles to download the pdfs.
- Level 1 Chord Apprentice: All major chords
- Level 2 Chord Scholar: All major and minor chords
- Level 3 Chord Ninja: All major and minor chords with inversions
- Level 4 Chord Superstar: Major, minor and dominant seventh chords
- Level 5 Chord Master: Roman numeral analysis and identification of cadences (UK terms are used for cadence flashcards)
But wait! How will you reward your students when they complete a challenge level?
One way I’m doing this is with custom stickers, which they can use to decorate their assignment folders (and show-off their achievements). I got my stickers printed at moo.com, but I’m sure you can print them at home or get your local printers to do it.
What do you think?
Do you focus on chords much in your studio? Do you have a similar system you use? Let me know below!