How to work out the chords to a song on the piano

My book:

NEW: Seven Studies in Pop Piano:

All the basic piano chords in one epic tutorial:

Here’s a tutorial for all you music theory nerds. For ages, people have been emailing me to ask, “how do I work out the chords to a song on the piano?”. This video should go some way to answering that question.

Clearly it’s pretty long by the usual standards of my tutorials, but that apparently simple question opens up a whole bunch of questions about how harmony, melody, song structure and so on actually work. I take you through a five-step process that should help you work out the chords for most song melodies.

Something that’s worth bearing in mind here is that songs and melodies contain a huge amount of variation, and there are very, very many exceptions to the very broad-brush rules I’ve given you here. As I say in the tutorial, the main aim I have is to give you an overview, so that you can sit at the piano and work some of the more complex stuff out. Another point I make in the tutorial that’s worth repeating is that the best way to get good at this sort of thing is to familiarise yourself with lots of chord progressions by playing lots and lots of other people’s songs. That’ll help to give you an instinctive feel for how chord progressions work, and how they relate to melodies, that will be of just as much use to you when working out a song’s chords as lots of abstract theory learned away from the piano keyboard.

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