The Piano Chord Plate

For some people a class with a teacher or a private tutor is the best way to learn to play the piano. For others, like me, it is instead a sure way to get totally put off. If you want to learn to play the piano in your own pace you might be helped by a tool that I used: a plastic plate or stick that shows how to make certain chords. I have not been able to find this kind of plate again so I've made my own and release this by Creative Common by-nc-sa license.

Quick How-to
  1. Print the original on thick paper (≥150 g/m2)
  2. Print it again on the back side, rotated 180°
  3. Optionally laminate the paper on both sides
  4. Cut along the cut-marks using sharp knife
  5. Put the plate behind the black keys
  6. Align the ROOT column with the chord's key
  7. Select row based on which chord to play
  8. Select a purple pane, if on that row
  9. Select a yellow pane, if applicable
  10. Play the keys below the grey and the selected
    coloured panes
[Download] [Examples]

This article describes how you can create your own chord stick from my original and how to use it to take a wide range of chords.

The Plate and Its Usage

The typical use-case is the player sitting at the piano trying to play a song from a book with chords written above the notes, for example for the guitar. The player decodes the chord notation and puts the plate on the piano with the root at the key that is specified as the root of the chord. They then finds the chord on the plate and press the keys marked for that chord.

Using the Front Side

The plate should be put on the piano behind the black keys so that each column corresponds to one black or white key. To play a chord move the plate so that the column marked as ROOT is above the key you want to be the root key. Now select a type of chord to play, e g a triad. All keys marked with gray should be played. When playing an ordinary triad you also select and play one of the keys marked with purple, e g marked "min" for a minor triad, or marked "sus4" for a suspended chord. A chord is major when nothing else is stated. This is shown with an extra border around this purple pane. Optionally a fourth tone can be added. Select then and play one of the keys marked with yellow, e g marked "maj7" for a major seventh chord.

The examples below show exactly how chords can be dechiffered.

Creating a Plate From the Original

You create yor own copy of the Piano Chord Plate from the original listed below. Do this by downloading the PDF version, for example, and printing it on both sides of a thick piece of paper, preferably A4 format. If you choose too thin paper the back side may shine through, so I suggest at least 150 g/m2. To get the back side to end up behind the front side you will probably have to rotate the paper 180°. If you want a strong and durable plate you may laminate it on both sides. Do this using a laminator or glue transparent sheets to your paper before cutting out the plate.

Use a ruler (preferably metallic), aligned along the cut marks, to cut out the plate. Alternatively, use a pair of sissors. The front side of the plate is the more sensitive to misalignment, so I suggest you cut on that side. Do not cut all the way, but only along the sides of the plate itself. That way you avoid prematurely cutting away the cut marks.

If you laminated your paper before cutting out the plate, you may have to use a sand paper to smooth the cut edges.

Download the Original

Creative Commons-licensThe Piano Chord Plate by Karljohan Lundin Palmerius is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 Unported License


All these examples are given with A as root, however playing the same chords with another root is as simple as re-aligning the plate with another key.

[Example chord A]

[Example chord Aaug]

[Example chord AG]

[Example chord Ahalfdim7]

[Example chord Am7sus4]