What Is A Root Position Chord?

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As introduction, we should point out that the name “root” comes from classical music theory. The root is the name of the note upon which the chord is based. Thus, the root of a three note C Chord is the single note C.

Chords have three notes, placed vertically, bottom, middle and top.

  • Top
  • Middle
  • Bottom

Root position means that the bottom note of the chord is the same as the name of the chord. Thus, a C chord will have the note C in the bottom position, an F chord will have an F in the bottom position.

C Chord:

  • G (top)
  • E (middle)
  • C (bottom)

F Chord:

  • C
  • A
  • F

You’d be surprised how hazy kids are about identifying the bottom note of a chord. Since the keyboard is “on its side,” down is to your left, and up is to your right.

You have to play games with it again and again until kids know what “bottom” means on the piano.

Perhaps you are beginning to understand the logic of key stickers when introducing a child to a subject so rigorous as chords and music theory.

It is pointless having the child confused with note names. We are trying to get them to compute chords, which is much more complicated.

So we name the keys for them with stickers so they can make the additional, more complex calculation about chords, not just notes.

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I’ve found that younger kids get confused by three note chords, mostly because three note chords require the thumb, which is shorter than the other fingers and puts the hand at a very strange angle.

So I let them play two note chords with the two strong fingers, the 2nd and 3rd. Older kids can handle bigger chords.

As soon as a child knows 3 or so chords, I start putting them together in groups, or “progressions.”

I ask for basic combinations like, C G C. And C F C. And F G F.

This requires them to think up the chord quite quickly, and I always rush them like we’re at a carnival and someone else wants to go on the ride. “Hurry up, kid! You’re holdin’ up the crowd!”

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The next step is to get the child to find the chords without reliance on the stickers, but by using the unique pattern of the black keys.

I point out that a C Chord has the lowest note on a C, which is the white key to the left of any group of two black keys. I then ask them to play every C chord on the piano, regardless of if there is a sticker there or not. It forces the kid to look at the black keys as a navigational aid.

We then find every F chord (next to the three blacks) and every G chord (in between the bottom two of the three blacks.)

All of this is to force the child to be a good observer and detective.

Critical thinking and careful observation are crucial piano skills.

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