A Look at Chord Helps

Most of my students are visual-aural or visual-kinesthetic learners. Needless to say, cracking open their music theory workbook is not their idea of a good time. Therefore, I'm always on the lookout for tools that "speak" more to their learning styles.

The following are four tools that I have come across in my attempt to help my piano students understand chords and the Circle of Fifths better:

Walrus Productions Piano Chords Mini-Chart

This Piano Chord Mini Chart is ideal for the visual learner. There is a piano keyboard on top to help music students with music theory. It's made of bendable plastic. I suppose one could use it as a place-mat or mouse pad if they are so inclined.

Each row contains the major, minor, dominant seventh, augmented and diminished chords starting on a particular note. The red dots show how to build each chord. If a student is still unsure of their note names, the keyboard at the top of the chart can help clear things up for them.

Is it complete? No. It just gives those basic chord types. It would have been nice if it had diminished seventh chords as well. The reverse side could have been utilized to show the Circle of Fifths and perhaps some common chord progressions.

The Piano Chords Mini-Chart runs for approximately $2.68 USD on Amazon. I purchased mine at my local Long & McQuade for $5.08 CAD.

Alfred Publishing Keyboard Chord Chart

With over 100 chords, this Keyboard Chord Chart boasts a more complete collection. What I like about this chart over the previous one is that it gives presents the information in two different ways: first, you see what the chord looks like on the staff. Then, it shows how to build the chord on the piano. However, it goes one step beyond but showing the letter names on the keys. There is a section that covers the inversion of chords as well.

It retails for approximately $3.50 USD and $3.59 CAD. One of my colleagues has a gigantic, wall-sized version of this chart.

Keyboard Chord Chart look inside Keyboard Chord Chart For Keyboard; Piano. Keyboard/Piano; Posters/Charts. Book. 4 pages. Published by Alfred Music Publishing (AP.17853)Smp_stars50 (1) ...more info

The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Piano Chords

This 183-page pocket-book was written by my colleague Karen Berger. We "met" when we freelanced together at Suite101.com.

The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Piano Chords is more expensive than the two options I listed above. However, it offers so much more. There's a section on keyboard geography, note reading 101, building chords, advanced chords and more. It has a user rating of 4/5 stars on Amazon.

It retails for $12.95 USD and approximately $13.24 CAD. I don't have this handy book in my professional library. However, I do mean to pick one up in the near future.

Pocket Idiot's Guide to Piano Chords look inside Pocket Idiot's Guide to Piano Chords For piano. Keyboard/Piano; Lead Sheet. Complete Idiot's Guide. Instructional. Instructional book. 183 pages. Published by Alfred Music Publishing (AP.74-1592574599)...more info

The Chord Wheel

I picked up The Chord Wheel: The Ultimate Tool for All Musicians at the advice of one of the associates at Long & McQuade. It's colourful, I'll grant you that. Between the rainbow colours and the spinning wheel, it captures the attention of most of my students whenever it is out.

When you open it up, you'll see a section on analyzing chord progressions, transposition and composition. It gives some handy tips on figuring out the key signature to a song by looking at the chords listed (provided that you are looking at a fake book or P/V/G book).

It also covers scales, chords, modes and relative minors and gives ideas on what chords to use for songwriting. Sounds good, doesn't it?

However, it's not something I'd recommend for my younger students, or even my tween students who are struggling with music theory to begin with. The explanations go right over their head.

It's not piano-centric, so it is useful for vocalists, guitarists and other instrumentalists. The text is tailored towards the older learner, high school to adult.

The Chord Wheel ranks consistently in the Top 50 of Amazon's Best Seller List for Music Theory aids with a 4/5 star rating. It is the most expensive aid on this list, retailing at $14.99 USD and $15.33 CAD.

The Chord Wheel look inside The Chord Wheel (The Ultimate Tool for All Musicians). For Guitar, Multi-Instrument. Instructional. 12 pages. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.695579)Smp_stars50 (3) ...more info