I recently had a student switching from the piano to the guitar. One of their first questions was “are guitar chords the same as piano chords?”. He struggled to learn the chords on the piano and was concerned about it on the guitar.
On one hand, the guitar and piano are very different instruments. On the other, they are both considered stringed instruments. So what’s the answer?
In this article, we’ll look at both guitar and piano chords, and establish the similarities and differences. By the end, you’ll know everything you need to in order to answer the question “Are guitar chords the same as piano chords?”
Are Guitar Chords the Same as Piano Chords?
Unfortunately, this is not a cut-and-dry yes or no type question.
Guitar and Piano chords are the same, but they are played differently. If you take the chords from a guitar song they will match the chords you need to play on the piano, but the shape, tone, and placement of these chords will differ.
Each string and each fret on the neck of a guitar represents an individual note. Each key on a piano also represents an individual note. But a guitar has notes that repeat, while a piano doesn’t. For example, the 7th fret of the A string is the exact same note as the 2nd fret of the E string.
On the piano, each note is only assigned to one key. Now, you will have multiple keys that play the C note, but each one will have a different pitch and be a different octave than the other keys of the same note.
Notes of Chords
The key similarity between guitar chords and piano chords is the notes. A, C chord, regardless of the instrument it is played on, will always contain the notes C, E, and G. Likewise, a G7 chord will always contain the G, B, D, and F notes.
By knowing a little bit of music theory, especially the 12 unique notes in music, you will be able to identify the different notes in each chord. This will help when playing both guitar chords and piano chords. If you understand guitar scales then this should make pretty good sense to you. If you don’t know a few guitar scales, it may be better to learn a few and come back to this concept!
Translating Guitar Chords to Piano
If you know how to play a C chord in open position you can really pick any C chord that you know on piano and you’ve translated a guitar chord into a piano chord. Pretty simple right?
Now, the pitch and the octave of the chord will likely be off, but you technically will have accomplished your goal!
Because guitar tabs are more accurate as to location on the fretboard, and notes of the chord being played, they can be easier and more accurate when translating them into piano chords. In both cases, you’ll need to know the different notes and pitches assigned to the different piano keys.
The same chord on the two instruments will never sound exactly the same. The color and tone of the instruments are different and therefore even the same chords will sound slightly different.
To go over this topic in more detail, we’ve included the following video from the YouTube Channel, musicwithnopain. This video does a good job giving a rather detailed explanation of how to translate guitar chords into piano chords and shows the process in action!
The Final Note
So, in summary… Are guitar chords and piano chords the same?
Guitar and Piano chords are the same in that they contain the same notes, but they are played differently and even sound slightly different on the two instruments. To understand the intricacies you’ll need to freshen up on your music theory, which explains it in more detail!