What is a cluster chord? It is a chord made by playing three consecutive notes on the keyboard, either all white keys or black keys. It is used in many contemporary songs.
Here is a simple way to build a cluster chord. Start with the keynote (C) add the second (D), and then add the next note, the third (E). By itself the chord sounds dissonant. But when you play it as a broken chord with rhythm, the sound can be beautiful. It can be used as a praise and worship chord to makes a pleasant ending to some worship songs.
For interest in the rhythm, in the left hand play D-E together using fingers 4-3 alternating with C on finger 5. Play back and forth between D-E and C in eighth note rhythm. In the right hand, play D-E using fingers 2-3, alternating the thumb on C. Practice this pattern of a broken cluster chord in each hand separately. It will feel awkward at first, but when your hands get used to it, you will play it easier.
To add an attractive run at the end of a song, try this: Play the C major chord and add the second (D). You’ve created a cluster chord. Now break it apart, playing C, D, E, and G with the sustain pedal as a run going up the keyboard, ending on the keynote C.
Repeat this pattern up with the right hand fingering
Play this as a run on the last note of the song, ending on the keynote, C. Practice the fingering until it flows easily.
Below a simplified melody line from the refrain of Chris Tomlin’s worship song “How Great is Our God.” Experiment by incorporating cluster chords and the run at the end. On the last note repeat the cluster chord pattern going up the keyboard to make a pleasant ending.
Many worship songs use a second chord, which where you can insert a cluster chord on the piano for a contemporary sound. It is an easy technique to add to your skills.
- written by a piano teacher
Want to learn more how to play piano with chords?