Are Guitar and Piano Chords the Same?


Several people, especially those into music or those learning to play specific instruments such as piano, guitar, etc., ask, “Are guitar and piano chords the same?” Learning the chords is essential when you want to learn how to play specific instruments, including the guitar and piano.

Yes, the guitar and piano chords are the same. But you can not play them the same way. In both instruments, the colors of the tones are different, so even though you know the right chords, you might not recognize them if you do not have previous knowledge.

How Do Guitar Chords Relate to Piano Chords?

Many people believe that once you can play the piano, you can play the guitar. That is not entirely a lie, mainly because you use the same music theory.

However, because the chords are similar doesn’t mean you can use them to achieve the same sound. And you can’t transfer the same chord from the guitar to the piano or vice-versa because the tone color of the sound differs from each instrument.

Chords are built using the terrain method; that is, they are made in thirds.

Electric Guitar and Piano

How Do Guitar Chords Differ From Piano Chords?

Chords played on a guitar differ from a piano and every other instrument because of how it is played on the instrument itself. The chords are a series of three or more notes commonly being played together.

It’s common to have three-note chords on a guitar to be voiced in ascending order; the notes will be: root, 5th, root, 3rd, 5th, root. However, to play the same chord on a piano using both hands, the voicing would be root, 5th in the left and root, 3rd, root in the right. If it were with your left hand only, it would be root, 3rd, 5th, root.

These notes don’t have to be played together on the guitar because of the limitation on the number of strings available. That is how the term arpeggios came up in guitar playing; it is when you can not play three or more chords simultaneously, but you can play them closely so that they sound like one.

Also, the piano and guitar are used differently for voicing chords. Every instrument performs in the musical context the musician wants it.

Another difference is that the guitar is grid while the piano is linear, which determines the order of the notes.

Moreover, you can play quite a number of multi-chords using the piano, but on the guitar, you are limited in playing specific chords, restricting the number of notes you can play with any chord.

How Do You Match Guitar and Piano Chords?

Have you ever heard people claim when getting into music, the first instrument you should learn is the keyboard or piano because first,  once you know the music theory and standard notations on the piano, you can use the knowledge and lessons for other instruments?

Below is some information you must know to be able to match guitar and piano chords.

Understanding Basic Music Theory

You need to have a basic idea or glimpse of music theory and understand the 12 notes in music, and the music scale, the 12 distinct notes in music include A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G and G#. The music scale is simply Do-Re-Mi.

This is not all there is to musical theory. Musical theory is used around the globe to play almost all instruments.

A basic understanding of music theory will help you understand what is being explained; if you understand how the theory is used for each instrument, you have practically learned the hard part.

Understand How to Read Piano Notes and Guitar Fingerboard

The piano chords are noted on the staff or stave, which can be in the bass or treble clef, while the guitar chords are noted on tablature (also called TAB). And although they are two different systems, they can be used to produce the same significant chords in the two instruments.

Understanding how the guitar fingerboard and piano notes work together can help you match the chords between the guitar and the piano.

The guitar fingerboard, also known as the fretboard, is an artistic tool that learners, especially beginners, find pretty tricky. However, basic knowledge of reading it can make it less complicated for you to match piano chords.

Playing the Same Song on Piano and Guitar

You can start slow if you compose a song with your guitar and want to play it on your piano.

Start with simple songs that do not require the use of more than four chords. Then you will not have to work too hard to change the chords and play them on your piano.

Accostic Guitar with Piano

Guitar Chords Vs. Piano Roll

The piano roll is software that shows the notes of a piano digitally. And you can input the notes on your computer by drawing them on the computer yourself or connecting the computer with a digital piano or MIDI keyboard to record them.

To do a similar process for your guitar, you just have to figure out each chord’s note and draw the notes you need.

Are Chords the Same on Every Instrument?

The musical structure of chords is the same for every instrument; the difference is how the chord notes are expressed on the individual instruments.

For example, the C Major chord (C-E-G) is still the C major chord irrespective of the instruments it is played, whether it’s the guitar or piano. So, though the chord does not change in the instruments, the note expression does.


Although there are some critical differences due to how the instruments are structured, learning how to play the piano chords is fundamentally similar to how to play the guitar. Remember, the chords are the same regardless of the instrument it is played on. However, the difference is the voicing of the chords and, sometimes, the limitation in the number of strings.

So, whichever instrument you learn how to play first, you can use the knowledge to learn how to play the other. Even if it does not sound the same at first, you can quickly figure out what is missing or wrong. 

Sourav Biswas

Music is my life and I love to play guitar so much. It's been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a musical family, and my parents were always supportive of my passion for music. I am also a freelance writer who has been writing for over 10 years. I have written for both online and offline publications, including Amazon and Medium.

Recent Posts