How to Play From Chord Symbols

Mary Had a Little Lamb

For this exercise you will need to know how to play triads.

CLICK HERE to learn all about TRIAD Chords and their INVERSIONS



Follow the diagrams below to see the “evolution” of lead sheet playing…

Start with the lead sheet:

Mary Had a Little Lamb with chord symbols

Here, perhaps the most basic way to play a lead sheet:

Solid triads for Mary Had a Little Lamb

Even easier – using “open” chords (also called “open fifths” or “shells”):

Open chords in the left hand

Once you understand how to add the left-hand chords this way, try to use inversions of the I – IV-V chords.

Here is the way the chords would look using inversions with G and F inversions (located closest to the root position C chord so you don’t have to move your hand and fingers very much):

Cadences of the I,IV & V chords

Do you recognize the F and G7 chord inversions?  Try to start using them and developing an understanding of the relationship of the 3 main chords.

These forms of the most-used chords (the I, the IV, and the V) are not only prettier, but also ultimately EASIER than jumping back and forth, since the left hand hardly has to move.

Next is what some people call a “pinch” chord (which is actually a G7, and not just a G chord) and the “baby” or “little F” chord. Here’s how the open C and pinch G would look with Mary Had a Little Lamb…

Chords for left hand of Mary Had a Little Lamb

What about the IV (four) chord?

Now it is time to change songs, because Mary Had a Little Lamb only uses two chords. Let’s change to “Twinkle” to demonstrate the use of the IV chord (which will be “F” if we play it in the key of C, as I usually do with beginners). Here is the beginning of “Twinkle” using the C chord in root position, and F and G inversions:

Twinkle Twinkle with chords

Here is the beginning of “Twinkle” with C, pinch G, and little F chords:

Twinkle Twinkle with chords

Here is Twinkle with pretty broken chords, MUCH more difficult for young students (but where you are heading):

Twinkle Twinkle with broken chords

Along the way to playing it like that, is an in-between version:

Twinkle with broken chord pattern

These are only a few ideas, the beginnings of where you can go with these free lead sheets.  See other pages, such as Mary Had a Little Lamb, for more ideas.  Have fun!