The A flat chord on the piano is one of my favorite chords. It has a nice mellow sound, much like the other flat chords like D flat and E flat.
However, A flat is in a different register from D flat and E flat. It can sound really beautiful down lower (right below middle C).
What Is an Ab Chord?
When you see the term “Ab” this is an abbreviation for A Flat. A “b” is a flat sign in music theory.
The A-flat chord is basically just a chord in the family of major chords, made up of 3 notes in what’s called a triad. It is formed the same as any other major chord – by building a major third and then a minor third on top of that.
If that sounds confusing, don’t worry! I’ll put it in beginner terms soon and show you lots of keyboard diagrams to help you out.
Is it G# or A-flat?
Now, before going further, we need to talk about an important topic. Because Ab is a black note, it has two names.
The Ab major and G# major chords are the same physical chord but with different spellings.
I know this might be confusing, but every black key on the piano has TWO names. The note Ab can also be G# (since it is both a half step UP from G and a half step DOWN from A). Flats always go a half step down and sharps a half step up.
(Want to learn more about flats and sharps? See this video).
So in a sense, like I said, Ab & G# chords are the same because they use the same exact notes. Your hand will be in the same place when you play both of these chords.
However, the spelling of these two chords are different.
Here are the two spellings:
Ab – C – Eb
G# – B# – D#
Most pianists (including myself) tend to like A flat much better than G sharp. Not only does it just “sound” right, but it also has an easier spelling. No one likes to read music with B-sharps in it (since B# is equivalent to C).
In this post, of course, we will be exploring the flat spelling of this chord.
How To Play an A-Flat Piano Chord
Now let’s get into the details of the Ab chord!
You will play an Ab major chord simply by pressing down the 3 notes in the triad simultaneously. See below for a diagram on which notes are included.
Notes In an Ab Chord
In its regular form (root position) the A-flat chord includes 3 notes: Ab, C, and Eb. Notice that this chord has two black keys, and one white key in the middle!
The Ab is known as the root of the chord, the C is the major third, and the Eb the perfect fifth. Check out Ab major on the keyboard below!
Let’s talk a little more about finding these notes if you’re a beginner at playing piano.
What Key On The Piano Is Ab?
When learning this chord, you’re going to want to start by finding what’s called the root of the chord – the note on the bottom. In this case, that note is A-flat, which as we have discussed, is a black key.
Ab, as the name suggests, can be found by going directly below any A. Just go to the first black key to the left of an A (in musical terms, this is called going one half-step down!)
Another way to think of it is that Ab is the center key of the 3 black keys group.
Hopefully one of these methods will stick in your memory so you can always find Ab easily!
Ab Chord Piano Finger Position
Once you know WHERE the notes are, it’s time to figure out which fingers to put where! Fingering is a very important part of learning piano. Don’t ignore this step! If all my students would recognize this, they could save themselves so much wasted practice!
If you’re thinking that these chords are too small to be of much importance, think again. Practicing chord fingerings now will help you greatly in the future!
The nice thing is that the fingerings for major chords are always the same. Yes, even for the flat chords! Even though this chord feels different because of the flats, you will still use the same exact fingering.
Right hand fingering: 1 – 3 – 5
Left hand fingering: 5 – 3 – 1
Don’t forget that finger 1 is your thumb, finger 3 your middle finger, and finger 5 your pinky.
More Piano Chords To Learn
- G7 Chord
- Gb Major Chord
- G Major Chord
- Db Major Chord
- D Major Chord
- E Major Chord
- Eb Major Chord
- F Major Chord
Ab Chord Inversions
Now that you know the simplest form of the Ab chord, you are ready to try inverions! While fingering is one important aspect of chords, inversions are another. Don’t skip this.
An inversion is just the SAME notes but mixed up into different orders. Ab inversions will feel a little strange because of the two flats. However, the more you practice putting your hand in the form, the more it will start to feel normal.
Ab/C – First Inversion Chord
Ab first inversion is also known as “Ab/C” or “A flat over C” – the reason for this is the C is now on the bottom of the chord. As you can see below, you’ll flip the Ab from the bottom onto the top for first inversion.
Right Hand fingering: 1 – 2 – 5
Left hand fingering: 5 – 3 – 1
Ab/Eb – Second Inversion Chord
Ab second inversion is known as Ab/Eb, for the same reason as the last chord—the Eb will now be on the bottom!
To play this on the piano, start with your hand on first inversion. Then, take the C on the bottom and put it on the top.
Now, Eb will be on the bottom, which is exactly what we want! See below:
Right hand fingering: 1 – 3 – 5
Left hand fingering: 1 – 2 – 5
As one final step, I highly recommend you try switching back and forth between ALL the different inversions when you practice! I normally have my students start at the root chord, go up the inversions, and then come back down to the root. This will help you get used to the way the different chords feel with the flats.
Ab Major Inversions Sheet Music
If you prefer to follow sheet music, here are the A flat inversions written out on the staff.
Playing the Ab Major Chord In The Left Hand
After you learn how to play the Ab chord and inversions, you can try doing some cool things with it in the left hand too!
You may notice that if you try to play the basic chords down lower on the piano with your left hand, it won’t sound too good. This will make a very “thick” sound. You can’t hear the notes very clearly. My students usually scrunch up their noses anytime they hear a chord like this.
So instead of just playing the chords in the left hand, I recommend experimenting with different voicings of the A Flat chord.
This basically just means you will still play the main chord in your right hand…but then you will also play a bass note to go along with it in your left hand.
Here is an example of how you could play an Ab chord split between BOTH of your hands:
- Start by playing the regular root position Ab chord in your right hand
- Put any note you learned in the Ab chord down as a base note in the left hand. You can play a low Ab to make it root position, or you could play a low C or Eb and to make it first/second inversion.
- Try experimenting with different note combos! You can change up the inversion in your right hand and the bass note in your left hand to get different sounds.
Chords In The Key Of Ab
You’re doing great! We’ve covered quite a bit about the Ab chord, but there is still more to learn.
Did you know there are other chords that can go along WITH this chord? In fact, a chord can be built off of each note in the A-flat scale.
Here’s a quick list you can refer to:
vii: G diminished
I know there are a LOT of flat chords in that list! But don’t be intimidated. Take each chord one at a time as you learn them – and if you want, check out some tips for memorizing piano chords!
What Chords Go Well With A-Flat?
Any of the chords listed above will go well with the Ab chord, because they are all in the same key signature (4 flats). However, they will sound better if you play them in certain orders. This is called a chord progression.
Common Chord Progressions In The Key Of Ab
Playing chord progressions in the key of Ab will involve (you guessed it!) a lot of flats. But don’t let that stop you. The more you play these chords, the better you will get at recognizing them.
- Ab – Eb – Fm – Db (I – V – vi – IV)
- Ab – Db – Eb (I – IV – V)
- Fm – Eb – Ab (ii – V – I)
- Ab – Db – Eb – Fm (I – IV – V – ii)
The a flat chord is such a fun chord to play on the piano. It is beautiful, mellow, and easy to learn even if you’re a beginner. So now it’s your turn—sit down and start practicing! First, find the notes of the chord, then try inversions and chord progressions. In no time, you’ll have the Ab chord down like a pro!