How to play the c major chord on guitar

The C guitar chord is one of the most common guitar chords of all. In this lesson we’ll look at some super-easy ways to play this fundamental chord.

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Easy ways to play C

Its full name is “C Major” but most of the time people just call it, “C”.

In its full form it looks like this:

C Major

How to play the c major chord on guitar

(If you don’t understand the above image please read our article “How To Read Guitar Chordboxes In 60 Seconds“. It will make everything clear!)

‘Wow, the C guitar chord looks difficult to play…’

Yes, this is a tough chord for beginner guitarists to play because it’s spread over three frets, so it requires three fingers to be ‘split’. This is hard in the early days of learning guitar as you don’t have the necessary amount of dexterity, flexibility or strength in your fingers yet.

But don’t worry, thankfully there are some much easier versions of the C guitar chord that you can play that still sound good and will act as ‘stepping stones’ for you in learning the full version of C.

‘Ok, show me the best way to play the C guitar chord as a beginner guitarist’

My preferred version of the C guitar chord for beginner guitarists is called ‘C Major 7’. It looks like this:

C Major 7

How to play the c major chord on guitar
As you can see this only requires 2 fingers which makes it much easier to play. The chord sounds very similar to a full C chord (because it retains the most important notes).

The Golden Rule when playing C Major 7

During your first 4-6 hours of playing guitar it’s best to play C Major 7 exactly as shown above. At that early stage you just want to get comfortable holding the guitar and strumming simple chords.

How to play the c major chord on guitarBut once you have 6-10 hours of guitar playing under your belt you should begin playing this chord with fingers 2 and 3 (instead of 1 and 2). This will make it much easier for you to progress to play a the full C guitar chord in the near future, as you’ll be accustomed to having finger 1 spare. Adding it on at a later date will be easy.

Trust me, this is hugely important and is the key to learning how to play a full C guitar chord quickly.

However, if you break this ‘Golden Rule’ and continue to play C Major 7 with fingers 1 and 2 (which initially feels more natural) then you will take no long-term benefit from playing it, as the full C shape will still feel foreign and difficult when you eventually try to play it.

Learning to play C Major 7, with fingers 2 and 3, is the ideal stepping stone for you to use in learning to play a full C guitar chord.

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‘Great! What other versions of C should I know about?’

Cadd9 is a fabulous version of C. It’s pronounced “C added nine” and is a great chord to get under your belt, particularly for acoustic players. It sounds wonderful and flows very nicely before or after a G chord. It looks like this:

Cadd9

How to play the c major chord on guitar

As you can see Cadd9 is basically a G chord with the two bass notes played a string higher.

The chords of C and G frequently appear together, so playing a Cadd9 instead of C whenever G is the adjacent chord works very well. Not only because it sounds good, but because it’s a very similar shape to G; This means that your fingers don’t have to move much to sound great. Win win!

When the C guitar chord is needed before or after a G chord, try playing Cadd9 instead.

Go on, give it a try. It sounds good, yes? ?

Cadd9 isn’t a super-hard chord to learn, but it’s not an easy one either as it requires 4 fingers. Thankfully these are only spread over two frets and are similar in shape to G, so it’s a hand shape that you’ll quickly become accustomed to.

NOTE: As with all versions of C, you should aim to not play the 6th string.

How to play the c major chord on guitar

The Best Easy Versions Of This Chord

A super-simple version of the C guitar chord

This is the easiest possible version of the C guitar chord. It’s simple to play and is ideal for children (with their smaller hands). It’s also good for adults who are struggling or just starting out with guitar.

C Major (1-finger)

How to play the c major chord on guitar

The biggest benefit here is that it only requires 1 finger. (Just 1 finger!) The biggest drawback is it doesn’t sound great – it sounds very thin and holds lots of treble.

But hey it’s only a stepping stone, remember?

This is a good place to start for a C guitar chord, but it would be much better to simply learn C Major 7 as that chord sounds better and is very close to a full C, which should be your ultimate goal.

So there you have it! Some very simple alternative ways to play the C guitar chord, one of the most common guitar chords of all.

The most common C chords

How to play the c major chord on guitar

That’s the majors and minors taken care of. Let’s look at a few more. Here’s some sevenths!

How to play the c major chord on guitar

Lastly, two great acoustic C chords:

How to play the c major chord on guitar

Here are some other cool-sounding C chords
.
How to play the c major chord on guitar

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How to play the c major chord on guitar

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C Major Chord (Open Position)

How to play the c major chord on guitar

If the diagram above is unfamiliar to you, take a moment to learn how to read chord charts.

The basic C major chord shown here is a common beginner chord generally learned almost immediately by new guitarists. This C major shape features open strings and has a full, lush sound that works well in almost all situations.

The C major chord is made up of three different notes – C, E, and G. You’ll notice that the above chord features five – not three – different strings being played. This is because some of those three notes in a C major chord have been repeated.

Fingering this C Major Chord

  • place your third finger on the third fret of the fifth string
  • place your second finger on the second fret of the fourth string
  • place your first finger on the first fret of the second string

When playing the above C major chord shape, you’ll want to avoid strumming the open sixth string. Although the open string (“E”) is actually a note in the C major chord, it can sound a little funny when used as the bass note in your chord shape.

C Major Chord (based on A major shape)

How to play the c major chord on guitar

This alternate shape (a standard major barre chord with root on the fifth string) for playing a C major chord is actually based on the A major chord shape. This C major shape sounds a little less full than a traditional open C major chord. You’ll often find electric guitarists use this shape, as the lack of open strings makes it easier to “control”.

If you examine the notes being played on the fifth fret (on the fourth, third and second strings) you should be able to spot the open A major chord shape. The first finger takes the place of the open strings in an A major chord.

Fingering this C Major Chord

  • place your first finger on the third fret of the fifth string
  • place your second finger on the fifth fret of the fourth string
  • place your third finger on the fifth fret of the third string
  • place your fourth finger on the fifth fret of the second string
  • place your first finger on the third fret of the first string

Playing all these strings without buzzing may be a challenge for some guitarists to achieve. It is perfectly acceptable to not try and finger the note on the first string​ and to avoid playing (or muffle) that string. You’ll also want to avoid playing the sixth string.

Alternate Fingering for this C Major Chord

  • place your first finger on the third fret of the fifth string
  • place your third finger on the fifth fret of the fourth string
  • place your third finger on the fifth fret of the third string
  • place your third finger on the fifth fret of the second string
  • place your first finger on the third fret of the first string

To play the chord using this fingering, you’ll need to flatten your third finger across the fretboard. This may be initially challenging – practice holding down the chord shape and hitting strings one at a time to ensure all notes are ringing properly.

As with the first fingering, it is acceptable to not try and finger the note on the first string and to avoid playing (or muffle) that string.

In this short guitar lesson, we’ll be looking at how to play C Major on Guitar. The C Major chord is a very common chord and is often one of the first chords that beginners learn when first starting to play guitar.

We will cover 3 ways of how to play C major on guitar that start off for beginners and then a couple of more difficult ways to play C major if you are a slightly more advanced guitarist.

What notes are in the c major chord?

The C major chord is what we call a triad chord. A triad, as the name suggests, is made up of 3 notes. In a major triad, the chord is build using the 1st, 3rd & 5th note of the corresponding scale. (In musical terms we usually use Roman Numerals to indicate the note of the scale i.e. I, III &V).

If you aren’t familiar with the major scale then don’t worry too much about it right now, you don’t have to know it to get playing. But I’d recommend having a quick look at my major scale lesson, as it always helps to know what we’re playing.

The C major scale consists of the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, B, so the I, III & V notes that we need for our C major chord would be the notes C, E & G.

How To Play C Major on Guitar

OK, so now let’s look at 3 ways that we can play the C major chord on guitar. These increase in difficulty as we go, so don’t worry about being able to play them all straight away if you’re a beginner. Just be aware that we have many ways that we can play the same chord.

Open C Chord

The first method that we will look at for how to play C major on guitar, is the open C chord. It’s called an open chord because when we play the chord, we leave some of the strings open, meaning that we don’t fret the strings.

This is the most common way to play the C major chord on guitar and is the first way that most people learn to play it.

For the open C major chord we use our 1st finger on the 1st fret 2nd string, our middle finger on the 2nd 4th string, and our 3rd finger on the 3rd fret 5th string. As the diagram shows, we don’t play the 6th string and the 1st & 3rd strings are open, hence the term open chord.

Partial Barre (A Shape)

The second method of how to play C major on guitar is the Partial Barre chord, this shape can also be referred to as the ‘A shape’ as it’s actually a moveable shape. But don’t worry too much about that for now.

When we use the term ‘barre’ in guitar, it means that we use one of our fingers to form a barre across some or all of the strings.

Playing a barre chord is often a big hurdle for beginners. This chord uses a partial barre, so it’s a bit more difficult than the open chord, but not as difficult as a full barre chord.

When playing the partial barre chord, we use our 1st finger to form a barre across the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th strings and then use our 3rd finger to barre the 2nd, 3rd & 4th strings.

The trickiest part of this chord is getting the barre on your 3rd finger so that it plays the three strings but doesn’t mute the thinnest string. You may need to just experiment with your finger position until you find the right position for you.

Full Barre Chord

The last method of how to play C major chord on guitar is the full barre chord. As I mentioned earlier, barre chords are often a major hurdle for beginner guitarists, but once you can play them it opens up so many other doors for your playing.

If you haven’t tried barre chords before or are new to them, have a look at my How to play barre chords lesson for some useful tips.

So as the name suggest, in this method we will be using a full barre chord (or E shape chord) which uses a barre across all six strings. We then use our remaining fingers to make the rest of the shape. If you are familiar with the E chord, you will recognise that it’s exactly the same shape.

We place our barre across all the strings using our index finger on the 8th fret.

Conclusion

OK, so there you have it, you now have 3 ways of how to play C major on guitar. If you are a beginner then I’d recommend just using the open C major chord at first, but don’t be afraid of giving the other methods a try too. You will only get better by practicing.

I hope you found this how to play C major on guitar post useful, please feel free to drop me a message if you have any questions,

When starting to learn guitar, the first thing recommended by all guitar teachers is learning some basic chords. So, In this lesson, I will show you, how you can play the c major chord on the guitar and will also help you in getting familiar with its different positions and how to play them.

The open c major chord is easy to play as it requires only three fingers to hold the chord but its other positions can seem a little hard for a newbie.

Open C Major Chord ( How do you hold C chord )

As you can see in the image, the open c major chord has only 3 notes and the notes are C, E, G. Here C is the root note, E is the 3rd note and G is the 5th note.

To hold c major chord simply follow the instruction below:-

  1. Place your 3rd finger on 3rd fret of 5th string
  2. Place your 2nd finger on 2nd fret of 4th string
  3. Place your 1st finger on 1st fret of 2nd string.

Make sure there is enough gap between all the finger placement and none of your fingers are touching other strings. If so the sound produced will be not clear. Now you can strum or pluck the strings and you will be amazed by the sound. Congrats on learning your first chord.

C Bar Chord ( on 3rd fret )

As you can see in the image, this is the first position of C bar chord. This chord can be little difficult to play if you are a newbie but as you practice the finger placement more and more you can easily master it.

Follow the instruction to hold it properly.

  1. Place your 1st finger on the 3rd fret and bar it.
  2. With your 3rd finger again bar the 5th fret of 2nd, 3rd and 4th string.

If you are trying it for the first time, the sound will not come out clear but as I said with time and practice it will seem easy to play this chord.

C Bar Chord – ( on 8th fret )

This is the most common c bar chord played by most of the guitarists. It can be tricky for you if you are just starting out in guitar but practice makes it all easy.

Follow the instruction to hold it.

  1. Place your 1st finger on the 8th fret and bar it completely.
  2. Place your 2nd finger on the 9th fret of 3rd string.
  3. Place your 3rd finger on the 10th fret of 5th string.
  4. Lastly, place your 4th finger on the 10th fret of 4th string.

C Bar Chord – ( on 5th fret )

Don’t get intimated by this position of C bar chord. It is not that hard as it looks. To hold this chord, it needs a lot of stretching between fingers and it’s good.

  1. Place your 1st finger on the 5th fret of 2nd, 3rd and 4th string and bar it.
  2. Place your 2nd finger on 7th fret of 5th string.
  3. Place your 3rd finger on 8th fret of 6th string.
  4. Lastly place your 4th finger on 8th fret of 1st string.

The sound and tonality of the chord is beautiful and as you play it you will know.

C chord – 5th position

This position of C chord is similar to open D chord and it is played on the 10th fret. This chord can be used as essentials in solos and riffs.

  1. Place your 1st finger on the 10th fret of 4th string.
  2. 2nd finger on 12th fret of 3rd string.
  3. 3rd finger on 12th fret of 1st string.
  4. Lastly 4th finger on 13th fret of 2nd string.

Conclusion

Now that you have all the 5 position of C chord you can use it whenever it is necessary. Try to practice and memorize all the position. The more you practice the harder chords, the more you will unlock the fret board.

Why is the C chord so hard?

Let’s kick off by understanding why the C major can be so hard to learn. The main reason is due to the stretch that all three fingers need to make. Most chord shapes you have tackled up to now will span two frets, whilst the C major chord spans 3.

How do you play different C chords on guitar?

C Major Guitar Non-Barre #2

  1. Place your 1st finger on the 2nd string/8th fret.
  2. Place your 2nd finger on the 3rd string/9th fret.
  3. Place your 3rd finger on the 4th string/10th fret.
  4. Mute strings 1, 5, and 6.

What strings do you strum for C chord?

Another example would be your C. It is written as x32010 numerically. Notice the “x” on the 6th string. It is not played because your finger is on the 3rd fret of the 5th string (which is a C note), so you strum from the 5th string down.

What are the 3 basic guitar chords?

According to my bud, Andy B, the three most common guitar chords every man should know are G Major, C Major and D Major.

What is the hardest chord to play on guitar?

The standard “this is hard” chord is usually “F.” But with a good guitar and a practiced (strengthened) finger, “F” is easy. The hardest standard chord, in my view is Eb.

Is C chord on guitar hard?

Yes, this is a tough chord for beginner guitarists to play because it’s spread over three frets, so it requires three fingers to be ‘split’. This is hard in the early days of learning guitar as you don’t have the necessary amount of dexterity, flexibility or strength in your fingers yet.

How great is our God chords?

[Chorus] G How great is our God, sing with me, Em7 How great is our God, and all will see, C D G How great, how great is our God. [Bridge] G Name above all names, Em7 Worthy of all praise, C My heart will sing D G How great is our God.

What is the key of C on guitar?

In addition to having no sharps or flats to think about, it also contains all the open notes of a guitar, so we can use this to our advantage. The key of C contains 7 notes: C, D, E, F, G, A, B; we can mix up these notes to play melodies.

What fret is C Major on guitar?

The chord starts with the bass note on the 3rd fret, which is why this is called the 3rd position, and iIt takes a different finger placement up the neck of your guitar. Here’s how to play a barred C chord in the 3rd position: – Index finger on the 3rd fret of the A (5th) string.

Should you strum all strings?

No, you don’t strum all the strings on a guitar at once, generally, you are supposed to do it from the bass note of the chord down to the first string. If you strum all the strings without having in mind the chords that you are playing and the notes that you must be hitting, you will make it sound like a total mess.

Do you strum all strings on power chords?

How to strum a power chord? To strum a power chord, play only the two or three strings you ‘re fretting. As a power chord contains no open strings, you ‘ll have to mute any unused strings.

The major chords, together with the minor chords, are normally the first chords to learn for anyone who just starting out playing the guitar. These are fundamental and most other chords are extended or altered versions of major or minor chords.

Besides the basic major chords there are other categories that also use major in the name. Among these are major seventh, major ninth and major thirteenth.

Basic major chords

  • More C chords
  • More D chords
  • More E chords
  • More F chords
  • More G chords
  • More A chords
  • More B chords

Chord training

See also the most common progression involving major chords, the I – IV – V progression presented in all keys including pdf-files.

The chord names

The basic major chords are often written with single letters. So the difference between C and C Major is, in this context, none. In some cases you may find these referred to as CM, DM, EM and so on. It is important if the “M” is uppercase or lowercase, in the latter case a minor chord is intended.

There are in total twelve different basic major chords, one for every pitch. Less common is the five presented below. Because of the standard tuning of a guitar, the root notes C#/Db, D#/Eb, F#/Gb, G#/Ab and A#/Bb are often on lessВ convenient positions at the fretboard (none of these tones can be played on an open string), which makes them harder to play and therefore less common. The five chords presented below are often played as barre chords or with a capo (click on the links below the pictures for further guidance).

The delta (triangle) symbol

Sometimes, especially in older notations, “major” can be represented by a delta symbol. The chord name in these cases include a letter followed by a tringle (often in superscript).

On this page, you’ll learn two chord shapes—first, the most common and important way to play the chord, plus an easier version you can use, even if you’re brand new to the guitar.

The C Major Chord

In this most common version of the C Major chord, we’re going to use three fingers, and strum the top five strings.

Here’s a video to walk you through it, with a diagram below to show you where to put your fingers:

How to play the c major chord on guitar

Practice tips:

  • This chord requires that you stretch a little bit more with the third finger. Just make sure that, eventually, you can get that third finger right behind the third fret.
  • Another thing to keep in mind is that you really need to arch your fingers when playing this chord. Use the very tip of the finger so that we don’t mute an adjacent string, and get a dead, buzzy sound.

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How to play the c major chord on guitar

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How to play the c major chord on guitar

How to play the c major chord on guitar

How to play the c major chord on guitar

Practice and Memorize the C Major Shape

A great way to memorize the C major shape is to practice with an on-off drill.

  1. Start by placing your fingers on the strings, in the C major shape.
  2. Count to four, strumming on each beat.
  3. Then, take your fingers off the strings for four beats.
  4. Put your fingers back on, and repeat.

Taking your fingers off and on again in this way will help your brain memorize the shape, while the four beats give you time to place your fingers.

When you’re ready, try the same technique, but switch back and forth between C and another chord, like the G chord.

One Finger Version

If you’re just getting started, in your first few days of playing, here’s an easy, one-finger version to help you get started.

It has all the same notes as the more common version, but the sound isn’t quite as rich or as full.

All you need to do is put your first finger on the first fret of your second string, and then strum the thinnest three strings. That’s it!

How to play the c major chord on guitar

Once you’re comfortable with this version, try learning the more common, fuller sounding version above.

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How to play the c major chord on guitar

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C major is one of the first chords you should learn for guitar. And it is not because you want to be playing in key of C major, no. C major is one of the main chords in the key of G which I believe everyone should learn first.

Let’s look into what C major is from music theory perspective, and then I’ll show you couple finger positions for it.

What is C major chord

From music theory perspective C major chord is probably the easiest to learn and understand.

  • Chord formula: 1 – 3 – 5
  • Chord notes: C – E – G
  • Alternative names: CM, CMa, Cmaj, CΔ
  • Common functions: IV-chord in G major key and of course I-chord in C major key

C major is one of the first chords that piano players learn. It is very easy to play on the piano, but it is not so easy to play on the guitar.

How to play C major chord

There is nothing particularly tricky about playing basic C major chord shape. Finger position is relatively straight forward, just make sure to skip the 3rd string!

I prefer to place 3rd finger first, anchor it and then form the rest of the the chord from there. There is a bit of a stretch between 2nd and 1st fingers.

Note the pattern formed by 3rd and 2nd finger. It is exactly the same as the one used for G major except shifted one string down. That’s why it is best to practice C chord together with G.

C/G (C over G)

Low E string is not played. Even thought note E is in the C chord placing it in the bass muddies the chord, so it is typically omitted. There is however an alternative shape that includes low E string.

Technically this version of C major should be called C/G (“C slash G” or more commonly “C over G”). Because of the added 5th C/G sounds fuller and more epic if you will. Of course playing it across all 6 strings contributes to that too!

Note that familiar 3rd and 2nd finger pattern is broken here, so switching from C/G to G major chord will be harder.

Chord progressions with C major

Practice changing from and to C major chord by playing the following chord progressions:

  • G-C-G (I-IV-I)
  • G-C-D-G (I-IV-V-I)
  • C-G-C (I-V-I)

C major also goes well with Am and Em so throw those into the mix too! And if you feel adventurous try going from C to bar F chord to G back to C (I-IV-V-I) progression. If you can do that you can easily play songs in the key of C!