The C guitar chord is a unique chord in that it contains all standard notes with no sharps or flats. The C major diatonic scale is made up of the following notes: C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. The C major triad contains the notes C, E, and G, and a standard C major chord (or any inversion of a C major triad) in any position will contain some combination of those three notes combined. Like the A chord and D chord, the C guitar chord is part of the major chords on guitar.
What Is The C Chord On Guitar
In standard (E-A-D-G-B-E) tuning, a C chord can be played in many different positions. The first position is often considered to be the “C shape”, which is typically strummed from the fifth string (in standard tuning, the A string) to the top (or high E) string.
In this (first) position, the bottom note (the root, or C) is easily played with the fourth finger (ring finger) on the third fret of the A string. The next string up (the D or fourth string) is played with the middle finger on the second fret, which produces the E note (the third note of the C scale). The next string up (G) is left open, the index finger is placed on the first fret of the B string (to produce another C note), and the E string is also left open.
C Chord Variations
A second position or variation of the C major chord can be strummed on the same strings with the same root note (fifth string, third fret) but is a barre chord, which has much different fretting than the C chord shape outlined above.
In this position, the index finger is barred along the third fret of the first five strings. The other notes may be barred on the fifth fret of the B, G, and D strings, but it may be more effective to fret each of those notes with your individual middle, ring, and fifth fingers, respectively.
Using the latter method typically gets a cleaner high G note from your first (E) string.
Beginner Guitarists Tips: Easy Ways To Play The C Chord On Guitar
There are several different easy ways to produce a C chord on the guitar in standard tuning, but perhaps the easiest way to play a C chord on the guitar is in open C (C-G-C-G-C-E) tuning.
This tuning is great for beginners as it’s simple to play a C chord and also allows for easy movement to any other major chord on the fretboard (you can basically just barre any fret).
But it also could slow down the learning process for beginning guitarists who haven’t yet grasped the subtleties of note intervals on the guitar. Nevertheless, open tuning is valuable to learn at some point for any guitarist, and open C is a great place to start.
Now, when it comes to easy ways to play a C chord in standard guitar tuning, you have several options, each with its own set of limitations. One very easy option is to barre the top four strings on the fifth fret with your index finger, then place your fifth finger on the eighth fret of the top string (producing a high C). This is a very easy fretting pattern, but it only plays four notes, which can sound plain.
An even more minimal approach would have you basically playing the second inversion of a C major triad on the top three strings. A triad inversion is just the three core notes played in a different order than 1-3-5, which is the standard triad note order played in harmony.
In the context of C major, 1-3-5 translates to C-E-G. The first inversion of that would be E-G-C (3-5-1) and the second inversion would be G-C-E (5-1-3).
The second inversion of the C major triad can easily be played on guitar in standard tuning by simply placing the index finger (or any other finger, but the index is often the most efficient) on the first fret of the second (B) string while strumming the top three strings with the first and third strings left open.
C Guitar Chord Progressions
Just like the C chord and scale, all chords in the key of C major contain no sharps or flats. Other than C major itself, these chords include D minor, E minor, F major, G major, A minor, and B diminished.
You can also add these chords’ respective seventh notes and still be absent any sharps or flats (although the G major chord would be a dominant seventh, which is briefly explained below).
Common chord progressions in the key of C major might include the following:
- C major – G major – C major
- C major – G major – A minor – F major
- C major – F major – G major
- C major – F major – G major – C major
There’s an infinite amount of different guitar chord progressions that can be played in any key. And C major standard chord progressions are particularly easy to figure out since they don’t contain any sharps or flats.
However, you can make things more interesting by adding accidentals (notes that aren’t native to the key) into the mix. But that’s a topic for a more advanced lesson.
For beginner guitarists, if you want to make your major chord progressions more interesting, you’re well advised to incorporate seventh and diminished chords into them wherever they might fit in.
As previously mentioned, the diminished chord in the C major scale is B diminished. The seventh chords of any major scale are just major, minor, and diminished chords with their respective major, minor, or diminished seventh notes placed on top of them.
The only exception to this would be the fifth, or dominant, seventh chord (G7, in the key of C major), which adds a minor seventh note on top of a major chord.
And also feel free to experiment with different shapes and patterns in alternate tunings (open C is useful, but it’s not the only one).