How to Play C Chord on Guitar

On this page I am going to show you 7 ways for how to play the C chord on guitar. 
I'll show you the easiest way to play the C chord in open  position as well as a few ways to play the C bar chord. We'll also get into popular chords that go with C, popular songs that use the C chord, and what notes are used to make up the chord. 

Why is the C chord so hard?

The C chord is actually pretty easy compared to other chords as we can play it in open position. Meaning, we can use open strings to play the chord (more on this below).  The reason the C major chord can be a bit frustrating is because of poor guitar technique. If you have poor technique your hands wont work properly and your fingers wont stretch. We'll discuss this below as well as tips and tricks to learn it faster!

How To Play The C Major Chord Guitar Easy

Here is how to play the C chord on guitar in open position which is the easiest way to play it!

Place your 1st finger (index) on 2nd string 1st fret.
Place your 2nd finger (middle) on 4th string 2nd fret
Place your 3rd finger (ring) on 5th string 3rd fret

Make sure your thumb is squeezing just behind your 2nd finger. If not, your fingers wont stretch!

Not sure on how to read a chord diagram? Click here

How To Strum The C Chord

To strum the C major chord  above without strumming string 6  you can have your fret hand thumb come up and over the neck just barely so that it touches the 6th string. This way if you accidentally strum the string it wont ring out. 
Another way is to lightly rest your wrist on the bridge of your guitar just before you strum. This will help you feel where your picking hand is so you can skip the 6th. This will take some practice to do quickly without looking. 

I recommend practicing both!

C/G Chord Guitar

A common variation to the C chord is to add the G note in the bass. Which turns it into a slash chord.  C/G means, play a C chord but have the G note in the bass . Look at you getting so good at music theory! 👊

 Although you couuld just fret the C chord as normal and throw your 4th finger on the 6th string 3rd fret this is a bit awkward. So typically when playing a C/G chord you'll fret it like this: 

Place your first finger on 2nd string 1st fret
Place your 2nd finger on 4th string 2nd fret
Place your 3rd finger on 6th string 3rd fret
Place your 4th finger on 5th string 3rd fret

Try this progression C/G - D/F# - G sounds great!

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C Chord Guitar Tips

The 1st tip to learning the C chord is to get it memorized! If you are constantly trying to remember where to put your fingers they will always be slow and coordination will not develop. 
The 2nd tip is to to make sure your thumb is behind  second finger.  You don't want your thumb on the outside of your index finger as this will cause your hand to not be able to stretch or work properly.

The 3rd tip is for bar chords. When playing bar chords and your index finger (1st finger) needs to do execute the bar you want to apply pressure to the side of your finger. If you squeeze directly in your finger will bend and the strings on your knuckles wont ring out!

How To Play The C Chord Without The Bar

Here we have the C bar chord in a different variation than open position without the bar.  If you can make smooth transitions with this example this is a great stepping stone to doing a bar chord. 

Place your 1st finger on 6th string 8th fret
Place your 3rd finger on 5th string 10th fret
Place your 4th finger on 4th string 10th fret
Place your 2nd finger on 3rd string 9th fret

When strumming this variation, either hold strings 1 & 2 with your picking hand or if you are needing to strum up and down be sure raise the pick up so you don't pluck strings 1 & 2

How To Play The C Major Bar Chord 

Now we are going to move on to bar chords and you are going to learn how to play the C bar chord properly. I am going to guide you through different variations of the C bar chord with easy variation getting progressively harder. 

Just so we are clear, when you use one finger to press multiple strings this is called a  bar chord or sometimes spelled barre chord. 

These first two C bar chords are quite similar so lets look at them side by side

To play this variation of the C bar chord, use your index finger on 5th string 3rd  fret and lay (bar) your 3rd finger (ring) across strings 2-4 on the 5th fret.  

* Remember to have your thumb splitting the difference with your index and ring finger and keep your 2nd joint on your ring finger high so it can SCOOP and lay flat. 

Yes the 2nd example is much trickier as you are performing 2 bars! Your index will need to bar the 3rd fret while your ring finger is barring the 5th fret! Not only does this make it a bit trickier but you'll have to make sure your technique is on point so that your ring finger doesn't touch the 1st string. Both are correct but this example you'll be getting a bit more top end on the sound from the 1st string 3rd fret.

C barre Chord Guitar

Ok, so you're ready to tackle the last version of the C bar chord on your guitar! 

To play a C major bar chord on the 6th string,
place your first finger on the 6th string 8th fret, 
your ring finger on the 5th string 10th fret, 
your 4th finger on the 4th string 10th fret, 
and your 2nd finger on the 3rd string  9th fret. 

You've already learn this above! Now, all you need to do is squeeze your thumb which is right behind your 2nd finger and then lay your 1st finger down on its side and press it sideways across all the strings on the 8th fret. 

** Note, even though I break down the fingerings 1 by 1, to play chords properly and make smooth transitions this all must be done with ONE motion. 

Lastly, here is the C major chord in a bit less common shape. To play, place your pinky finger on the 5th string 15th fret, your ring finger on the 4th string 14th fret, your middle finger on the 2nd string 13th fret, and then bar with your index on the 12th fret across strings 1,2 and 3. 

Now you know how to play the C major chord! 👊
Scratch that, you are like an C chord pro as you know a lot of ways to play the C chord on guitar!

Easy Songs That Use C Major

The Scorpions - Wind Of Change
Bob Dylan - Knockin' On Heaven's Door
The Cranberries - Zombie

C Major Chord Progression Guitar

Here's a few chord progressions that sound great that use the C chord. Feel free to change up the orders and experiment with the sounds!

C - F - G
C - F - Am - G
F - A - C

Dm - C -  Dm - C - G
Dm - C - Bb - F
Em - D -  C - D

If you need help learning these other chords, click here

What Keys Have a C Major Chord? 

Major keys that use a C major chord:
Key of C Major
Key of F Major
Key of G Major

Minor keys that use a C major chord:
Key of Am Minor
Key of Dm Minor
Key of Em Minor

What Are The Notes of a C Major Chord?

A C chord or C major chord consists of 3 notes that are derived from the C major scale.
  C  D  E  F  G  A  B

When you number the notes of a scale they are called SCALE DEGREES. So to make a C major chord we need the 1st, 3rd and 5th "degrees."

1      2    3     4    5      6     7 
C     D    E     F    G     A    B

All major chords use the 1, 3, and 5 notes of a their corresponding scale. 

When these 3 notes are being played harmonically (played at the same time) you are playing a C major chord.

Notice from the chord diagrams, ONLY the notes C, C, and G are being used. If you have another note such as a D note or a F not it is no longer a C major chord!

That being said, you can have multiple C, E, or G notes as show in the chord diagrams. Try playing the chords but only strum a few of the notes. Notice the chord will sound "thin" if there are only one of each note. By adding in more of the same notes you make the chord have more depth. You may even think of it as a darker or lighter shade of the same color.

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