How to Play C#m Chord on Guitar

Today, I will show you 5 ways for how to play the C sharp minor chord on guitar. Initially, I will show you the easiest way to play the C#m chord and then progress to other versions, such as how to play the C#m chord with barring and the C sharp minor bar chords.  Later, we'll also get into chords that go with C#m, popular songs that use the C#m chord, and the notes used to make up the chord.

Why is the C#m chord so hard?

The C#m chord is a bit more tricky than other chords because there is no open position for this chord. This means you have to learn how to play bar chords! Don't worry; I'll show you some easy ways to play the C#m chord on guitar!

C#m Guitar Chord

C#m - Standard Form

First, place your:

3rd finger (ring) on the 4th string 11th fret

Then lay (bar) your 1st finger (index) on strings 1, 2, and 3 on the 9th fret

Be sure your thumb is splitting the difference between your fingers so your hand can stretch, and so you have leverage for the bar. Drive your 3rd finger directly into your thumb while your 1st finger presses to the sides.

** If your thumb is curled or on the outside of your 1st finger, your fingers won't stretch!

Not sure how to read a chord diagram or want to learn more chords? Click here

How To Strum The C#m chord

To strum the C#m guitar chord without strumming strings 5 & 6, you're going to need to get really good at missing these strings when you strum; of course, this only comes with a lot of practice!

Personally, I lightly rest my wrist of my strumming hand just before the first strum to feel where I am. It's very quick and most people don't realize I am doing this. But I only do this on the 1st strum. Once you get the first strum right, it's easier to strum by feeling missing strings 5 & 6. 

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C#m Chord Tips

The 1st tip to learning the C#m chord is to memorize it and trust your picking hand. If you are constantly trying to remember the chord or having to look back and forth between your picking and the fretboard, your progress will be a slow and painful process. 

The 2nd tip is to make sure your thumb is behind your index and middle finger. You don't want your thumb on the outside of your first finger as this will cause your hand to be unable to stretch or work properly.

The 3rd tip is for bar chords. When playing bar chords, your index finger (1st finger) needs to execute the bar so 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 won't ring out!

C#m Chord Without Barring

This next position for the C#m chord will move you one step closer to playing a C sharp minor chord. To play the C#m in this position 

  • Place your index finger on the 5th string, 4th fret

  • Place your ring finger on the 4th string, 6th fret

  • Place your pinky finger on the 3rd string, 6th fret

  • Place your middle finger on the 2nd string, 5th fret

To avoid strumming strings 1 & 6, you can have your index finger slightly higher on the fingertip so that the fingertip touches the 6th string. 

For the 1st string, if you have a good technique and are not jutting out your wrist, your hand may mute the 1st string without you needing to do anything. 

How To Play The C#m Barre Chord 

Now we are going to move on to bar chords and you are going to learn how to play the C#m bar chord properly. I am going to guide you through different variations of the C#m 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. 

This C#m chord is just like the variation you learned but now we will barre using your 1st finger. Fret it just the same as above but have your index finger lining FLAT and pressing to the side so the fifth string and the first string can ring out. 

** 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. 

C#m Barre Chord Version 2

In this last version of the C#m barre chord, we are going to cover what is sometimes called the "Em" shape in reference to how the Em chord looks in the open position. 

If this is confusing you, don't worry about it. I don't want you to become a "shape" player, but it's a common reference, so I thought I'd mention it here. 

To fret this, place your:

  • 1st finger on the 6th string, 9th fret

  • 3rd finger on the 5th string, 11th fret

  • 4th finger on the 4th string, 11th fret

  • Finally, lay your 1st finger down across all the strings

To help leverage I recommend using your 2nd finger to help your 1st finger push down.

Yes, you were already prepared for this one! As you can see from the first C#m version you just learned above, all we did was add the bar on the 6th string 9th fret.

Easy Songs That Use C#m Chord

Def  Leppard - Pour Some Sugar on Me
Skid Row - 18 & Life
Mr. Big - To Be With You

C#m Guitar Chord Progressions

Here are a few chord progressions that sound great, much melodic and use the C#m chord. Feel free to change up the orders and experiment with the sounds!

E - A - C#m - B
C#m - D - F#m - E 
F# - E - C#m - D

C#m - B  -  A - B
C#m - G# - B - F#
G# - E - C#m - B

If you need help learning these other chords, click here

What Keys Have A C#m Chord? 

Major keys that use a C#m chord:
Key of E Major
Key of A Major
Key of B Major

Minor keys that use a C#m chord:
Key of C# Minor
Key of F# Minor
Key of G# Minor

What Are The Notes Of A C#m Chord?

A C#m chord or C# minor chord consists of 3 notes that are derived from the C#m 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# minor chord, we need the 1st, 3rd, and 5th "degrees."

1        2     b3      4         5       b6      b7 
C#    D      E       F#      G#      A       B 

All minor chords use the 1, b3, and 5 notes of their corresponding scale. 

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

Now you may be wondering, why did you add a "b" (flat) to the 3, 6, and 7? This is beyond the scope of this lesson, but for simplicity's sake, all minor scales have the 3rd, 6th, and 7th notes lowered down a half step. We'll have other guitar lessons where we'll go in-depth on this. For now, let's just stick to learning the C# minor chord. 

Now, note from the chord diagrams ONLY that the notes C#, E, and G# are being used. If you have another root note, such as an A note or an F# note, it is no longer a C# minor chord!

That being said, you can have multiple C#, E, or G# notes, as shown in the chord diagrams. Try playing the chords but only strum a few of the notes. Notice the chord will sound "thin" if there is 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.

Congratulations! Now you know how to play the C#m chord on the guitar!
Scratch that; with so many C#m variations, you are a C#m chord pro because it appears that you have learned more than one way to play the chord!

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