How to Play C7 Chord on Guitar

In today's lesson, we will go over 5 distinct ways to play the C7 guitar chord, also known as the C dominant seventh chord. This guitar chord is built from the C major chord but has a little extra spice that makes it sound a bit more harsh & bluesy. Perfect for blues music!

We'll discover various voicings and chord shapes, tips and tricks to make sure the notes ring out, and you can make smooth chord changes while also discussing some music theory that goes into the chord.

Play C7 in 3rd Position

c7 chord in 3rd position chord chart

Due to the notes composition of this chord, there is no easy open position for the C7 chord, and the positions we'll go over today won't use any open strings.

This first variation we'll go over is similar to the open position for the B7, but we'll mute the B string. Place your:

Middle finger on fifth (A) string, third fret
Ring finger on third (G)string, second fret
Index finger on the fourth (D) string, second fret
Pinky finger on the first (high E) string, third fret

As you can see from the chord diagram, we won't play the low e string or the second string. To strum this, you can have your thumb a bit high so it mutes the low e string, and then you can mute the B string with your ring finger.

How To Play C7 Chord With Bar?

c7 with bar chord diagram

To play the C7 chord using a bar, we'll play in the eighth position, using all six strings.

First, place your index finger on the sixth string (low e string), eighth fret
Then place your ring finger on the fifth string, tenth fret
At last, your second finger on the third string, ninth fret

Then, as you squeeze your fingers in, press to the side of your index finger so that you bar across all six strings. This C7 guitar chord is sometimes called the E7 shape due to the E7 fingerings in the open position.

You may also notice this is almost the same as the regular C chord played as a barre chord. Simply play this like other barre chords by lifting off your pinky.

To strum, simply strum all the strings.

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Play C7 Guitar Chord in A7 Shape

c7 in a7 shape

The next C dominant seventh chord we'll look at is also in the third position, often known as the A7 shape, due to the fingerings for the A7 chord in the open position.

We'll be in the root position to play this chord shape as the C note is in the bass. Place your:

Index finger on the fifth string, third fret
Ring finger on the 4th string, 5th fret
Pinky finger on the second string, 5th fret

Squeeze your fingers in as your index finger presses to the side and strum down from the 5th string.

Play C7 in D7 Shape

a7 chord without barring chart

Next, let's look at the C7 guitar chord in the D7 shape. The bass note for this chord will be on the 4th string, so we'll have to practice to avoid strumming strings 5 & 6.

To play, use the following finger placement:

1st finger on the 4th string, 10th fret

3rd finger on the 3rd string, 12th fret

2nd finger on the 2nd string, 11th fret

4th finger on the high E string, 12th fret

C7 Chord (without Barre Chord)

c7 without barre chord

The last C dominant seventh chord we'll look at uses all four fingers and will really work at stretching your hand.

Pinky (fourth finger) on the D string, 11th fret
3rd finger on the 3rd string, 9th fret
2nd finger on the 2nd string, 8th fret
1st finger on the 1st string, 6th fret

Be sure your thumb is low and in the middle of your hand to make the big stretch!

C7 Guitar Chord Tips

Tip #1

To learn the C7 chord, play the chord very slowly so that all your fingers attack the strings simultaneously. The chord change will be slow if you place your fingers on the fretboard one at a time.

Tip #2

Make sure your thumb is behind your first and second fingers. 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.

Tip #3

Even though I have written the C7 chord as the A7, E7, or D7 "shape," I would highly recommend not to think or refer to them like this. When speaking a language, you don't translate as you speak; you just say the word. Similarly, thinking of "A7 shape" or "E7 shape" causes mental clutter. It seems small, but the more clutter you have in your mind, the more negative impact it will have on your playing.

Real musicians play music - amateurs play shapes!

What Are The Notes Of An C7 Chord?

The C dominant seventh guitar chord uses four notes that are derived from the C major scale, which are the following: C, D, E, F, A, B, and G note.

When you number the notes on a scale, they are called SCALE DEGREES. So, to make a C7 guitar chord, we need the 1st, 3rd, and 5th "degrees" as well as the 7th, but the 7th must be lowered by a 1/2 step.

1     2    3     4    5    6     b7 
C   D   E    F   G   A Bb

Several notes comprise varying major and minor chords, but precisely to make a C7 chord, we use the C, E, G, and Bb notes.

When these 4 notes are being played harmonically (at the same time), you are playing a C7 chord, so you must only have these notes. If you leave one note out or add in any other note, such as a D note, you are no longer playing a C7 chord!

That being said, as you can notice from the chord diagrams, you can have multiple C, E, G, and Bb notes, which can be in any order. However, I have only provided voicings for the C dominant seventh chord in the root position.

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Why is a chord called a dominant seventh chord? 

By now, you've learned there are different guitar chords, but there are multiple types of seventh chords. The dominant seventh is only found on the 5th chord of a key, and the dominant seventh chord's main function is to drive home to the root or tonic chord. You can hear it in how they sound.

For example, in the Key of F major, F G A Bb, C D E, the 5th chord is a C, and the C chord already wants to return to the tonic chord (the F), and if you then play a C7 chord to the F, you'll hear massive dissonance and then perfect resolution.

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