How to play

How to play the C11 chord on guitar

Spice up your playing with this jazzy chord featured in "Stairway to Heaven."

The C11 chord

The C11 chord, pronounced "C eleventh," is a sophisticated and jazzy variation of the standard C major chord. It incorporates the 7th and 11th notes of the C major scale, adding depth and complexity to its sound. The C11 chord is commonly used in jazz, funk, and R&B music to create a rich and expressive harmony that adds a touch of musical intrigue.

There are many ways to play a chord. Here's a diagram for the most common C11 chord. We've also included other versions below.

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Finger placement for C11 chord

The C11 chord is typically played as a barre chord on the 3rd fret of the guitar.

Follow these finger positions to play a C11 chord on your guitar:

  1. Barre your index finger across all six strings on the 3rd fret.
  2. Place your middle finger on the 5th fret of the 4th (D) string.
  3. Place your ring finger on the 5th fret of the 3rd (G) string.
  4. Place your pinky finger on the 5th fret of the 2nd (B) string.

To strum this chord, use your pick or thumb to strum all six strings in a downward motion. You can also try alternating between down and up strums for a more dynamic sound.

How to play an easy C11 chord on guitar

If you're a beginner looking to play a simpler version of the C11 chord, try playing an open C major chord (0-3-2-0-1-0) and add your pinky finger on the 3rd fret of the 1st (high E) string. This version may not have the full richness of the barre chord but is easier for beginners to play.

How to play a C11 bar chord

Playing the C11 chord as a barre chord allows for easier transitions and a fuller sound compared to the open chord version.

Here's how to play a C11 barre chord:

  1. Place your index finger across the 3rd fret, covering all six strings (barre).
  2. Place your ring finger on the 5th fret of the 5th (A) string.
  3. Place your pinky finger on the 5th fret of the 4th (D) string.
  4. Place your middle finger on the 4th fret of the 3rd (G) string.
  5. Strum from the 5th (A) string down.

Common C11 chord progressions

The C11 chord, a dominant 11th chord, adds color and tension to progressions, often creating a dreamy or jazzy feel. Here are some common progressions featuring the C11 chord:

  • I - III7 - VI7 - C11 (Cmaj7 - Em7 - Am7 - C11)
  • II7 - V7 - I7 - C11 (Dm7 - G7 - Cmaj7 - C11)
  • I7 - IV7 - C11 - V7 (Cmaj7 - Fmaj7 - C11 - G7)
  • VI7 - II7 - C11 - V7 (Am7 - Dm7 - C11 - G7). Used in "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin.
  • III7 - VI7 - II7 - C11 (Em7 - Am7 - Dm7 - C11)

Drills to master the C11 chord

To master the C11 chord, try playing the individual notes (C, G, Bb, D, F) one at a time, focusing on each note's clarity. Once comfortable, practice transitioning between the notes in different orders.

Another effective drill is to strum the chord and let it ring out. Listen carefully to the harmony, and make adjustments as needed. Repeat this process slowly, gradually increasing your speed as you become more familiar with the chord shape and sound.

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Songs that feature the C11 chord

Here are 10 popular songs you can play with the C11 chord:

  1. Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder (C11, B7, Em7, A7, Dm7, G7, Cmaj7)
  2. I Wish by Stevie Wonder (C11, B7, Em7, A7, Dm7, G7, Cmaj7)
  3. Isn't She Lovely by Stevie Wonder (C11, G7, F7, E7, A7, D7, Dm7)
  4. The Way You Look Tonight by Frank Sinatra (C11, Cmaj7, A7, Dm7, G7)
  5. Deacon Blues by Steely Dan (C11, FM7, Bb7, G7, Gm7, C7, F7)
  6. Peg by Steely Dan (C11, Am7, Bb7, Gm7, C7, F7)
  7. What Goes Around...Comes Around (Interlude) by Justin Timberlake (C11, Am7, Gm7, C7)
  8. Vulfpeck by Wait for the Moment (C11, D7, Db7, C7)
  9. Cory Wong by Cory Wong (C11, Bb7, C7)
  10. Who's Loving You by The Jackson 5 (C11, F7, Fm7, Bb7, Eb7, Ab7, G7)

How a guitar teacher can help

If you feel stuck in your playing, it might help to take personalized guitar lessons with an expert guitarist. Taking lessons with a pro gives you access to the skills, feedback, and motivation to reach your goals.

You can find expert guitar teachers to support you in the journey. Thousands of people have turned to online guitar lessons on Til, instead of traditional in-person lessons, because Til gives you access to the best teachers in the world from the comfort of home. And with flexible scheduling, secure payments, lesson recordings, and a private chat with your teacher–there’s never been a better way to learn guitar.

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