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How to play the C major chord on guitar

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The C major chord

The C chord, pronounced "C major," is one of the most fundamental chords in music. It's often the first chord beginners learn on guitar due to its simplicity and versatility. The C major chord is frequently used in popular, folk, and country music, and it serves as the tonic chord in the key of C major, making it essential for countless songs across various genres.

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

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Finger placement for C major chord

The most standard way to play a C major chord on guitar is in the open position using the first three frets.

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

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

Strum the bottom five strings, avoiding the 6th (low E) string. The open 1st (high E) and 3rd (G) strings will also ring out to complete the C major chord.

How to play an easy C major chord on guitar

If you're a beginner looking to play a simpler version of the C major chord, try this:

  1. Place your index finger on the 1st fret of the 2nd (B) string.
  2. Place your middle finger on the 2nd fret of the 4th (D) string.
  3. Place your ring finger on the 3rd fret of the 5th (A) string.
  4. Strum from the 5th string down, leaving the 1st (high E) string open.

How to play a C major bar chord

The C major barre chord is a great alternative to the open C chord, as it allows you to play the same chord shape in different positions up and down the fretboard.

Here's how to play a C major barre chord:

  1. Place your index finger across all six strings at the 8th fret, creating a barre.
  2. Place your ring finger on the 10th fret of the 5th (A) string.
  3. Place your pinky finger on the 10th fret of the 4th (D) string.
  4. Place your middle finger on the 9th fret of the 3rd (G) string.
  5. Strum from the 5th (A) string down to the 1st (high E) string.

Common C major chord progressions

The C major chord progressions are the foundation of countless songs across various genres, evoking emotions ranging from uplifting and joyful to nostalgic and sentimental. Some of the most common C major chord progressions include:

  • I-V-vi-IV (C-G-Am-F): Used in "Let It Be" by The Beatles and "No Woman, No Cry" by Bob Marley
  • I-IV-V (C-F-G): Used in "Twist and Shout" by The Beatles and "La Bamba" by Ritchie Valens
  • I-vi-IV-V (C-Am-F-G): Used in "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" by Elton John
  • I-V-vi-iii-IV (C-G-Am-Em-F): Used in "Seasons of Love" from the musical Rent
  • I-iii-vi-iii-IV-I-IV-V (C-Em-Am-Em-F-C-F-G): Used in "Fly Me to the Moon" by Frank Sinatra

Drills to master the C major chord

To master the C major guitar chord, try playing each note individually, focusing on clean, crisp sounds. Strum the notes together slowly, ensuring each one rings clearly.

Another effective drill is transitioning between C major and other chords like F major or G major. Practice switching chords smoothly and steadily, gradually increasing your speed. Remember, the key to mastering any chord is consistent, mindful practice!

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Songs that feature the C major chord

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

  1. Let It Be by The Beatles (C, G, Am, F)
  2. Hey Jude by The Beatles (C, G, F)
  3. Wonderwall by Oasis (Em, G, D, C)
  4. Stand By Me by Ben E. King (C, Am, F, G)
  5. Can't Help Falling in Love by Elvis Presley (C, Em, Am, F, C7)
  6. Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd (D, C, G)
  7. Imagine by John Lennon (C, F, G)
  8. Knockin' on Heaven's Door by Bob Dylan (G, D, Am, C)
  9. Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival (D, A, G, D, C, G, D)
  10. Zombie by The Cranberries (Em, C, G, D)

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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