How to Play the C Major Chord on Guitar

01
of 05

C Major Chord (Open Position)

c major shape 1

If the diagram above is unfamiliar to you, take a moment to learn how to read chord charts.

The basic C major chord shown here is a common beginner chord generally learned almost immediately by new guitarists. This C major shape features open strings, and has a full, lush sound that works well in almost all situations.

The C major chord is made up of three different notes - C, E and G. You'll notice that the above chord features five - not three - different strings being played. This is because some of those three notes in a C major chord have been repeated.

Fingering this C Major Chord

  • place your third finger on the third fret of the fifth string
  • place your second finger on the second fret of the fourth string
  • place your first finger on the first fret of the second string

When playing the above C major chord shape, you'll want to avoid strumming the open sixth string. Although the open string ("E") is actually a note in the C major chord, it can sound a little funny when used as the bass note in your chord shape.

02
of 05

C Major Chord (based on A major shape)

c major shape 4

 If the diagram above is unfamiliar to you, take a moment to learn how to read chord charts.

This alternate shape (a standard major barre chord with root on the fifth string) for playing a C major chord is actually based on the A major chord shape. This C major shape sounds a little less full than a traditional open C major chord. You'll often find electric guitarists use this shape, as the lack of open strings make it easier to "control".

If you examine the notes being played on the fifth fret (on the fourth, third and second strings) you should be able to spot the open A major chord shape. The first finger takes the place of the open strings in an A major chord.

Fingering this C Major Chord

  • place your first finger on the third fret of the fifth string
  • place your second finger on the fifth fret of the fourth string
  • place your third finger on the fifth fret of the third string
  • place your fourth finger on the fifth fret of the second string
  • place your first finger on the third fret of the first string

Playing all these strings without buzzing may be a challenge for some guitarists to achieve. It is perfectly acceptable to not try and finger the note on the first string, and to avoid playing (or muffle) that string. You'll also want to avoid playing the sixth string.

Alternate Fingering for this C Major Chord

  • place your first finger on the third fret of the fifth string
  • place your third finger on the fifth fret of the fourth string
  • place your third finger on the fifth fret of the third string
  • place your third finger on the fifth fret of the second string
  • place your first finger on the third fret of the first string

To play the chord using this fingering, you'll need to flatten your third finger across the fretboard. This may be initially challenging - practice holding down the chord shape and hitting strings one at a time to ensure all notes are ringing properly.

As with the first fingering, it is acceptable to not try and finger the note on the first string, and to avoid playing (or muffle) that string.

03
of 05

C Major Chord (based on G major shape)

c major shape 6

 If the diagram above is unfamiliar to you, take a moment to learn how to read chord charts.

This version of the C major chord is based on the open G major chord, with the barred first finger substituting for open strings. This chord shape provides a fuller sound than some of the other barred versions of the C chord.

Fingering this C Major Chord

  • Place your fourth finger on the eighth fret of the sixth string (this is the root note "C").
  • Place your third finger on the seventh fret of the fifth string.
  • Use your first finger to barre the fifth fret of the fourth, third and second strings. Avoid playing the first string.

You may need to slightly "roll back" your first finger - so the bony side of your finger (rather than the fleshy "palm" part of your finger) is doing the barring.

04
of 05

C Major Chord (based on E major shape)

c major shape 9

 If the diagram above is unfamiliar to you, take a moment to learn how to read chord charts.

Those who have learned barre chords will recognize this shape as the major barre chord with root on the sixth string. If you look at the notes in the chord in the diagram above, you'll see the shape on the second and third fret resembles an E major chord. The fretted notes on the first fret are where the open strings would be for the E chord.

Fingering this C Major Chord

  • Place your first finger across all sixth strings on the eighth fret.
  • Place your third finger on the tenth fret of the fifth string.
  • Place your fourth finger on the tenth fret of the fourth string.
  • Place your second finger on the ninth fret of the third string.

You may need to slightly "roll back" your first finger - so the bony side of your finger (rather than the fleshy "palm" part of your finger) is doing the barring.

05
of 05

C Major Chord (based on D major shape)

c-major-caged-d.gif

 If the diagram above is unfamiliar to you, take a moment to learn how to read chord charts.

This one is nice and simple. It may be hard to see here because of the open strings, but this version of a C major chord is actually based on a D major chord shape. For better illustration of this, play a D major chord, and then slide it down two frets. If you move the right direction, you'll be playing the shape above.

Fingering this C Major Chord

  • Place your first finger on the first fret of the second string. Strum the third, second and first strings.
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Your Citation
Cross, Dan. "How to Play the C Major Chord on Guitar." ThoughtCo, Dec. 1, 2016, thoughtco.com/c-major-guitar-chord-1712134. Cross, Dan. (2016, December 1). How to Play the C Major Chord on Guitar. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/c-major-guitar-chord-1712134 Cross, Dan. "How to Play the C Major Chord on Guitar." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/c-major-guitar-chord-1712134 (accessed December 12, 2017).