How to Play the C Major Chord on Guitar

How to Play the C Major Chord on Guitar

The C Major chord is used in many songs. Some would even argue that it’s the most common chord in pop music. It comprises only three notes: C, E, and G, but there are many different ways to play these notes on the guitar. We’ll start with the basic C chord at the first position, and then show you a couple other possibilities. Read on!

Steps

1. Make sure the guitar is tuned. These examples all use standard guitar tuning (E A D G B E, low to high). Any other tuning configuration may be interesting, may be beautiful, or it may be horrible—but it won’t be a C Major chord.

 

2. Know your “finger numbers.” This will help you read the tablature notation we’ll use for this article:

  • Index finger=1
  • Middle finger=2
  • Ring finger=3
  • Pinky=4

 

3. Know your string numbers. String numbers move from highest pitch to lowest. Thus, the thinnest, highest string is numbered 1 (high E), and the lowest, 6 (also E, 2 octaves lower):

  • E1
  • B2
  • G3
  • D4
  • A5
  • E6

 

Method One: First Position

1. Place your fingers. Using row A below as a guide, place your fingers as described:

CMajor-First-Position-1
  • Place your index finger on the second string (B) behind the first fret. This is the high C note for this chord.
  • Place your middle finger on the fourth string (D) behind the second fret. This is the E note in this chord. (The open note between the 2nd and 4th strings is G—the other note in the C chord).
  • Place your third (ring) finger on the fifth string (A) behind the third fret.

 

2. Strum every string that doesn’t have an X on it: strings 2, 3, 4, and 5

 

3. Try the alternate fingerings on rows B and C. These are variations on the basic C Major chord on line one, adding either a high G or a low G.

  • For row B, keep the same fingering as you used on row A, but add the 4th finger at the 3rd fret of the first string. When you strum, strum from the fifth string to the first string.
  • To play row C version, first move your 4th finger from the 3rd fret of the first string to the 3rd fret of the 6th string, and play all the strings. It’s optional whether you also play the 1st string.
  • Some people find the alternate fingerings for the 3rd and 4th fingers easier. Try it both ways, and use what’s most comfortable, either just playing a C Major chord, or when combining with other chords. Experience will eventually make this automatic.

 

4. Practice! Work on perfecting your C Major in the first position. It will help you build finger and callus strength, which you’ll need for the higher positions.

 

Method Two: Third Position

1. Move up the neck. This variation on the C Major chord starts at the 3rd fret—hence the name “third position.” Place your fingers as shown on row A of the tablature below:

CMajor-Third-Position
  • Place your first finger at the 3rd fret, on the 5th string (or A string). This is your low C.
  • Place your second finger at the 5th fret, on the 4th (D string). This is the G note.
  • Place your third finger at the 5th fret, on the 3rd (G string). This is the C note.
  • Place your fourth finger at the 5th fret, on the 2nd (B string). This is the high E note.
  • When you strum, don’t play the bottom or top strings. While they won’t make your chord sound bad, they won’t do much to make it sound good, either.

 

2. the 3rd fret. Place your other three fingers as described above. This is called a barre chord, or sometimes “bar chord.” You will have to press down hard with your first finger, and depending on your guitar, may take you a while to build up the necessary strength. Be patient—it will come!

  • Add fingers 2, 3, and 4 as you did with the first variation, and strum all the strings.

 

Method Three: Eighth Position

1. Move way up the neck. Will start this next position on the 8th fret. Notice the frets are much closer up here, and the notes sound somewhat higher.

CMajor-Eighth-Position
  • Place your first finger at the 8th fret across all the strings. We’re making another barre chord!
  • Place your second finger at the 9th fret of the 3rd string (G string). This note is an E.
  • Place your 3rd and 4th fingers at the 10th fret, on the 4th and 5th strings, respectively. Strum all the strings.

 

2. Keep practicing!

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