C Major Chord: Introduction
C Major is a very commonly-used guitar chord, and it should be one of the first ones you learn. It’s used in a wide array of songs across nearly all genres.
It’s also fairly easy to play; the most common variation, played open, only requires you to fret three strings.
What songs use a C Major chord?
These are a few of the songs that use a C Major chord:
- Landslide by Fleetwood Mac
- Dust in the Wind by Kansas
- Lola by The Kinks
- Green Grass and High Tides by The Outlaws
- Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin
- Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
What notes are in a C Major chord?
A C Major triad is made up of three notes: C, E, and G. When played in open position on a guitar, you’ll play a combination of these three notes.
From top to bottom string, these notes are:
E, C, E, G, C, E
How to play a C Major chord on guitar
There are three main ways to play a C Major chord on guitar: As an open chord, as an A-shape barre chord, and as an E-shape barre chord.
C Major Chord: Open
To play a C Major chord open, use your index finger to press down the first-fret B string.
Use your middle finger to fret the second-fret D string, and your ring finger for the third-fret A string.
You can strum all six strings, since all of the notes created are either C, E, or G.
C Major Chord: A-Shape Barre
Alternatively, a C Major chord can be played by playing an A-shape barre chord at the third fret.
If you find this too difficult, try using a “double barre” (using your ring finger to barre the bottom four strings) for a nearly identical sound.
You can also use your thumb to barre the bottom two strings if it’s more comfortable; this greatly frees up your index finger, allowing it to only fret one string (high E).
C Major Chord: E-Shape Barre
Lastly, you can play a C Major chord as an 8th-fret E-shape barre chord.
To do this, use your index finger to barre the eighth fret and place your third finger on the ninth-fret G string.
Use your ring finger to fret the A string and your pinky to fret the D string, both on the tenth fret.
As with the previous chord, feel free to use your thumb to barre the top string if it’s more convenient.
How to play a C Major chord on piano
Playing this chord on piano is also quite simple; it’s the first chord most beginners learn on a keyboard.
There are three main positions you’ll see C Major played in: root position, first inversion, and second inversion. Let’s look at these.
In root position, C is the lowest note. Optimal fingering is as follows:
- Left Hand: Pinky on C, middle finger on E, thumb on G
- Right Hand: Thumb on C, middle finger on E, pinky on G
In the first inversion, C is moved to the top, making E the lowest note in this variation of the triad. Optimal fingering is:
- Left Hand: Pinky on E, middle finger on G, thumb on C
- Right Hand: Thumb on E, index finger on G, pinky on C]
Lastly, we have second inversion, where G is the root note. The best fingering for this inversion is:
- Left Hand: Pinky on G, index finger on C, thumb on E
- Right Hand: Thumb on G, middle finger on C, pinky on E