HOW TO PLAY
The C Chord
On this page, you’ll learn two chord shapes—first, the most common and important way to play the chord, plus an easier version you can use, even if you’re brand new to the guitar.
The C Major Chord
In this most common version of the C Major chord, we’re going to use three fingers, and strum the top five strings.
Here’s a video to walk you through it, with a diagram below to show you where to put your fingers:
- This chord requires that you stretch a little bit more with the third finger. Just make sure that, eventually, you can get that third finger right behind the third fret.
- Another thing to keep in mind is that you really need to arch your fingers when playing this chord. Use the very tip of the finger so that we don’t mute an adjacent string, and get a dead, buzzy sound.
Practice and Memorize the C Major Shape
A great way to memorize the C major shape is to practice with an on-off drill.
- Start by placing your fingers on the strings, in the C major shape.
- Count to four, strumming on each beat.
- Then, take your fingers off the strings for four beats.
- Put your fingers back on, and repeat.
Taking your fingers off and on again in this way will help your brain memorize the shape, while the four beats give you time to place your fingers.
When you’re ready, try the same technique, but switch back and forth between C and another chord, like the G chord.
One Finger Version
If you’re just getting started, in your first few days of playing, here’s an easy, one-finger version to help you get started.
It has all the same notes as the more common version, but the sound isn’t quite as rich or as full.
All you need to do is put your first finger on the first fret of your second string, and then strum the thinnest three strings. That’s it!
Once you’re comfortable with this version, try learning the more common, fuller sounding version above.
LEARN MORE CHORDS
Other common chords in the key of C Major:
MORE TO LEARN
Don't forget about scales—check out the most important scales for beginners to learn, including two ways to play a C Major scale:
Anna Freitas holds a B.A. from Berklee College of Music and performs throughout New England as a guitarist and vocalist. She continues to teach students, both in-person and online via Skype.