C Chord on Guitar

Open Chord

This is what a C Chord on guitar in the open position looks like.

Open C Chord
Open C Chord

C Major is comprised of C-E-G, the first, third, and fifth notes of the C Major scale. You’ll finger the chord with the ringer finger on the root note (the C on the 5th string, 3rd fret.) Then the middle finger on the E. The G is played open on the 3rd string. Technically, that’s all you need to have a C Major Triad chord.

Since this is a guitar, we can also go ahead and grab the C an octave higher, which is the one on the 2nd string, 1st fret. And while we are at it, we can go ahead and play the E an octave on higher too, on the open 1st string. Why do we do that? Because we can … and to make it sound fuller. Technically though, we are going into 2 octave territory and really only need the first C – E – G to have a C Major chord.

Why can’t we play the the E on the open 6th string? While E is part of C, and playing it won’t sound terrible (and lord knows it’ll happen when you’re strumming) it does alter the sound in that the root note now becomes an E. We usually hear the highest tone in a chord, which in this case is E, so it will blend well with the E two octaves lower on the 6th string. And someone has thought of this already, the chord is called E over C.

E over C - Open C with E on top
E over C – Open C with E on top

This is the open C Chord with G on top, also called G over C.

G over C - Open C Chord with G on top
G over C – Open C Chord with G on top

Barre Chord

Barre chords are in theory easy for beginners because you can slide them up and down the fretboard to play various chords. However, they can also be difficult for beginners to finger. For a C barre chord, lay your index finger across the entire 8th fret. You then use your middle to play the E on the 3rd string, and then your pinky for the C on the 4th string and your ringer for the G on the 5th string.

C Barre Chord
C Barre Chord

Since you only have 4 fingers (well maybe you could hook your thumb over the fretboard for 5) this allows you to play all six strings. It yields a fuller sound since you are playing 6 tones. Notice that there is only one E in this chord, and 3 octaves worth of C.

Power Chord

If we modify the Barre Chord to just play the top 3 notes ,we are left with a power chord. Like the Barre Chord, you can slide it up and down the fretboard to play other chords. What gives it the “power” is that it’s playing the root (C) and it’s fifth (G) and then the root (C) an octave higher is added in for reinforcement (make it sound fuller.) Technically this is a C5 chord. Add in distortion and this is really all you need to get going for lots of Classic Rock and Heavy Metal.

C5 Power Chord

You can keep the fingering the same as a barre chord or you can lay your ring finger over the fretboard (bar it) to play the G and C with one finger.

Chord Alternatives

This can be difficult to finger, but just to make the point that you don’t have to stick to the traditional handful of chord charts out there. If this is too hard, then just try playing the top three notes. Or top 4 or top 5, whatever is easiest.

Another C variation
Another C variation

You could use the 3 notes on the 5th fret as a C inversion, or you could use them to form this version of the chord, which looks like a power chord!

yet another variation
yet another variation

Triads

These are played on the first 3 strings, just the root, third and fifth.

C Triad Chord
C Triad Chord

If we move the 3rd of the chord (E) to the bottom of the triad, this is called the 1st Inversion. This is a C Major Inv 1.

C Triad Ist Inversion
C Triad Ist Inversion

Alternatively, we can make the 5th the bottom note of the triad, which is called a 2nd Inversion as seen in this guitar chord chart.

C Triad 2nd Inversion
C Triad 2nd Inversion

Check out our article on the notes on a guitar if you are still struggling and want a fresh take.

Leave a Reply