The C chord on the guitar

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How to play the open position C chord and CAGED C shape

In the video lesson above, you learn about the C chord and how to play it on the guitar in the open position, as well as a C shape.

You may think, why do we need a video on how to play a C chord? Isn’t looking at a chord box enough?

Well, it’s what you can and can’t do with it that matters and this is what you learn in the video guitar lesson.

Once you can play it, which means playing it in context, so in a few different songs, switching to it and from it, strumming, picking, etc. Once you can do that, you must look at how to turn a C chord into a moveable C chord shape.

Here’s a C as an open-position chord as well as a moveable, C-shaped chord. This image is taken from Chordacus.

Open position C chord/shape

The next step is to identify all intervals. Low to high we have root, 3rd, 5th, root, 3rd.

This is very unusual, most guitar chords aren’t laid out in perfect ascending order of the intervals like this. Only the C chord/shape is.

C chord extensions

If we want to extend this chord, we do so by understanding how to build a chord theoretically, in combination with understanding the possibilities of this C-shaped chord.

Here are all the possible chords we can build using a C shape.

  • C major chord (root, 3rd, 5th, root, 3rd)
  • Csus2 (root, 2, 5, root)
  • Cadd9 (root, 3, 5, 9)
  • Csus4 (root, 4, 5, root)
  • C7sus4 (root, 4, b7, root)
  • C6 (root, 3, 6, root)
  • C6/9 (root, 3, 6, 9)
  • Cmaj7 (root, 3, 5, 7)
  • C7 (root, 3, b7, root)
  • C9 (root, 3, b7, 9)
  • C7b9 (root, 3, b7, b9)
  • C11 (root, b7, 9, 11)

You need actual songs that have these chords in them to fully understand, remember, and be able to recognize them by ear.

For example, Talking About a Revolution plays a Cadd9 with an open E string. Time Of Your Life doesn’t.

To experience a Csus2 chord in a C shape, check Rewind by Paolo Nutini.

A Csus4 in the open position can be found in Angie by The Rolling Stones.

A great example of open position Cmaj7, and C7 chords is to be found in Kiss Me by Sixpence None The Richer.

As a C-shaped E chord, we can use the open E string, this is done in Angels by Robbie Williams.

Building scales and arpeggios around the C chord/shape

There are more things you can do to this C shape. We can turn it into two arpeggios, a Major Pentatonic, the major scale (Ionian), Lydian, and Mixolydian.

Below are all the intervals used to build these arpeggios and scales around the C-shaped chord.

If you can see all the intervals around the chord shape, you can play all these arpeggios and scales.

Maj7 ArpeggioR357
Dom7 ArpeggioR35b7
Major PentatonicR2356
Major ScaleR234567

The C chord | Related pages

Guitar chords

You can learn how to build all minor and major guitar chords using the so-called CAGED system.

This is the foundation upon which we learn to extend chords and build arpeggios and modes as well.

The Cm chord

Open position Cm chord, barre chord shape and extensions

The open position Cm chord and shape are usually avoided by most guitar teachers and players, you’ll find it in very few tunes.

Being impossible to play as a full shape, the Cm chord will be the fork in the road for you to understand the guitar fretboard.

Beginner Acoustic

Beginner Acoustic Songs

This collection of beginner acoustic tunes will teach you how to arrange for one acoustic guitar, as well as how to create a supporting part.

Playing songs will help you with switching between open-position chords and give you the context you need to understand how music works theoretically.


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