The Cm chord on the guitar

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

This is the 9th video in the series of guitar chords, which is all about how to play CAGED chords.

The first video was an overview, we then had the five major CAGED chords, followed by the F and B chords.

These next seven videos are about minor chords. We start here with the open position Cm chord.

Ironically, this chord is basically impossible to play in its full shape as you see here in the Chordacus image.

Cm chord/shape

The way around this dilemma is to find our fractions. There are two possibilities.

  1. You can play just strings 3-5. This is technically a Cm chord, we play the root, the m3rd, and the 5th. But it doesn’t sound that great, we don’t use it that much, it’s a bit muddy.
  2. We can also play strings 2-4. It’s a bit weird here in the open position, but, by moving it up the fretboard, we get my favorite minor chord shape.

Once we extend the Cm chord/shape, things get easier so let’s look at this next.

Cm chord extensions

Here are all possible extensions we can have in the Cm shape. If you can visualize the intervals around the shape, you can build all these chords.

  • Cm chord (root, m3rd, 5th, root)
  • Cm7 (root, m3rd, b7, root)
  • Cm7b5 (root, b7, m3rd, b5)
  • Cmmaj7 (root, m3rd, 5th, 7)
  • Cm9 (root, m3rd, b7, 9)
  • Cm6 (root, m3rd, 6, root)
  • Cm11 (root, b7, 9, 11)

You need song examples to learn all these Cm-shaped chords. You must experience them in context.

A great example is Roxanne. As an acoustic version, the first chord of the verse works well using a Cm shape.

Another example we find is in Robbie William’s Angels. During the solo, you play an open position Bm11, in a Cm shape.

The only actual open position Cm chord I know of in a song is Creepin In by Norah Jones.

Building scales and arpeggios around the Cm chord/shape

There are more things you can do to the Cm shape. We can turn it into two arpeggios, a Minor Pentatonic, the minor blues scale, Conspirian, Dorian, Aeolian (the natural minor scale), and Phrygian.

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

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

Even though the Cm chord shape is impossible to play, you still must learn it to use playing fractions, as an extended chord as well as all these arpeggios and modes.

Out of all the contradictions the guitar brings, this is my favorite.

Min7 ArpeggioRm35b7
Min7b5 ArpeggioRm35b7
Minor PentatonicR2m356
Minor BluesRm34b55b7

The Cm 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 C chord

Open position C chord, barre chord shape and extensions

One of the first chords we learn on the guitar is the easy-to-fret and play open-position C chord.

Representing the beginning of the CAGED system, you’ll release the C chord’s full potential when you make it a moveable shape and identify all intervals.

Intermediate Acoustic

Intermediate Acoustic Songs

Most intermediate acoustic tunes can’t be played using just basic open-position chords. We have to move up the fretboard and play CAGED barre chords as well.

We incorporate bass lines, add licks, extend chords, and play vocal melodies. Most importantly, we’ll invent second guitar parts and play these songs together.


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