Skip to main content

Guitar Chords, Key of C

Chord progressions in C

if you're a beginner, playing C chords can be a difficult stretch, especially if you have smaller hands. A good way round this is to use a capo, maybe in fret 3 or 4, which will reduce the action of the strings and also make it easier to form the chord shapes. There is a link below for capos - widely used by The Beatles, James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel to brighten up the tone of acoustic guitar, and incidentally making everything easier to play - sometimes a lot easier.

This chord progression is very common in folk, pop and rock music - starting with a C chord, the bass line descends through the notes of a C major scale. The bass movement ties the chords together nicely, and gives you a solid and predictable movement between the chords. The chords in the first line are like those in No Woman No Cry by Bob Marley.

Above the chord grids are 2 signs - 0 means open string, x means do not play. Probably the single most common problem with C chords is playing the 6th string - you don't want that, trust me. The bottom note of a C chord should be a C, the note on string 5, fret 3. Just addressing this problem will really improve the sound.

In the second line I've shown a good alternative progression, which sounds great due to the open 3rd string (G) that gives more ring and sustain to both the C chord and the Am7 chord that follows. If I find a different chord voicing like this, I'll try to apply it to every other song that uses the same chord.

For the last F and F maj7 chords, I'm using my thumb to cover the note on string 6. The F maj7 chord form shown here can be used in place of a barre chord, and then become a moveable shape you can move up the neck - which is very useful.

You can also get away with an open 5th string on this chord, still sounds fine but much easier to play.

Chord progressions in C


Reading chord grids

The 6 vertical lines are the strings, the horizontal lines are the frets. The headstock is at the top of the diagram.

Am pentatonic scale pattern

The bottom 2 chord grids show an Am pentatonic scale - you can use all the notes shown, in any order, to play guitar solos over these chords. It's a good idea to sing or hum the notes as you play them, as it will help develop a strong improvising technique - although you will need to stick with this for a while. You could record the chord progression, or have a guitarist friend play the chords for you. Another great way to practice would be to buy a looper pedal and record some chord changes to play over. Am, G, F, G for instance, as in All along the Watchtower by Bob Dylan. Am to F, then C to F as in Rhiannon by Fleetwood Mac.

Check the neck position - we are starting with fret 5 (use first finger) and then using either fret 7 or fret 8, depending on the string. There are only 5 different notes (hence pentatonic) but they repeat. For all practical purposes, Am and C are the same thing in terms of keys. Chords in Am just start at a different place in the sequence.

Why use the pentatonic scale instead of the C major scale? It's just easier and will sound more blues or rock orientated. We've lost 2 notes from the full major scale, but these are the notes that can clash with some of the chords.

There are 5 interlocking patterns which cover the whole guitar neck - check out my other hub on pentatonic scales if you decide to learn the whole neck. Once you have learned the whole scale map, all the other keys just involve moving the pattern up or down to the right place.

Chords in C

Generally, if a song is in the key of C, it will start and finish with a C chord. You are likely to find F and G7 too, as these are the I IV and V chords in the key of C. You may also find Am, Em, Dm, which are the minor chords in this key. here are the chords in C:

C. Dm Em F G Am Bm7b5 C

Scroll to Continue

This is also known as the harmonised scale of C, and will help you understand music, write songs, and play solos on guitar.

Other common variations on these chords:

C maj7, just take fret 1 on string 2 down to the open string, B.

Dm7, fret 1 on strings 1 and 2, fret 2 on string 3, open string 4 (D)

Em7, just fret 2 on string 5

F maj7, same as F, with open string 1.


Jon Green (author) from Frome, Somerset, UK on February 12, 2011:

Thanks kenny

kenny thomas from Australia on February 11, 2011:

nice jon, keep 'em coming.

nice websites btw.

Jon Green (author) from Frome, Somerset, UK on February 11, 2011:

Hi Tom, you're welcome.

Tom Meyers from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho on February 11, 2011:

Another great hub Jon, thanks

Related Articles