The C minor guitar chord evokes an expressive, somewhat solemn tone used in countless ballads and love songs. Despite it being a fairly common chord to hear, it can be deceptively difficult to play.
Plenty of guitar students have trouble mastering the Cm chord, but luckily, we’re here to help!
What Notes Are in the Cm Chord?
Before we get into the details of how to play C minor, we’re going to explain just what a Cm chord is and the best ways to use it.
The C minor chord is comprised of the roots of the C minor scale. These include the first, the third, and the fifth notes of the scale, or C, Eb, and G.
The C major scale is C minor’s parallel key as the two share the same tonic note. Its relative key, which shares the same notes in a different order, is Eb major.
How to Play Cm on Guitar
Here, we’re going to give you a step-by-step guide on how to play a Cm chord. It’s a technically complex chord that can be relatively tricky for beginners.
You’re going to need to know how to make a barre chord (some examples using F#m here), which involves laying your finger flat across the strings to hit the right notes. You’ll also have to use all four fingers, which will require quite a bit of dexterity on your part. This is also one version of playing C sharp minor, too.
As long as you have the basic techniques down, you should be able to play a flawless Cm chord by following these easy steps:
- Using the first finger at the third fret, form a barre from the fifth string all the way to the first.
- Next, press your second finger down on the fourth fret of the second string.
- Place the third finger slightly higher. It should rest on the fifth fret of the fourth string.
- Finally, drop your fourth finger in under the third. Place it on the fifth fret of the third guitar string.
- When you strum, hit just the five highest strings.
Try another barre: The E flat minor guitar chord
Other Ways to Play the Cm Chord
The Cm chord can be a pain to play, especially for those who are new to the guitar. If you don’t think you’re quite ready to tackle the traditional C minor chord, there are a couple of easier versions you can try that are ideal for beginners.
Getting Rid of the Barre
For many beginners, the barre is the biggest obstacle to mastering the chord. By getting rid of it, you can make the chord a little bit simpler without sacrificing any key notes. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how to play the C minor chord without the barre:
- Take your finger and place it firmly on the first string, right along the third fret.
- Then, take the next finger and place it right in front of the first. It should be pressing down on the second string at the fourth fret.
- Finally, take your third and fourth fingers. Place each on the fifth fret of the third string and the fifth fret of the fourth string, respectively.
- Strum just the first four strings.
While you might not get as full a sound as you would using a barre, this is a perfectly acceptable way to play the C minor guitar chord in most circumstances.
Try some guitar lessons online before moving to barre chords – they’re inexpensive and convenient!
If you’re not ready to use all four fingers when playing C minor, you can achieve the same sound with just three fingers:
- As with the other C minor variations, use the first finger to press down on the first string of the third fret.
- Place the next finger just above the first so that it rests on the secondary string on the fourth fret.
- Your third finger should rest on the fifth fret of the third string. Ignore the fifth fret of the fourth string for this variation.
- Strum just the first three strings
Start easy: Learn the Em guitar chord
Perhaps the easiest way to play the C minor chord on a guitar is by using just two strings. There are two ways to do this:
- Place your finger down on the second string at the first fret and the second finger at the fourth string of the first fret.
- Strum just the second, third, and fourth strings
No matter which way you choose to play, mastering the C minor chord can help you bring new depth to your music. It’s a beautiful, expressive chord that’s made plenty of love ballads into the timeless hits that they are today.
Read next: Learning to read guitar tablature
Which Famous Songs Use Cm Chord?
If you’re listening for it, you can hear the Cm chord pop up in plenty of popular songs across the past few decades. Its emotional, somewhat melancholy sound makes the Cm chord a common feature in love songs (sadder ones tend to use D minor quite a bit too). Some of the most well-known songs to use the C minor chord include:
- Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5
- “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor
- “You Give Love a Bad Name” by Bon Jovi
- “She Loves You” by the Beatles
- “Death of a Martian” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers
- “Since I’ve Been Loving You” by Led Zeppelin
- “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele
When Should I Use the Cm Chord?
Often, the Cm chord is used as part of a chord progression. These have a clear beginning, middle, and end, and they help drive a song forward in a way that’s easy to follow. Other chords that you can include in a C Minor progression include:
Different genres often have chord progressions that distinguish the style from other types of music. For example, country and folk music written in the key of C minor often follows a progression of C minor, then F minor, followed by G minor.
Try these chords next:
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
Liam’s lifelong love for music makes his role at Music Grotto such a rewarding one. He loves researching, writing and editing music content for Music Grotto.