[Acoustic Guitar Chords] > How to Play the C Minor Chord (And 4 Must-Know Variations)
In this guitar lesson, I’m going to show you how to play the C minor chord on guitar.
In fact, these are the same ways I have taught the C minor chord to thousands of students over the last decade.
This free C minor chord lesson will include…
- How to play C minor on guitar
- 4 ways to play the Cm guitar chord easier
- The EASIEST way to play a C minor guitar chord
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Watch a free lesson to get started.
Now, let’s dive right in.
Originally published on November 18, 2019, this article was republished on May 18, 2023.
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How to Play the Standard C Minor Shape
The C minor chord is one of the trickier chords to get the hang of due to its awkward shape and finger positioning.
To play it, you usually need to have your fingers form a barre chord.
If you’re struggling a little bit with barre chords or simply need a recap on how they work, then check out this chord guide for the F chord where I go into detail about how to play it.
Now let’s look at how to play it.
How to Place Your Fingers for the C Minor Chord:
- Index finger on the 3rd fret of the A string
- Index finger also on the 3rd fret of the E string
- Middle finger on the 4th fret of the B string
- Ring finger on the 5th fret of the D string
- Pinky finger on the 5th fret of the G string
- Strum all 5 strings down from the A string.
This version of the Cm chord is particularly powerful and has a very rich sound.
Forming this chord, however, requires more strength from your index finger than usual. If you’re struggling a bit at this point, just keep practicing and your fingers get stronger over time.
Another cool thing about this chord is that once you learn the shape, you can use it for any minor chord by simply moving it up and down the fretboard.
If you’re struggling to produce a crisp, clean chord, keep these tips in mind:
- Make sure your fingers are arched.
- Ensure that you’re applying pressure with the tips of your fingers (not the pads).
- Keep your thumb pressed against the back of the neck and not wrapped around it.
- Relax so that you have no tension in your back, shoulders, or wrists.
Easy C Minor Chord
If the barred chord aspect of the C minor chord is too difficult, try this easier version.
In this version, there are two big changes.
First, you don’t have to use your index finger to barre across all the frets. Second, you aren’t playing the C note on the A string.
Essentially, I just removed the bass note from the chord.
You’ll notice that the chord has a higher pitch and quality than the barre chord version.
Like the other versions of C minor, if you need a chord to have a lighter tonal quality, this is a perfect substitution for the barred shape.
This version of C minor still requires you to use all of your fingers, which can be a problem for beginner guitar students.
If you’re looking for an even easier version of C minor, check out the version below.
As you can see, this chord shape uses only three fingers, which is great for beginner guitar players.
This version of C minor is also a good balance between simplicity and interest.
Easier versions of C minor, as you’ll see soon, stop resembling the original sound and shape of the barre chord.
The version above still sounds like a C minor chord but doesn’t have the complications of playing the low C note.
If you need even easier versions of the chord, I still have 2 more variations that might just be the easiest hacks for playing this chord.
C Minor Chord 2-Finger Variation
When you’re having trouble playing a C minor chord, you can always count on this variation in a pinch.
While this chord variation is easier for your fretting hand, it can present some challenges for your strumming hand.
- Be sure to only strum the D, G, and B strings.
- If you strum the other strings, it won’t be a C minor chord!
Like most beginner guitar chords, there are many different ways to play the C minor chord.
However, the key is to find the one that works for your fingers and the material you’re playing.
The Essential Version of Cm Chord
While all of the above versions of the Cm chord are valid, there is certainly one version that I think every guitar player should know.
Before I tell you, I need to let you know that every chord has a unique time and place it can be used to great success.
While the barre chord variation can give you a lot of power, it can also overwhelm the sonic pastiche if you’re trying to play softer, more mellow music.
Meanwhile, the 2 finger version can sound rather thin.
If you need help breaking down more of these distinctions, I highly encourage you to watch my FREE video for my guitar workshop where we explore all different variations.
Now, the version I think everyone needs to know is the Cm chord with the barre shape.
That barre shape can be applied up and down the neck...
That is to say, you can move that barre shape up two frets, and suddenly you’re playing a D minor chord.
Just learning that one shape opens up many other minor chords — and that’s what I call good bang for your buck!
Scales to Play With the C Minor Chord
Guitar scales are a great way to really nail your chords but also to advance your playing overall.
Here are a couple of scales closely linked to the C minor chord:
- The C minor scale is based on C and it contains the notes C, D, E flat, F, G, A flat, and B flat.
- The C harmonic minor scale differs ever so slightly from the C minor scale. It contains the notes C, D, E flat, F, G, A flat, and B.
- The C melodic minor scale is another variation that contains the notes C, D, E flat, F, G, A, and B.
Continuing the Journey
If you’re anything like me or the thousands of students I’ve helped, you’ve realized that playing the guitar isn’t easy.
You have to practice, maintain your guitar, expand your musical horizons, and — most importantly — have fun…otherwise, your guitar journey ends far too soon.
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