How to Play the C Minor Chord (And 3 Must-Know Variations) (2024)

[Acoustic Guitar Chords] > How to Play the C Minor Chord (And 3 Must-Know Variations)

The C minor chord is a sad, soft, and expressive chord used throughout many rock, classical, and funk songs. If you’ve ever heard a song that sounded somber or made you wistful, then it’s likely that the Cm chord was used to give it that nostalgic flair.

In today’s lesson, I’m going to show you how to play this beginner guitar chord in several different ways so that you can incorporate it into your own songs. So if you’ve ever wanted to play a ballad or write a song about an ex-lover, today’s your chance.

Below, this lesson will include:

  • How to play the standard C minor shape
  • Easy versions
  • The two-finger variation
  • Scales that can accompany the chord
  • Popular songs that use the chord

Now that you know what you’re in for, let’s dive right in.

Originally published on November 18, 2019, this article was republished on Feb 29, 2024.

How to Play the C Minor Chord (And 3 Must-Know Variations) (1)

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How to Play the Standard C Minor Shape

To play the Cm chord, barre your index finger on the 3rd fret across the high E, B, G, D, and A strings. Place your middle finger on the 4th fret of the B string, your ring finger on the 5th fret of the G string, and your pinky on the 5th fret of the D string.

Let’s break that down to make it a little easier to understand.

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C Minor Guitar Chord Finger Positioning

To play the chord effectively, place your fingers in the following way:

  1. Index finger on the 3rd fret of the A string
  2. Index finger also on the 3rd fret of the E string
  3. Middle finger on the 4th fret of the B string
  4. Ring finger on the 5th fret of the D string
  5. Pinky finger on the 5th fret of the G string
  6. Strum all 5 strings down from the A string

If you want to see and hear the Cm chord in action, check out the above video by Guitar Goddess – her technique and form are perfect!

As she points out, a really 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 – that’s the beauty of barre chords!

But 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 there’s no tension in your back, shoulders, or wrists

Easy Versions of the C Minor Chord

If the barred chord aspect of the C minor chord is too difficult, try this easier version.

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In this version, there are two big changes:

  • You don’t have to use your index finger to barre across all the frets
  • You aren’t playing the C note on the A string

Essentially, you remove the bass note from the chord.

When you do this, you’ll notice that the chord has a higher pitch than the barre chord version.

Like the other versions of this chord, if you need it to have a lighter tonal quality, this is a perfect substitution for the barred shape.

This version still requires you to use all of your fingers, so if you’re still struggling and looking for an even easier version of C minor, check out the version below.

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This version of C minor uses only three fingers. While it still sounds like a C minor chord for the most part, all of the bass notes are stripped away, giving it a bright tonal quality.

The Two-Finger Variation of the C Minor Chord

If you need an even easier version of the Cm chord, try out this two-finger variation.

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As you can, this chord is pretty easy to pull off. Simply place your index finger on the first fret of the B string, and place your middle finger on the first fret of the D string.

When playing this chord, it’s important to only strum the D, G, and B strings, and mute the others. If you strum the other strings while forming this chord, you’ll be playing something else entirely.

Scales to Play With the C Minor Chord

Here are a couple of guitar 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.

Popular Songs That Use the C Minor Chord

If you’d like to hear the C minor chord in action, you can hear being used effectively in these famous songs:

  • “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M. – This song, while not entirely in C minor, uses a C minor chord in its iconic mandolin riff, which can be adapted for the acoustic guitar.
  • “The Scientist” by Coldplay – This song is known for its distinctive piano part, but the chord progression translates well to the acoustic guitar, and it includes C minor.
  • “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers – This classic song uses a simple but effective chord progression that includes C minor.
  • “Someone Like You” by Adele – Predominantly a piano song, but the chord progression, which includes C minor, works beautifully on the acoustic guitar as well.
  • “I Will Follow You into the Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie – This beautiful acoustic song uses C minor throughout.

Continuing the Journey Beyond the Cm Chord

Now that you’ve nailed the Cm chord, I imagine you’re keen to take on your next challenge.

While I’ve got a ton of really great chord tutorials that will teach you how to play the entire gamut of guitar chords, I’ve also got something better.

It’s called Tony’s Acoustic Challenge – this really cool, kind-of-backward guitar teaching method I developed with one thing in mind:

To help you become a better guitar player by finding the fun and joy in playing.

To date it’s helped over 36,534 guitar students get consistent with their playing, learn new techniques and songs, and make meaningful progress, all while having fun at the same time!

This method is not about grinding through scales or rote repetition – it’s about getting you to fall in love with playing the guitar.

If that sounds good, then watch this FREE guitar class for three secrets to learn guitar faster in just 10 minutes a day.

Tony Polecastro

My name is Tony Polecastro and I’m an acoustic guitar geek.I LOVE the idea of learning guitar online but I was fed up with the overwhelming, “more is better” approach that takes the fun out of learning guitar…this is my journey from 60 to 36,534 guitar students...Read My Story

How to Play the C Minor Chord (And 3 Must-Know Variations) (2024)
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