C#m Chord on the Guitar (C Sharp Minor) – 10 Ways to Play (and Some Tips/Theory)

The C sharp minor chord is enharmonically the same chord as D flat minor. The note Db is used much more commonly than C#. The chord C#m, however, is used often, mainly because the C#m chord is found in common keys, such as E, A and B.

The C#m chord contains the note E, so it can technically be played as an open chord (see the first shape in the image below). However, this is not a very common way of playing the chord. Instead, C#m is most commonly played on the 4th fret, as a root-5 bar chord.

Some Quick C#m Chord Theory

  • The C sharp minor chord contains the notes C#, E and G#.
  • The C# minor chord is produced by playing the 1st (root), flat 3rd and 5th notes of the C# Major scale.
  • The C# minor chord (just like all minor chords) contains the following intervals (from the root note): minor 3rd, Major 3rd, Perfect 4th (back to the root note).
  • C sharp minor is the relative minor of E Major.
  • C#m is the first chord in the key of C# minor. The seven chords in the key of C# minor are: C#m, D# diminished, E+, F#m, G#, A, B# diminished

10 Ways To Play The C# Minor Chord

If you’ve come to this page just to view some chord diagrams for C#m, here they are.

C# Minor Chord - 10 Shapes

Standard C#m Chord Shape

The most common way to play the C#m chord is by playing the root-5 minor chord, starting on the fourth fret. Most guitarist are familiar with the Bm chord, starting in the second fret, as this is one of the first barre chords that guitarist usually play. The C#m chord is the same shape as the Bm barre chord (root-5), but up two frets.

Db Minor Chord Guitar

Easy C#m Chord Shape

The ‘easy’ or ‘mini’ version of the C sharp minor chord is achieved by playing the fourth fret, fifth fret and sixth fret, on the first string, second string and third string respectively. This is essentially the first three strings of the more common barre chord (pictured above). Playing the easy version of the chord can be a good way to start using C#m, if you find the barre chord version a little difficult.

Easy Db Minor Chord Guitar

How to Play the C Sharp Minor Chord (Step by Step)

  • Place your first finger on the fourth fret of the fifth string and barre the first five strings.
  • Place your third finger on the sixth fret of the fourth string.
  • Place your fourth finger on the sixth fret of the third string.
  • Place your second finger on the fifth fret of the second string.
  • Strum the first five strings.

The instructions above are step by step instructions for playing the common C# minor chord shape. Forming the chord through step by step instructions is a great way of ensuring that you are interpreting the chord diagram correctly.

C# Minor Barre Chord Shapes

The C#m chord can be played as a barre chord by playing a root 6 barre chord shape and starting on the 9th fret or by playing a root 5 barre chord Major shape and starting on the 4th fret:

Dbm Barre Chord

C# Minor Triads

Playing triads is a great way of exploring the minor chord and the guitar fretboard more generally. By arranging the notes of the chord systematically using permutations (root position, first inversion, second inversion), interesting and unique shapes and voicings are created. The three different voicings for the C sharp minor triad are:

  • C# minor Triad (Root Position) – C#, E, G#
  • C# minor Triad (1st Inversion) – E, G#, C#
  • C# minor Triad (2nd Inversion) – G#, C#, E

By playing these triads on two different groups of three strings, we can produce six different shapes.

Db Minor Triad

Which Keys Have The C#m chord in Them?

The C#m chord can be found in the following keys:

  • The key of C# minor (C#m, D#dim, E, F#m, G#m, A, B)
  • The key of F# minor (F#m, G#dim, A, Bm, C#m, D, E)
  • The key of G# minor (G#, A#dim, B, C#m, D#m, E, F#)
  • The key of E Major (E, F#m, G#m, A, B, C#m, D#dim)
  • The key of A Major (A, Bm, C#m, D, E, F#m, G#dim)
  • The key of B Major (B, C#m, D#m, E, F#, G#m, A#dim)

Alternative But Useful C#m Chord Shapes

The following shapes are alternative ways of playing the C sharp minor chord shape. They’re not the most common C#m shapes, but used enough to include here as interesting alternatives.

Alternative Db Minor Chords Guitar

C#m Chord Substitutions

Most C# minor chords with extensions can be used as a substitute for the C# minor chord. For example, C#m9, C#m11 and C#m6 can often be used to add colour and emotion to the C# minor chord.

The C#m7 chord is quite often used interchangeably with the C#m chord.

For more interesting substitutions, playing variations of the E chord (which is the relative Major of C sharp minor), such as E6, E69, Emaj9 etc. can be used effectively as a substitute for the C# minor chord.

Which Scales Can Be Played Over the C# Minor Chord?

The most common and effective scales that can be used to solo/improvise over the C# minor chord, or to create melodies for the purposes of song writing are:

  • C# natural minor scale – This scale (also called C# aeolian) is the most commonly used scale for this chord.
  • C# minor pentatonic scale – This is probably the easiest scale to learn and get started on when improvising over the C# minor chord.
  • C# dorian mode – This scale can be used to add a slightly brighter sound to the C# minor chord.
  • C# phrygian mode – This scale can be used to add a darker sound to the C sharp minor chord.

Further Reading

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