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

The C minor chord is a relatively common guitar chord. The chord itself contains the note G, which means that the chord can technically be played as an open chord (see first shape in image bellow). However, this is not a very common or practical way of playing the chord. Instead, Cm is most often played as a bar chord, on either the 3rd fret (root 5) or 8th fret (root 6).

Some Quick Cm Chord Theory

  • The C minor chord contains the notes C, Eb and G.
  • The C minor chord is produced by playing the 1st (root), flat 3rd and 5th notes of the C Major scale.
  • The Cm 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 minor is the relative minor of Eb Major.
  • Cm is the first chord in the key of C minor. The seven chords in the key of C minor are: Cm, D diminished, Eb+, Fm, 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 Cm, here they are.

C Minor Chord - 10 Shapes

Standard Cm Chord Shape

The standard Cm chord shape is the root-5 minor barre chord, starting on the third fret. This is the most commonly used C minor shape.

Cm Chord Guitar

Easy Cm Chord Shape

The easy version of the Cm chord uses only the first three strings and the first three fingers. By playing the easier version of the C minor chord, it makes it possible to start using it in songs, especially when you’re finding the barre chord version difficult.

Easy Cm Chord Guitar

There is an alternative and easy way of playing the C minor chord, which is technically an open chord (as it uses one open string). This is played using the 3rd, 4th and 5th stings. Although this is a valid way of playing the chord, it is not very commonly used voicing, because it contains low-pitch notes, and can sound slightly muddy.

Easy Cm Chord Guitar 2

How to Play the Cm Chord (Step by Step)

  • Place your first finger on the third fret and barre the first five strings.
  • Place your third finger on the fifth fret of the fourth string.
  • Place your fourth finger on the fifth fret of the third string.
  • Place your second finger on the fourth 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 Cm chord can be played as a barre chord by playing a root 6 barre chord shape and starting on the 8th fret or by playing a root 5 barre chord Major shape and starting on the 3rd fret:

Cm 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 minor triad are:

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

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

C Minor Triad

Which Keys Have The Cm chord in Them?

The Cm chord can be found in the following keys:

  • The key of C minor (Cm, Ddim, Eb, Fm, Gm, Ab, Bb)
  • The key of F minor (Fm, Gdim, Ab, Bbm, Cm, Db, Eb)
  • The key of G minor (G, Adim, Bb, Cm, Dm, Eb, F)
  • The key of Eb Major (Eb, Fm, Gm, Ab, Bb, Cm, Ddim)
  • The key of Ab Major (Ab, Bbm, Cm, Db, Eb, Fm, Gdim)
  • The key of Bb Major (Bb, Cm, Dm, Eb, F, Gm, Adim)

Alternative But Useful Cm Chord Shapes

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

Alterative C Minor Chords Guitar

Cm Chord Substitutions

Most C minor chords with extensions can be used as a substitute for the C minor chord. For example, Cm9, Cm11 and Cm6 can often be used to add colour and emotion to the C minor chord.

The Cm7 chord is quite often used interchangeably with the Cm chord.

For more interesting substitutions, playing variations of the Eb chord (which is the relative Major of C minor), such as Eb6, Eb69, Ebmaj9 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 minor blues scale – This scale can be used over the Cm chord to add a Blues flavour.     
  • 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 minor chord.

Further Reading

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