C# Chord on the Guitar (C Shape Major) - Diagrams, Finger Positions, Theory (2024)

The C# Major chord is one of the most common and popular chords on the guitar. The open C# chord is one of the first chords that most guitarists learn, and it has been used in countless songs across many genres.

Some Quick C# Chord Theory

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

10 Ways To Play The C# Major Chord

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

C# Chord on the Guitar (C Shape Major) - Diagrams, Finger Positions, Theory (1)

Standard C# Chord Shape

The most common way to play the C# chord essentially the root-5 C# barre chord, played on the fourth fret. Often, as in the example below, the first finger does not actually form a barre, but instead simply plays the root note.

Easy C# Chord Shape

The easy version of the C# chord is played on the first three strings of the guitar. Learning this simplified shape can be a good way to start using the Bb chord if you find the barre chord versions too challenging. It is the same shape as the standard open D chord shape (without the open string) and moved down one fret (remember that C# is the same as Db).

C# Chord on the Guitar (C Shape Major) - Diagrams, Finger Positions, Theory (3)

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

  • Place your first finger on the fourth fret of the fifth string.
  • Place your second finger on the sixth fret of the fourth string.
  • Place your third finger on the sixth fret of the third string.
  • Place your fourth finger on the sixth fret of the second string.
  • Without strumming the sixth string, strum the first five strings.

The instructions above are step by step instructions for playing the most common C# Major chord shape. These instructions can actually be super helpful when you feel like you’re interpreting the shape incorrectly. By going through the C# chord instructions step by step, you can verify that you’re playing the chord correctly.

Barre Chord Shapes for C Sharp

The C# 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:

C# Chord on the Guitar (C Shape Major) - Diagrams, Finger Positions, Theory (4)

C# Major Triads

Playing the C# chord using barre chord shapes is the most common way of playing the chord. However, it is also useful to explore the chord using triads (including inversions). The C sharp Major triad can be voiced in the following three ways:

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

Here are six different ways to play the C# Major triad (including inversions).

C# Chord on the Guitar (C Shape Major) - Diagrams, Finger Positions, Theory (5)

Which Keys Have The C# Chord in Them?

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

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

Alternative But Useful C Sharp Chord Shapes

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

C# Chord on the Guitar (C Shape Major) - Diagrams, Finger Positions, Theory (6)

C# Chord Substitutions

The C# chord can often be substituted with the C# sus 4 chord, the C# sus 2 chord and the C# add 9 chord. The C# chord can also be used itself as a substitute for more complicated chords, such as the C# Major 7 chord, the C#7 chord, and other extension chords which have C# as the root note (it can’t be used in place of minor chords though!).

Which Scales Can Be Played Over the C# chord?

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

  • C# Major scale – This is the ‘default scale’ of the C# chord.
  • C# Lydian mode – This scale can be used over the C# chord in certain contexts to add a jazz flavour.

Further Reading

  • C# Major scale
  • How Major chords work
  • Chords page
  • C#/E# chord
  • C#/G# chord

C# Chord on the Guitar (C Shape Major) - Diagrams, Finger Positions, Theory (2024)

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