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Guitar Chords In C Minor History Lesson: The Key of the Lonesome Hero
What was Beethoven’s favourite fruit? BA-na-na-NA!
If you’re familiar with Beethoven’s fifth symphony, we hope you’ll forgive this hammy outburst, but I couldn’t help it after discovering that Beethoven’s butch, aggressive, and slightly gloomy Symphony No. 5 was written in our key-of-the-week: C Minor.
C Minor’s propensity for a mix of sadness and toughness also makes it one of the most popular keys for guitar chords in c minor blues songs.
The key of C Minor is the relative minor of the key of Eb Major. Why? Because both have the same key signature— three flats (Bb, Ab, and Eb). Relative minors are really that simple. There’s more to learn about using relative minors, but that’ll come later on in your musical journey.
When you’re ready to find out more about minor scales and how they work, read this.
The C Minor Chord Position on the Guitar
The key of C Minor and the guitar chords in C minor aren’t easy but they’re not among this most difficult either, and hopefully you’ve downloaded our free Uberchord app (click for free download), which can tell you exactly how you can improve a little each time you play.
Moving Those Chord Shapes Around
You may have noticed that the basic C minor chord shape is exactly the same as the basic B minor chord shape, just moved up one fret. Part of the beautiful logic of music theory is that chords and keys are so easily transposable because they all follow the same patterns.
You can use this knowledge, and your budding knowledge of music theory, to figure out new guitar chords in c minor on your own. Want to play a G major chord? Move up the basic F major chord position two frets. Want your D major to sound a little higher in pitch? Play the basic B chord position at the fifth fret. Don’t know how to play an F# major? Just move the F major chord up one fret. If the chord shape has no open strings, it’s that simple.
Theory and Practice: The Pattern of the C Minor Scale Explained
Just in case you’re a newcomer to this site, let’s take a quick look at the differences between a major scale and a minor scale.
Unlike major keys, the tones in a minor key arrive in this sequence:
whole tone, half tone, whole tone, whole tone, half-tone, whole tone, whole tone
In other words, the second and the fifth positions in the scale are just half tones above their preceding notes, and all the other notes are whole tones above their previous notes. All natural minor keys follow this same pattern.
In the key of C Minor the notes are C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, and Bb.
Below is the C Minor scale, with C at its root and another C, an octave higher, at its summit.
Try sounding it out on your guitar by playing it according to this tablature:
Playing scales on your guitar is a whole lot easier after you memorise your guitar’s fretboard notes. Here is a secret techniqueused by many pro guitarists around the world to learn the fretboard.
This week we’d like to introduce a new musical concept in the realm of minor keys: harmonic minor keys. Skip it for now if you like, but it’s a simple concept and may help you to avoid confusion later.
A harmonic minor key is like a natural minor (the kind of minor key we’ve been studying so far) except for one tiny difference: the seventh note is raised a half tone. In the key of C Minor, this would raise the Bb to a B. That’s it!
All Of The Guitar Chords In C Minor
To complicate things a little, not only are the sequences of tones different in minor keys, which chords are major and minor is also different than the pattern used in major keys. In minor keys the sequence is as follows:
1st chord: minor
2nd chord: diminished
3rd chord: major
4th chord: minor
5th chord: minor
6th chord: major
7th chord: major
The C Minor chord, which forms the root of the C Minor scale, is made up of the notes C, Eb, and G— the first, third, and fifth notes of the key of C Minor. On the guitar, using the C Minor chord shape shown in the diagram, these notes arrive in this order: Mute, C, G, C, Eb, G.
Why does this chord sound so different from the C Major chord? The only difference is one string; in the C Major chord the Eb becomes E (because that’s what C Major’s key signature dictates), and that’s all it takes to turn a cheerful C major chord into a melancholy C minor.
(The best musical education involves training both the ear and the mind. Learning music theory will help you to become a better musician and give you the comfort of knowing what it all means. To this end our blog offers a helpful set of music theory articles to give you some direction.)
“Loverman,” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (just keep repeating these three chords for verses and chorus)
If you were to use every guitar chord in C Minor, these would be the chords you’d use:
C Minor, D diminished, Eb major, F minor, G minor, Ab major, and Bb major
The C, F, and G chords are minor because in the natural minor scale (unlike the major scale) the chords at the first fourth, and fifth positions of the key are minor.
The D is a diminished chord because in the key of C Minor it sits in second place, and in minor keys second place chords are diminished.
As in the major keys, the fifth chord— G minor in this case— can also be played as a Gminor7. Because it sits at the fifth position in the key of C Minor, it has the privilege of being the chord announcing the ending of the chord progression, if not the end of the song itself, and is generally followed by the root chord (C minor in this case).
Adding the seventh note of the key of G Minor (F) to the G Minor chord, creating a Gminor7, makes the G minor chord sound like it’s moving the action ahead, pushing on to the root chord (C minor) that usually comes next in the chord progression.
Check outour previous post on understanding and playing 7th chordsand, don’t miss the series onlearning and understanding music theory.
Chord Progressions in C Minor
You can develop your musical skills by taking a little time to play through the progressions below, getting your ear used to how these chords, depending on their order and context, create the sounds of beginning, rising, falling, and ending.
Once again, here are the guitar chords in C Minor: C Minor, D diminished, Eb major, F minor, G minor, Ab major, and Bb major. But you can’t just mash all of these together (unless you’re Pere Ubu, in which case you don’t want to sound harmonious). Most of the time chords have to come in an order that’s pleasing to the ear, which is why we have chord progressions.
Unless you live in Borneo, most of the songs you hear each day are composed of combinations of the chord progressions listed below. As you play them and get used to their sound, you’ll probably recognise them and be reminded of particular songs.
Important: By far the most common chord progression for folk, classical, jazz standards, country, and pop songs is loosely based on this progression: I, IV, V, I (that is, on the first, fourth, and fifth chords in each key). In the key of C Minor this becomes C minor, F minor, and G minor (or G minor 7). Try playing these chords in this order:
C minor—F minor—G minor (or G minor 7)—C minor.
Repeat this progression a few times. Do you hear how even in this short progression the music has a clear beginning, middle, and end, especially if you use G minor 7?
Now practice playing through the following progressions, getting a feel for the musical messages they carry. If one progression sounds a little awkward and unmusical, just move on to the next.
- C minor – G minor (7) – Ab major – F minor
- C minor – Ab major – F minor – G minor (7)
- C minor – G minor (7) – Ab major – Eb major – F minor – C minor – F minor – G minor (7)
- Blues: C minor – C minor – C minor – C minor – F minor – F minor – C minor – C minor – G minor (7) – G minor (7) – C minor – C minor
- D dim – F minor – G minor (7)
- C minor – F minor – G minor (7) – F minor
- G minor (7) – F minor – C minor
- Ab major – F minor – C minor – G minor (7)
- Ab major – G minor (7) – Ab major – G minor (7)
Just A FewGreat Songs in the Key of C Minor
The guitar chords in C Minor are sometimes bluesy, sometimes sad, sometimes aggressive, and sometimes all three.
It can express the powerful resentment of unrequited love, as in Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.”
It can be Survivors“Eye of the Tiger”
It can be Bon Jovi’s“You Give Love A Bad Name”.
Think of any guitar chords in C Minor as that large, grumpy friend you always hope shows up to defend you when you’re cornered. Get to know it. You never know what it will get you through.
And if you haven’t downloaded the Uberchord app yet, here are five great reasons why you should! We also have articles that cover other theory topics like the notes in f chords, the key of am guitar, as well as a discussion on the key g guitar. If you’ve made it this far into this article, then chances are that you’re just as curious about music theory as we are! Please check them out or search our blog for any other topic you may need info on.
Rita Steblin (1996) A History of Key Characteristics in the Eighteenth and Early
Nineteenth Centuries, University of Rochester Press, p. 123
D. Mar (1981). Anatomy of the Orchestra, University of California Press, p. 349
Emotions of the Musical Keys
The 10 Most Used Chord Progressions in Pop and Rock andRoll
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C minor is a minor scale based on C, consisting of the pitches C, D, E♭, F, G, A♭, and B♭. Its key signature consists of three flats. Its relative major is E♭ major and its parallel major is C major.What chords are in the C minor key? ›
- C minor (includes the notes C – Eb – G)
- D Diminished (includes the notes D – F – Ab)
- Eb major (includes the notes Eb – G – Bb)
- F minor (includes the notes F – Ab – C)
- G minor (includes the notes G – Bb – D)
C minor is a minor scale based on C, consisting of the pitches C, D, E♭, F, G, A♭, and B♭. Its key signature consists of three flats. Its relative major is E♭ major and its parallel major is C major.What are the chord shapes of the key of C on guitar? ›
The C minor chord is a triad formed from a root (C), a minor third (E♭) and a perfect fifth (G).What is the 5 chord in C minor? ›
In the chord of C Minor, the fifth is G. G is 5 semitones down from C, and therefore 7 semitones up from it, too. The lower G is one whole octave below the higher one.What are the 5 chord shapes? ›
Once you pick up the shapes of the famous five—C, A, G, E and D—you'll be able to play almost any chord. There are hundreds of exercises to choose from in a gym.What are the family chords of C? ›
The basic chords that make up the C family are C, Dm, Em, F, G, and Am.What are all the notes in C minor scale? ›
The notes of the C Minor scale are C D Eb F G Ab Bb. It's key signature has 3 flats. Press play to listen to the scale.What are the 7th chords in C minor? ›
The C minor 7th chord, abbreviated as Cm7 or Cmin7, has the notes C, E♭, G and B♭. The 3 inversions to the C minor 7th chord are E♭ G B♭ C, G B♭ C E♭ and B♭ C E♭ G. The intervals of the C minor chord are the root (C) , minor third (E♭) and perfect fifth (G).
There are three minor scales: the natural minor scale, the harmonic minor scale, and the melodic minor scale. Play or sing through each one and notice the differences. The melodic minor scale has an ascending version, shown above, and a descending version that is the same as the natural minor scale.What are the modes of C minor? ›
The following are the modes of C Minor: C Aeolian (Minor) D Locrian (Minor) E♭Ionian (Major)What is the formula for A minor scale? ›
Minor scales are built with a formula of half and whole steps as follows: W, H, W, W, H, W, W. Major scales are built with a formula of half and whole steps like this: W, W, H, W, W, W, H. Basically, they're built from a different sequence of half and whole steps, which changes the sound of the scale.What is the C major minor triad? ›
The C major triad is often one of the first chords that a beginner guitarist will learn due to its open shape. The C major scale consists of the notes: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and C. By using the first, third, and fifth notes of the scale, we can form the C major triad using C, E, and G.What is the 6th chord in C minor? ›
The C minor sixth chord has the notes C E♭ G A. The 3 inversions to the Cm6 chord are E♭ G A C, G A C E♭ and A C E♭ G. The intervals of the Cm6 chord are the root (C), minor third (E♭), perfect fifth (G) and major sixth (A) .What is C minor used for? ›
According to Pauer, C minor is the key that is expressive of softness, longing, sadness, solemnity, dignified earnestness, and a passionate intensity. It lends itself most effectively to the portraiture of the supernatural. Soft longing.How do you tell if a song is in C major or A minor? ›
The defining difference between C major and A minor is that the tonal center of C major is C and the tonal center of A minor is A. This means that, in C major, chords and melodies will tend to return to rest on the C note, whereas in A minor they will tend to resolve and rest on the A note.How do you tell if a song is major or minor by listening? ›
You can also look to the melody of a song and notice where it ends. Melodies typically resolve to the tonic note of the key. Again, if a song's melody notes all fit within C major/A minor and the final melody note is C, it's in C major. If it ends on A, it's in A minor.What key has 2 flats? ›
Which of the keys has two flats? The key of B♭ major has two flats, B♭ and E♭. Here is the same melody notated in the key of B♭ major: This example is much more elegant and easy to look at.What is the famous chord pattern? ›
This progression is called “the most popular progression” for a reason. It's been used in just about every genre imaginable, from post-punk to country. It sounds so satisfying because each new chord in the pattern feels like a fresh emotional statement.
The six-string F chord is one of the hardest standard chord shape to play on the guitar. When many people try to play the F chord on guitar (and often succeed), it's with far too much struggle and effort than is actually necessary. Even extremely influential guitarists can have a hard time with barre chords.What strings to strum on C chord? ›
For this chord, you'll only be strumming the thinnest five strings. Place your pick, or your thumb, on the second thickest string, and strum down to play all the rest.Which fret is key of C? ›
A capo on the guitar is used to change the pitch of the strings. When placed on the third fret, the key of C can be played. This is because the capo raises the pitch of the strings by two half steps. The key of C is a popular key for guitarists, as it is relatively easy to play.What are the 3 main chords on a guitar? ›
The I, IV, and V chords are the three most common and arguably the most important harmonic elements in the musical universe. Built off of the first, fourth, and fifth notes of any major or minor scale, these three chords form the basis for much of the music found in several genres.How tell what key a song is in? ›
The easiest way to figure out the key of a song is by using its key signature. The number of sharps/flats in the key signature tell you the key of the song. A key signature with no sharps or flats is the key of C (or A minor).What are the 7 chords of C? ›
By doing this we get the chords C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bdim, by going the extra step and adding another note (stacking on another 3rd) to the chord, we get all the 7th chords in C major: Cmaj7, Dm7, Em7, Fmaj7, G7, Am7, and Bdim7.What are the 5 notes in the C major scale? ›
C major or the key of C is a major scale based on C, with the pitches C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. Learn how to play chord progressions. The key of C Major mostly uses the notes of the C major scale, which are C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. The key signature has no sharps or flats, and its relative minor key is A minor.Does C minor have flats? ›
Minor key signatures agree with the notes of the natural minor scale. Since the C natural minor scale had E , A , and B , the key signature of C minor has three flats, written in the order of flats— B , E , A .What are the first 5 notes of the C major scale? ›
To play the C major scale ascending, start with the root note C and play the notes in order: C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C.What does a minor 7th chord look like? ›
In music, a minor seventh chord is a seventh chord composed of a root note, together with a minor third, a perfect fifth, and a minor seventh (1, ♭3, 5, ♭7).
6.2 Types of Seventh Chords
There are five qualities of seventh chords that appear in diatonic music: major seventh, dominant seventh, minor seventh, diminished seventh (also called fully-diminished), and half-diminished seventh.
To get a minor chord, simply move the 3rd note down the fretboard by a half step, by one fret. For example, in the C major scale, the notes are C, E and G. After finding these notes, simply move the 3rd note (the E) down by one fret. This note is called a lowered or flat third (♭3).What is the easiest minor chord? ›
The E minor chord is one of the easiest chords to learn, and one of the most common minor chords to play. You only need two fingers.What are the first 3 chords to learn? ›
Basic guitar chords are chords such as C, F and D. These are the chords you should be taught first. The finger placement is fairly easy and straightforward. They are all played at the very first fret of the guitar.What chords go into CM? ›
The primary chords that sound good to combine with Cm in chord progressions are: Eb, Fm, Gm, Ab, Bb.What chords are in any minor key? ›
The C minor chord iv is the F minor chord, and contains the notes F, Ab, and C. This subdominant chord's root / starting note is the 4th note (or scale degree) of the C natural minor scale. The roman numeral for number 4 is 'iv' and is used to indicate this is the 4th triad chord in the scale.What is the 1 3 5 rule in chords? ›
Triads. The triad is a class of chords, specifically three-note chords formed by this formula: 1-3-5 or root, third, fifth. In this example they are constructed of two consecutive thirds. The major is very consonant; the minor is a bit less so but still consonant for most purposes.What is the rule for chords? ›
If two chords intersect in a circle, the product of the lengths of the segments of one chord equal the product of the segments of the other.What is the most popular minor key? ›
Start with the natural minor, because it is the easiest to learn and remember, and it's also the most common minor scale used in popular music.
The C minor guitar chord is one of those awkward chord shapes… My students hate it! In its standard form it's very difficult to play, but there are some good easy alternatives.Is the C minor chord hard? ›
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.How do you play C minor scale on guitar? ›
To play the C minor scale properly in the 8th position, use your index finger to play notes on the 8th fret, your middle finger for notes on the 9th fret, your ring finger for notes on the 10th fret, and your pinky for notes on the 11th fret.What is the dominant of C minor? ›
In the key of C, for example, the dominant degree is the note G; the dominant triad is formed by the notes G–B–D in the key of C major or C minor. For further explanations of these relationships, see also cadence and harmony.What key signature is C minor? ›
The notes of the C Minor scale are C D Eb F G Ab Bb. It's key signature has 3 flats. Press play to listen to the scale.