Playing the C Major Chord on Piano

Trying to get your fingers around chords? Then get around this step-by-step guide to playing the C major chord on the piano, in all its variations and forms!

It takes time for the fingers to figure out chords. Sometimes, even longer to understand how they work. 

So, let’s slow it down and master the art of chording

This short article breaks down the C major chord and explains how to play it in its permutations. 

What are chords and inversions?

A chord is when you play two or more notes simultaneously. The most common chord is a triad that has three notes. 

A major chord is when you take the first, third, and fifth notes of a major scale and play them together. It has two intervals, a major third, and a minor third.

You can read more about intervals in our blog post on Ear Training for Beginners.

An inversion is when you play three notes of the chord in a different order. You can play a chord in three different positions. 

Root position: 1, 3, 5.

First inversion: 3, 5, 1.

Second inversion: 5, 1, 3. 

Building a C major chord. 

The major scale is like the DNA of a chord. To understand a chord, we have to know its origins

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CDEFGAB

Now, let’s play a C major chord by taking the first, third, and fifth degrees of the scale. 

135
CEG

C major chord in first inversion.

Remember, the first inversion is when you play the chord in the order of 3, 5, and 1. 

351
EGC

C major chord in second inversion.

The second inversion is when you play the chord in the order of 5, 1, and 3. 

513
GCE

Advanced tip: The relative minor. 

Every major chord has its relative minor chord. You can figure this out by looking at the major scale. The sixth degree of any major scale will be its relative minor. 

For example, A is the sixth degree of the C major scale. This means that A minor is the relative minor of C major. You will see that they share two out of three notes:

Play C major in popular songs.

Want to learn some popular songs which use the C major chord? Try these ones:

  • “Imagine,” by John Lennon.
  • “Something Vague,” by Bright Eyes.
  • “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” by Wham!
  • “Lost Cause,” by Beck.
  • “All The Small Things,” by Blink-182.

Jump straight in.

Don’t let chords freak you out. Jump on the piano and try playing C major. While you’re at it, download the Simply Piano app for interactive, step-by-step guidance in playing C major and many other chords. 

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