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C Shape Barre Chords

Before we get to know C shape barre chords, make sure you've taken the first barre chords lesson. In that lesson, we learned that barre chords are based their open position chord shapes (and their major and minor variations).

This lesson, we're looking at a less commonly used chord shape, the C form barre chord. Just as the other shapes relate to their open position equivalent, so too does the C shape use the open C chord form we learn as beginners.

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The major C shape barre chord

Let's start with the basic major C shape. Don't play anything yet, just observe (we'll start with the basic theory). You can click the diagram to hear the example being played...

C shape barre chord derived from open C major chord shape

So, just like in the first two lessons, we can see how the open position shape simply gets shifted up the fretboard, with the index finger barre acting as a new "nut" or capo. We can position this shape at a particular fret depending on the key we're playing in. To do this, it's a good idea to first establish where the main root note of this shape lies...

fingers numbered from 1 (index) to 4 (pinky)C shape barre chord fingering

The lowest root note for the C shape barre/movable chord sits on the A string (4th finger) Therefore, if we know the fretboard notes along the A string, we'll know that positioning that shape with the A string root note at fret 8 would make it... F major. F is the note at fret 8 on the A string!

Know the A shape? That one ascended from the A string root note. The C shape descends from that same A string root note. So we now know two different chord voicings, each offering a unique sound, that use the same root note!

We'll look at more C shape barre chord variations in a bit.

Fingering the C shape barre chord

When it comes to the basic major C shape chord, you need to form that familiar open C shape but this time your index finger is occupied with the barre (where the nut would be with the open C shape). This leaves your 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers to form the rest of the shape.

photo of C shape barre chord being fingered

Use your index finger to barre, and then add in your 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers in that stepped pattern.

Tip: Even though the main root note is already fretted with your 4th finger (not the barred finger like with the E and A shape), it's still useful to get into the habit of barring your index finger right down to the A string. This way, you'll be able to add pull-offs right down to the A string and "catch" them with your barred finger.

C shape barre chords exercise

If you've mastered the E shape and A shape chords from the first two lessons, the physical demands of barring should be less of a problem for this particular shape and other barre chords.

Try the exercise below, where we use a major C shape barre chord (underlined D major).

C form chord change exercise tab
Guitar Example - Download Jam Track

You can also use this simple but effective drum software to jam your barre chord changes.

Other C form guitar chords

For reference, below are some of the more common C shape chord variations. Remember you can also apply these to the original open position shape - they work the same way, as they draw from the same shape.

Notice how some of the chords below don't actually require a barred finger? That's why I also refer to them as "movable chords". They're still built from the same basic shape and the lowest root note still lies on the A string. They are still, therefore, considered part of the C shape chord "family".

Note: The diagrams below use a suggested fingering - if you're playing a particular progression, you might want to alter the fingerings to accommodate...

Major C form Chords

Major (e.g. F)
Major C form chord

Dominant 7th (e.g. F7)
Dominant 7th C form chord

Major 7th (e.g. Fmaj7)
Major 7th C form chord

Major 9th (e.g. Fmaj9)
Major 9th C shape chord

Added 6th (e.g. Fadd6)
Added 6th C shape chord

Added 9th (e.g. Fadd9)
Added 9th C form chord

Alternate Added 9th
Alternate Added 9th chord

Added 6th/9th (e.g. Fadd6/9)
Added 6th/9th C form chord

Minor C form chords

Minor (e.g. Fm)
Minor C shape chord

  Minor 7th (e.g. Fm7)
Minor 7th C shape chord

Minor Major 7th (e.g. FmM7)
Minor Major 7th C shape chord

Minor Added 6th (e.g. Fmadd6)
Minor Added 6th C form chord

Minor Added 9th (e.g. Fmadd9)
Minor Added 9th C shape chord

Minor 9th (e.g. Fm9)
Minor 9th C shape chord

Minor 11th (e.g. Fm11)
Minor 11th C shape chord

Suspended C Shape Barre/Movable Chord

This is where the major or minor 3rd is replaced with the 4th/11th or 2nd/9th from the major scale - more on this in the separate chord theory lessons. They tend to be used as tension chords because of their "unresolved" feeling within a progression.

Suspended 4th (e.g. Fsus4)
Suspended 4th C shape chord

Don't be afraid to experiment with this shape. Use that barre/root string as the foundation for the chord, and simply add/remove fingers to the proceeding frets (as far as you can stretch in some cases). You're sure to find some unique sounding chord voicings. This is how I learned - far more rewarding than relying a chord chart.

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E Shape Barre Chords

A Shape Barre Chords

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