Beginner Guitar Lessons:

C & G shape chords


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What is a major chord? A minor chord? What do all those numbers
and letters and other symbols in a chord's name mean?
Find out in this free mini-course.

There are two more open chord shapes that sound very good although they're not as 'flexible' as the other three: we can use them only for major chords (as fully open chords, that is) but they are very important to know: the C and G shapes.

We can play a C major chord on 5 or 6 strings, if we add a low G on the six string: it's the first time we see a chord that doesn't begin with the root (in this case G is the fifth) but it's not at all uncommon to do that, most of the A and D chords we saw in the previous lessons can be played with their fifths as the lowest note (open E or A respectively).

When the lowest note in a chord is not the root we have an inversion. As we said before, it's important that we have all the notes that make up a single chord but the order is not fixed; inversions lend a different character to chords and are a very useful tool for arranging.

In the first C major chord we could play also the open E on the sixth string and we would get another inversion of C, this time with a low major third: as always, play the different inversions of the chord and listen closely to the changes in the chord's texture as you change the lowest note.

Sometimes we say that we play a C major over G (or E) when we want exactly that kind of inversion and the chord symbol will be C/G (C/E).

We'll expand on the concept of inversions in the Theory and Chords sections of the site.

C Major



We can play a major 7th chord moving the C on the 2nd string to an open B and we can use the low G or not, as we see fit.

Moving the same C up two frets we get a D which is the 9th and we can even add an high G on the first string (optional) to get a beautifully sounding C 9.

C7+ (Cmaj)



Finding a minor 7th (Bb) is a little less immediate since we cannot move the major 7th further down on the second string. We will add it on the third string, third fret.

If we move the minor seventh down another fret we get a 6th (A) so we can play a C 6 chord.




We haven't forgotten about sus and 4th chords.... This shape has two major thirds (E) on the first and on the fourth string so we need to move them both to play a sus4 chord. In the first example we move both the open E on the first string and the E on the second fret of the fourth string up one fret to F. The C and the F on the first fret are played both with the index of the left hand with a partial barre, flattening the last phalanx of the finger on the two strings.

In the second chord we move the note on the first string all the way up to a G (5th) on the third fret so we don't have the 4th as the highest note.

C sus 4 (11)


C sus 4

If we need a simple 4th (or 11th) chord we leave an E either on the first string or on the fourth. I named the second chord C 11 because the E is in the higher octave and so it's actually an 11th.

C 4


C 11

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The G major shape comes in two flavors, one with an open B (major 3rd) and one with a D (5th) on the second string: as always listen to the subtle difference and choose the one you like best.




The highest note of the shape is a G on the first string and we can move it back one fret (F#) to play a G Maj7 or two frets (F) to play a G7.

G Maj7 (G 7+)


G 7

We have two major thirds in the G shape too: B on the fifth string and an open B on the second one. In the first example we move the low B to a C (4th) and the open B to a D to create a sus 4 chord.

In the second we only move the open B to a C (11th) on the second string and we get a G 11 chord.

In the last shape we combine the G11 chord with a 7th moving the high G back two frets so we can play a G 7/11.

G sus4

G 11

G 7/11

You may say that in the last chord the 7th is higher than the 11th and so it should really be called a 14th... And you would be right except that nobody would call a 7th anything else but 7th ( and likewise a 3rd or a 5th are never called a 10th or a 12th). Also we never consider intervals greater than two octaves: as far as chords degrees go, we stop counting at 13 (6th + an octave) and that's why learning music Theory is not as difficult as it may sound and is highly recommended.

Moving the open D up two frets to an E (6th) we get a G 6 chord and adding an open E on the first string we get a G 13 (it's an octave higher).

If we move the open G up two frets to an A (9th) we get a G 9 chord.


G 6 (G 13)

G 9

For minor G and C chords in most cases we have to use the E and A shapes with a barre at the third fret.

There are different solutions like 'Jazz' chords that we will explore in the Chords section.

But now let's explore some weird, peculiar chords... Diminished chords...


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