In this article we show you how to build the C sharp minor chord, starting with a simple C root note and adding one interval at a time, giving us both the easiest and more complex C sharp minor chord voicings.
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In this guitar lesson we're going to look at the C sharp minor chord in four basic steps. We'll start with the root note and end with four different flavors of the full form C sharp minor chord, covering interval-by-interval steps along the way.
The first thing to considering, is that to play any chord, you don't always have to play the most full or most "conventional" variation of that chord.
Take a look at the following diagrams from Guitar Tricks' chord page:
All of the diagrams display a common variation of the C sharp minor chord.
To be certain, these diagrams are correct and helpful. In fact, they were a helpful reference to us while writing this piece. However, it's not always necessary to use full form chords, especially when those forms require that you play five or six notes at a time.
It's far more helpful to look at chord construction and build up to the most full and difficult versions using interval-based increments, particularly with trickier chords like C sharp minor.
To help you do that, we'll look at four different iterations of the C sharp minor chord in a guitar tab and chord diagram:
- The root form
- The root and the fifth
- The root, fifth and minor third
- The full form C sharp minor chords
This process will allow you to play a C sharp root, then add the proper C sharp minor intervals in increments so that you can play as much or as little of the chord as you want.
You can click any of the sections below to jump to those paragraphs. Otherwise, you can just scroll through the content in order.
Finding the Root Positions of the C Sharp Chord
First, let's find and memorize the most typical and easily accessible root position of C sharp. Most would agree, it's at the fourth fret on the fifth string.
C sharp root note positioned at the fourth fret. (View Larger Image)
Now, if you know your fretboard notes, you'll recognize the following four locations as also being root positions of C sharp:
Common C sharp root positions on the fretboard. (View Larger Image)
We can memorize these locations, making it easier to move to and from C sharp minor chords, without having to worry about counting frets or guessing where our root note might be.
These notes are the first line of defense you have against messing up (or missing entirely) a C sharp minor chord within a given progression.
If all else fails, you can always play the C sharp root note at one of these locations.
Once we're comfortable with the locations (it's a good idea to try and memorize them) we can begin adding intervals to each root position, beginning with the perfect fifth, which is seven semitones above the root.
Adding the Fifth to the C Sharp Root Note
For each root C sharp, we'll add a perfect fifth interval to thicken up the chord and give us more of a full sound. At this point, the shape is still just a basic dyadic chord, but it will give us the foundation for adding our minor notes, and getting us to a full C sharp minor chord voicing.
Let's start with the C sharp root positioned at the fourth fret and add our fifth.
Root Plus Fifth (Minor interval is assumed)
C sharp root and perfect fifth at the fourth fret position. (View Larger Image)
Now the ninth fret position:
C sharp root and perfect fifth at the ninth fret position. (View Larger Image)
And lastly the 11th fret position:
C sharp root and perfect fifth at the 11th fret position. (View Larger Image)
These chords are extremely simple, but also helpful in giving us an easy way to not only build into the C sharp minor chord, but also provide a helpful and reliable substitute for when we don't want to play the full chord.
While they aren't minor chords, the dyads created by the root and the fifth will sound consonant in place of the full form C sharp minor.
C sharp root and fifth dyadic chord diagrams. (View Larger Image)
Creating a C Sharp Minor Chord with a Minor Third
Now that we have a root C sharp and the fifth of that root, we can create a passable and minimalist C sharp minor chord by adding a minor third interval to those shapes. In most cases, and in our three examples, these are fairly easy shapes that don't require us to use any kind of barre chord or difficult finger pattern.
We'll use our same three examples as before with roots at the fourth, ninth and 11th frets.
Root, Fifth and Minor Third
C sharp minor chord at the fourth fret position. (View Larger Image)
In this example we've muted the third string, though you can fret the sixth fret to add an octave above the root if that's easier for you.
C sharp minor chord at the ninth fret position. (View Larger Image)
Again, you can add an octave at the 11th fret, this time on the fourth string, if you'd prefer that over the muted flavor.
C sharp minor chord at the 11th fret position. (View Larger Image)
The minor third interval is an E at the 12th fret on the high E string. Another way to play this chord is to simply allow the open E string to ring, which will form the same interval combination.
Using the High E and B Open Strings
You might have noticed that the minor third interval of C sharp is an E. This means that creating the open form of a C sharp minor chord is extremely convenient. Here are a couple different ways to do it, using the high open E and B strings on the guitar, where the open E is your minor third.
Open C sharp minor chords with high E and B strings. (View Larger Image)
If you go without the open notes, here's what each chord diagram will look like:
C sharp minor chord diagrams with root, fifth and minor third intervals. (View Larger Image)
Regardless of your approach, as long as you have the root, fifth and minor third included in your chord structure, you've got a workable C sharp minor chord. Even the fifth would be optional from a theoretical perspective, though it does provide some helpful thickening of the chord's sound.
Full Form C Sharp Minor Chords
Now, if you've gotten to this point and you want to tackle the more difficult forms of the C sharp minor chord, these are the most conventional and usable options.
They're located at the same fretboard spots we originally outlined for our C sharp root notes, and have been built on a similar root, fifth and minor third structure. Thus, they shouldn't feel entirely foreign to you.
Give them a try and see how you do, particularly with the two barre patterns.
Common, full form C sharp minor chords. (View Larger Image)
While it's helpful to know these chords, using the triadic and open flavors of C sharp minor are much easier to work with. We'd recommend defaulting to those simpler variations, unless there's a specific reason to go with the full form chords.
Here's a proper guitar diagram with all four flavors:
Common, full form C sharp minor chord diagrams. (View Larger Image)
While it does require a little bit of music theory, it's often helpful to look at guitar chords in the context of structure and chord building, as opposed to memorizing full patterns. Particularly when it comes to difficult chords like the C sharp minor, you'll have an easier time mastering it if you start at the absolute most basic element and work your way up from there.
Just to recap, those elements are the following, in the order given:
- Root note (start here)
- Perfect fifth
- Minor third
- Full and barre form (end here)
If you're having trouble with a chord, don't start with the full version. Just get the root notes down first and build up your knowledge of the chord from there. Not only will you learn the chord in a more functional and usable way, but you'll also learn some valuable theory that you can reuse and apply to other chords.
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