Playing the C Minor Chord on Piano

Working on your chord repertoire? Check out this step-by-step guide to playing the C minor chord in its different variations and forms!

Chords can be confusing – playing so many notes at the same time, in all kinds of different combinations. 

Lucky for you, there are easy formulas in music theory for figuring out chords. This short article breaks down the C minor chord and explains how to play it in all its positions and permutations. 

Chords and Inversions.

A chord is when you play a combination of two or more notes simultaneously. The most basic 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 here.

You build minor chords from the major scale’s first, third, and fifth notes, but the third is flat (lower by a semitone). This means it has two intervals, a minor third, and a major third.

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 minor chord. 

The major scale is a good home base for understanding any chord type. So to understand a C minor chord, let’s start from the C major scale.

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

To make this chord minor, flatten the third degree of the scale (which is the second note of the chord). This will be a C minor chord in its root position.

C minor chord in first inversion.

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

C minor chord in second inversion.

The second inversion is when you play the chord in 

5, 1, 3. 

Advanced tip: the relative major. 

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

Play C minor in popular songs.

If you feel ready to learn some popular songs which use the C minor chord, check these out:

  • It’s My Life – Bon Jovi
  • Da Funk – Daft Punk
  • Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
  • Day Dreaming – Aretha Franklin
  • Get Up – James Brown

What are you waiting for?

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