The Cm (or C minor) chord embodies an expressive softness when played. It can elicit a sobering passion, longing, or solemnity. The soft and somber nature of the chord makes it well-suited to ballads of unrequited love or songs that have a downtrodden feel.
Playing the Cm Chord
One of the more difficult notes to play due to its awkward chord shape, Cm in its standard form is typically played as a barre chord.
To play Cm in its standard form, start by placing your index finger on the 3rd fret, covering your high E, B, G, D and A, but barring the A (5th string) and high e (1st string). Then place your middle finger on the 4th fret’s B string. Finally, add your ring finger on the 5th fret’s G and pinky on D.
Index finger: 3rd fret of the A (5th) string
Index finger: 3rd fret of the E (1st) string
Middle finger: 4th fret of the B (2nd) string
Ring finger: 5th fret of the D (4th) string
Pinky finger: 5th fret of the G (3rd) string
Strum five strings down from the A string
As you can see, the Cm doesn’t offer the friendliest finger placement for beginner guitar players. That’s why a lot of guitarists opt to play the easier C minor alternative chord over the standard barred version. Check out the finger placement for this alternate version and compare the two for yourself:
Index finger: 3rd fret of E (1st) string
Middle finger: 4th fret of the B (2nd) string
Ring finger: 5th fret of the the G (3rd) string
Strum three strings down from the G string
What Notes Make Up the Cm Chord?
There are three flat notes that make up the C minor chord to give it that soft and earnest sound.
C, Eb and G
The above three notes are the roots of the chord. Its relative major is Eb major and its parallel major is C.
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Songs That Use the Cm Chord
As a chord mostly associated with longing and a somber tone, it’s no surprise that Cm is also a common chord found in sad love songs. After all, what says sorrow and heartbreak better than a sad love song? (Case in point, Beethoven wrote his gloomy symphony No. 5 in the C minor key.)
Listen to the following songs to see if you can tune your ear to hear the sincere sound of Cm.
Channel the inner emotion of the Cm chord with a soulful pop sound and you end up one of Adele’s biggest hits, “Rolling in the Deep.” Blending an array of palm muted chords to start the verse before crescendoing into the chorus really accentuates the versatile range of Cm in this song.
Taylor Swift’s “Dancing with Our Hands Tied” is the perfect example of how a fully synthesized pop song, heavily based around Cm, can be stripped down acoustically to perform live while still delivering a tone brimming with sincere longing.
The earnest sound of the Cm chord can be felt right from the first chord in Crowded Houses “Don’t Dream It’s Over.”
If you want to open up the passion of the Cm chord – even some of its pent-up aggressiveness – then “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor is a classic example of Cm accompanied by a motivating beat.
Speaking of classic rock, Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” is another great example of the breadth of Cm and the punch it can lend to a song. With great guitar chops and driving drums, the chord is used to the fullest effect in this 80s anthem.
The infectious energy of “She Loves You” by the Beatles is the perfect blend of passion and energy. It also shows that the typically passive demeanor of the Cm chord doesn’t always have to be so solemn.
Sometimes the personality of a note really strikes a chord (pun) with the tone and personality of a band. For metal/hard rockers Killswitch Engage, the Cm chord is an integral part of their discography, making an appearance in songs “When Darkness Falls,” "Take This Oath” and “A Bid Farewell,” just to name fraction of their catalog’s love for Cm.
With its exposed sincerity, Cm is a perfectly suited chord for acoustic modern folk songs, making it a go-to chord for Ben Howard, particularly songs like “The Wolves” and “She Treats Me Well.”
Although the Red Hot Chili Peppers are best known for their funk rock anthems, they’ve been known to slow it down on occasion. The tracks “Hey” and “Death of a Martian” from the album Stadium Arcadium are dreamy funk-like takes built around the Cm chord, powered by some scintillating Frusciante guitarwork and easy-going Flea bass groove.
The country yearning of “Head Over Boots” by Jon Pardi is a great example of the Cm chord setting the tone for a song.
The blues and a somber, downtrodden feel go hand-in-fretboard, which is why the Cm chord so often appears in some well-known songs within the genre. Listen for the Cm chord in the legendarily blues-influenced Led Zeppelin’s “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and try finding it in some of your own favorite blues slinger’s guitar repertoire.
Expand your chord vocabulary and learn the Cm chord and weave its mix of passion and longing into your repertoire.
If you'd like to learn how to play even more chords, browse Fender Play's chord library, learn about chord types, and find tips on how to master them.
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