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How to Play the C Minor Scale on Guitar

Learn the C Minor scale on guitar and get started with exercises to build your skills. Practice the scale positions with diagrams and tabs.

Lesson: Playing the C Minor Scale on Guitar

The C minor scale offers a great balance of sadness and grit, making it one of the most popular scales used in blues songs. Minor scales are comprised of three scale patterns – the natural minor scale, the harmonic minor scale and the melodic minor scale.

Like most minor scales, C minor has a history of use in melancholy musical pieces, conveying sadness and grief, but also resilience and survival. Blues and jazz are two genres where you can listen for the C minor scale and hear its soulful sound put to use.

In this lesson, we’ll cover the C natural minor scale. You’ll learn about the notes it contains, as well as where to place your fingers on the fretboard in order to play this scale in a few different ways.

Notes in the C Minor Scale

There are seven notes in the C minor scale:

-- C
-- D
-- Eb
-- F
-- G
-- A
-- Bb

If you’ve studied the Eb major scale, you’ll notice that it includes the same notes as the C minor scale, but in a different order.

Now, let’s cover two of the various positions and finger placements you’ll need to learn in order to play the C minor scale on the guitar. In this lesson, we’ll be demonstrating the C natural minor scale as the finger patterns are easy for beginners to remember.

C Minor Scale - 8th Position

To play the C minor scale properly in the 8th position, use your index finger to play notes on the 8th fret, your middle finger for notes on the 9th fret, your ring finger for notes on the 10th fret, and your pinky for notes on the 11th fret. You’ll also shift your hand up to fret a D note on the 7th fret of the G string, using your index finger. Then, you’ll shift your hand back down one fret and use your index finger to play the 8th fret of the next (A) string.


C Minor Scale - 10th Position

To play the C minor scale in the 10th position, start with your index finger on the 10th fret, your middle finger on the 11th fret, your ring finger on the 12th fret, and your pinky on the 13th fret.


C Minor Scale Tabs

Scale diagrams make for a great way to learn guitar scales and structure, but they aren’t the only method. Guitar tabs represent scales in a different way. They break up learning scales into more step-by-step directions, offering a different way to learn that you may (or may not) find easier. Still, as both forms of notation are common, it’s good to have a full understanding of both so you’re not limited as you continue to learn to play guitar.

Now, let’s cover the guitar tabs for each of the C minor scales we just studied.

C Minor Scale - 8th Position Tablature

To play the C minor scale in the 8th position, start with your index finger on the eight fret and follow the tab, beginning on the low E string.


C Minor Scale - 10th Position Tablature

To play the C minor scale in tenth position, start with your index finger on the tenth fret and follow the tab, beginning on the fourth (D) string.


C Minor Scale Exercises

Practicing your scales – playing them over and over – is simply the best way to memorize your scales. Start slowly, and make sure that you’re cleanly fretting each note with soft hands, using the correct finger placement. As you build more strength in your fingers, you can begin to play the scales a little faster. Using a metronome as you practice your scales can also help you focus on keeping time while you play.

You might also want to play some of the C minor scale positions in a row, starting in 8th position and then switching to 10th, or any additional positions you learn. Listen to the differences in pitch and tone as you play the same notes on different spots on the fretboard.

In addition to learning notes and chords, scales also make for a perfect opportunity to practice new techniques with your picking hand, such as alternate picking. Make practicing your scales a regular part of your learning routine, and your time will be well-spent training your fingers and your ears to master the guitar. Keep learning with a free trial of Fender Play.