How To Play A C Bar Chord

Want to learn how to play a C bar chord? You’re in the right place!

c bar chord

In this free guitar lesson you will learn:

  • The two most common ways to play a C bar chord.
  • 3 essential tips for clean & easy barre chords.
  • The no1 secret to learning all guitar chords.
  • 2 must-know ninja chord hacks that boost progress.

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What is the difference between a C bar chord and a open C chord?

c bar chord

The difference between a barre chord and a open chord is that when you play barre chords you have to play more than one string with the same finger.

When you play an open C chord, you don’t have to do this.

Because we have to press down more than one string with the same finger, this means barre chords are tougher.

In many ways, barre chords mark the transition from beginner guitarists to intermediate guitarists.

If you’re interested in learning more about bar chords, go here: Barre Chords: The Ultimate Guide

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What do I need to learn the C bar chord?

Learning more than one C chord enhances your fret board knowledge.

Sometimes we might want to play a high up funky version of a chord. Other times we might prefer a low down rocky version of a chord.

Bonus Barre Chord Tip

By knowing one bar chord, we automatically know eleven other bar chords. This is because a bar chord is a movable shape.

For example, if we move a C bar chord up by one fret it becomes a C# barre chord and if we move it down by one fret it becomes a B barre chord.

This is especially important because we don’t have open position versions of either of those chords. If we want to play them, we have to use barre chords.

This makes barre chords one of the most useful tools in a guitarists toolbox.

c bar chord

The two most common ways to play a C bar chord

The two most common ways to play a C bar chord are:

  • The E shape barre chord.
  • The A shape barre chord.

The E Shaped C Bar Chord

c bar chord

(If you don't understand the above image please read our article "How To Read Guitar Chordboxes In 60 Seconds". It will make everything clear!)

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To play this chord, you must use your:

  • 1st finger to barre across all of the strings on the 8th fret.
  • 2nd finger to press the G string (3rd string) at the 9th fret.
  • 3rd finger to press the A string (the 5th string) at the 10th fret.
  • 4th finger to press the D string (the 4th string) at the 10th fret.

Our 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers are forming an E chord shape after the bar. That’s why we call this an E shaped bar chord.

The barring finger functions a bit like a capo does.

If you’re struggling to get that first finger to barre across the entire fret, here’s a couple of useful tips:

Your thumb should be round the back of the neck. Like this:

c bar chord

Not like this:

c bar chord

Note that also, only the tip or print of the thumb should ideally be touching the guitar neck, not the rest of the thumb or the palm of the hand.

Think of your hand as clamping the neck like a clothes peg rather than gripping it like a fist.

Follow this advice and you’ll find that your first finger will straighten out more easily and your other fingers will spread out further.

For more barre chord tips, watch this video:

The A Shape C bar Chord

c bar chord

Notice how this chord uses a barre at the 3rd fret with an A shape after it. You only need to bar your 1st finger across five strings here, not all six.

Some people find that stretch over with the 2nd finger a bit much, so another way we can do the A shaped C bar chord is like this:

c bar chord

With this version we’re barring the 5th fret using the 3rd finger and only pressing one note down with the 1st finger.

We don’t play either of the E strings in this version of the C bar chord. Try both and decide for yourself which one is easier.

Easier Ways To Play The C Bar Chord

If the above two shapes are a bit much, they can be made easier. With the E shaped C bar chord, we can leave out the low E string.

This means that you only need to barre the top two strings. Not all six.

Here’s the chord box:

c bar chord

This is easier and is a good stepping stone towards the full C bar chord. The only thing to be careful of with this version is to not strum the low E string.

As for the A shaped C bar chord, you could try this:

c bar chord

Here, we’ve left out the low E and A strings.

Technically this means this chord isn’t a barre chord any more, but it will still do the job. This version will serve as a good step towards the full version of the chord.

Another option you have is this:

c bar chord

Here, we’re just using one finger to bar across the 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings at the 5th fret.

This can be a good introduction to barring as it allows you to focus on pressing down the barred strings without having to worry about playing any other strings.

You may well notice that these chords are a bit easier, but you’ll also notice, they can sound a bit thinner.

That’s the price we pay for simplifying a chord unfortunately. Sometimes we lose some of the chord’s fullness.

c bar chord

Other Voicings of The C Bar Chord

While the E shape and the A shape are the most common ways to do the C bar chord, there are others.

This one uses the G shape:

c bar chord

This voicing transitions nicely from the one finger version we just looked at. The stretch over the 7th and 8th frets can be a tough one, so don’t worry if you struggle with this at first.

You can try leaving the low E string out and just play the middle four strings if it makes life easier.

Here’s another version, this time using the D shape.

c bar chord

This one’s very high up the fretboard, so ideal for styles of music like funk.

Here, we only have to barre across the first three strings. Make sure that you leave out the two lower strings (the low E  and A strings) when you strum.

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Which C Bar Chord Should You Use?

It entirely depends on the circumstances. A good rule of thumb is to try and go for the chord shape that’s nearest to where you already are on the fret board.

Leaping all over the fretboard can be very frantic and you can easily lose your place and make mistakes. Going for the nearest available voicing of a chord is far easier.

Another good rule of thumb is to play what sounds best.

A genre like funk may suit a higher up version of the C bar chord, whereas hard rock might suit a lower voicing (such as the A shape).

In some songs we might even switch between the two.

Ideally as a guitarist, you want to be able to get to a place where you are able to play whichever version of a chord is best suited to the task at hand.

c bar chord

How To Practice The C Bar Chord

The most straight forward way to practice a C bar chord is to replace all your open C chords with a C barre chord.

You may even find it easier to change the other chords into bar chords as well.

Moving The C Bar Chord

If you know your musical alphabet then you can move your C bar chord around the guitar fret board to find any major chord.

To learn more about the musical alphabet, have a look at this article: Guitar Notes Explained: A Guide For Beginners

You can also use this handy fretboard diagram:

Guitar String Notes

If you’re using the E shaped bar chord then you can find the root note you want on the low E string.

If you’re using the A shaped bar chord then you can find the root note you want on the A string.

So if you wanted to turn an A shaped C bar chord into and A shaped ‘D barre chord’, you’d simply move it up from the 3rd fret to the 5th fret on the A string. (5th string.)

A useful tip is to remember that the first three ‘dotted’ frets on the guitar are G, A and B on the E string and C, D and E on the A string.

As a challenge, try moving your E shaped barre chord to the following frets on the low E string. (6th string.)

  • 3rd fret. (G note.)
  • 5th fret. (A note.)
  • 7th fret. (B note.)

Now, move your A shaped barre chord to the following frets on the A string. (5th string.)

  • 3rd fret. (C note.)
  • 5th fret. (D note.)
  • 7th fret. (E note.)

Find Out What You Should Learn Next With Our Guitar Map

If you want to understand where you’re up to in your guitar journey you should take a look at our Guitar Map. It will show you what you ‘should’ know by now (and also what you need to learn next to move forward as a guitarist).

Most people find that the Guitar Map shows them how everything fits together and best of all, it will help you identify gaps in your knowledge that are holding you back.

(There is often just one piece of information that holds people back, 1 key insight that they need to know so they can continue moving forward and improving in their guitar journey.)

We made the Guitar Map so people like you can quickly identify what you don’t know, that you need to know next. We hope that makes sense!?

NOTE: The Guitar Map is now included in our free special report: 'The 7 Steps To Guitar Mastery'.

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We'll send you a series of lessons that will move you to the next level of your guitar journey.

Learn how everything fits together quickly, easily and effectively. We share ninja tips (for instant fun!) but also timeless fundamentals that will deepen your understanding.

NGAEM

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