Piano Chord Encyclopedia

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    C Major Chord

    C major piano chord keyboard layout diagram

    The C major chord is comprised of three notes: C, E, and G. It is the tonic triad in the key of C major and consists of all white keys.

    How to play the C major chord on the piano

    Let’s go through some charts and musical examples that will familiarize you with the C major chord and how to play it in the various different forms you will encounter in pieces of music.

    First, we’ll look at the most fundamental chords and inversions; then, we’ll explore some more complex voicings and real-world examples.

    The C major chord in root position

    In root position, the notes of the C major chord are symmetrically stacked in thirds with C on the bottom. The appearance on the staff is evenly spaced, as is the feeling of the space in between your fingers while playing.

    C Major Chord in root position
    Note Order C E G
    Left Hand Fingering 5 3 1
    Right Hand Fingering 1 3 5
    Chord Symbol C

    The C major chord in first inversion

    In first inversion, the third of the chord (E) becomes the bottom note, and the root (C) jumps up to the top.

    C Major Chord in 1st inversion
    Note Order E G C
    Left Hand Fingering 5 3 1
    Right Hand Fingering 1 2 5
    Chord Symbol C6 or C/E

    The C major chord in second inversion

    In second inversion, the fifth of the chord (G) is on the bottom, and the third of the chord (E) goes to the top.

    C Major Chord in 2nd inversion
    Note Order G C E
    Left Hand Fingering 5 2 1
    Right Hand Fingering 1 3 5
    Chord Symbol C6/4 or C/G

    More voicings of the C major Chord

    The voicing of a chord refers to the order and register of the notes being played. Once you have a good grasp of the fundamental inversions, try experimenting with some different voicings by re-ordering the chord tones and moving them around the piano.

    C major chord theory and function

    The C major chord is the root in the key of C major, the dominant (V) in the key of F major, and the subdominant (IV) in the key of G major. It is a consonant chord and has an open, resonant sound.

    Examples of the C major chord in music

    To put the C major chord in context, here are some examples of famous pieces of music in which the C major chord appears prominently.

    Beethoven: Sonata No. 3 in C Major

    This sonata opens with a gentle but firm statement of the C major chord in root position. It is then surrounded by neighboring tones and reinforced by the dominant chord.

    Screen Shot 2022-09-15 at 6.40.22 AM
    Bach: Prelude in C Major, WTC Book I

    This iconic prelude uses the C major chord in a broken pattern to solidly establish the key.

    Screen Shot 2022-09-15 at 6.38.57 AM
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